The Money Mustache Community

General Discussion => Share Your Badassity => Topic started by: Daley on February 26, 2014, 11:39:32 PM

Title: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on February 26, 2014, 11:39:32 PM
Well, the new and improved abridged Superguide (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/communications-tech-son-of-the-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 (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/communications-tech-son-of-the-superguide!/msg230577/#msg230577)
Internet Service Providers (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/communications-tech-son-of-the-superguide!/msg230578/#msg230578)
Cell Phone Providers (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/communications-tech-son-of-the-superguide!/msg230579/#msg230579)
Home Telephone Providers (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/communications-tech-son-of-the-superguide!/msg230580/#msg230580)
Home Entertainment (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/communications-tech-son-of-the-superguide!/msg230581/#msg230581)
Closing & FAQ (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/communications-tech-son-of-the-superguide!/msg230582/#msg230582)

The original Superguide (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/communications-tech-the-isp-voip-and-cellphone-superguide/) (locked)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: dragoncar on February 27, 2014, 12:00:11 AM
Is this thread in any way OFFICIAL?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley 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.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: TomTX 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" ;)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley 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 (http://www.prepaidphonenews.com/2014/02/prepayd-wireless-shuts-down-with-little.html).

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 (http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/aboutUs/reseller/resellerFAQ.jsp). 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 (http://www.prepaidphonenews.com/) 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 (http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Lycamobile-US-Reviews-EI_IE559017.0,10_IL.11,13_IN1.htm). 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.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Jamesqf 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...)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: annann 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.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: BBC 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
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: engineerjourney 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!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley 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 (http://www.techmeshugana.com/theguide/cell-phones/).

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.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: annann 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.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: engineerjourney 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 (http://www.techmeshugana.com/theguide/cell-phones/).

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 :-)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Jamesqf 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.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: engineerjourney 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!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Jamesqf 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" :-(
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: yipihiho 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 :-(
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: geekette on March 13, 2014, 10:28:53 AM
I was worried about that...

The old way of fixing it (here (https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/communications-tech-isps-voip-cell/msg216157/#msg216157)) no longer works? 
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: yipihiho 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!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: bomgd3 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.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: adam 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.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Tennis Maniac 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

Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley 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.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: adam on March 19, 2014, 11:23:26 AM
PTEL Data/MMS network is still down.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: geekette 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...
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley 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?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: adam 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!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley 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.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: adam on March 19, 2014, 01:26:54 PM
Lack of emoticons may make this a little more difficult to get across but:

. .
__



lol
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Tennis Maniac 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.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Kevan 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.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake 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 (http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/the-best-500-tv/), 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?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley 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 (http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r28990622-Future9-Introducing-Future-5-unlimited-service-for-5-mo-60-year-.) 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 (http://v.gd/daleyf9).

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 (http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r29088999-General-Porting-out-from-Google-Voice), 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!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley 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 (http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/the-best-500-tv/), 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!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake 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.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Truckman 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 (http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/the-best-500-tv/), 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
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Jamesqf 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?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Baylor3217 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.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley 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 (http://www.dd-wrt.com/wiki/index.php/Hard_reset_or_30/30/30) 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.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: BearDown on March 30, 2014, 05:25:11 PM
Quote
The companion page, Home Telephone Equipment can be found here. (http://www.techmeshugana.com/theguide/voip-hardware/)

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.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on March 30, 2014, 05:30:54 PM
Quote
The companion page, Home Telephone Equipment can be found here. (http://www.techmeshugana.com/theguide/voip-hardware/)

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.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: BearDown on March 30, 2014, 05:55:16 PM
Quote
The companion page, Home Telephone Equipment can be found here. (http://www.techmeshugana.com/theguide/voip-hardware/)

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.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Jamesqf 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 (http://www.dd-wrt.com/wiki/index.php/Hard_reset_or_30/30/30) 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 :-)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake 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):

(http://i.imgur.com/5oShnNFl.jpg)

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?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley 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.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley 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.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: annann 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.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley 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.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: ritchie70 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):

(http://i.imgur.com/5oShnNFl.jpg)

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.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: ritchie70 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.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley 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.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on April 15, 2014, 10:21:40 PM
For those of you paying attention, Republic Wireless did something reasonable last week (http://www.prepaidphonenews.com/2014/04/finally-most-used-republic-wireless.html). This news of being able to re-activate phones is a laudable act by Republic... which does make them a less risky gamble than in the past. However, this does not soften my stance on them as the terms of service and acceptable use policy are still incredibly questionable documents to agree to, and it still does not address my concerns over mobile call quality.

So, kudos for being less bastardly to the environment and the customers... but sorry kids, not there yet.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: snareman1 on April 16, 2014, 05:55:27 PM
Because of this, I just bought a used Motorola DEFY-XT off ebay today for $35.63 including free shipping. I'll have it in 2 days, in time to test it out and cancel my $70/mo sprint plan if all is good and before my next billing cycle. I've read the boards and re-activation seems like a pretty smooth process. I will opt for the $25/mo plan, so with taxes, etc, I imagine I'll be saving around $40 per month =)

Here is what I bought http://www.ebay.com/itm/251505306728 (http://www.ebay.com/itm/251505306728)

Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: ritchie70 on April 18, 2014, 08:20:03 AM
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.

If I port a number to them and they don't survive - and don't shut down gracefully - do you know if my number is irretrievably lost at that point? I've had the same phone number for 14 years so I'm a bit attached.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: adam on April 18, 2014, 08:51:44 AM
Tell me I'm not crazy. I just went to put some more money on the wife's pageplus account and saw this:
Order Summary
Subtotal:   $10.00
Shipping:   $0.00
Sales Tax1:   $0.85
Federal Universal Service3:   $0.15
Regulatory Cost Recovery4:   $0.02
E911 Fee:   $0.63
911 CHARGE
Total:   $11.65

Items
$10 Standard PIN
Qty: 1
$10.00

When did they start charging all those fees?  I don't remember paying any additional fees back in February when I last filled up.  In fact, I just checked mint, and I paid a flat $25.  What caused this change?  One of the things I liked telling people about going to an MVNO is that you don't have to pay all those fees and when they tell you a plan is $12, its actually $12, not $15+.

Son of a bitch.

edit: did a live chat and was told due to new regulations they started charging these taxes and fees about 3 weeks ago, at the end of March.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on April 18, 2014, 09:19:04 AM
If I port a number to them and they don't survive - and don't shut down gracefully - do you know if my number is irretrievably lost at that point? I've had the same phone number for 14 years so I'm a bit attached.

It's a gamble. Sometimes folks can port out if they act early enough during death throws, sometimes they can't. Look into the fiasco when PrepaYd went under (http://www.prepaidphonenews.com/2014/02/prepayd-wireless-shuts-down-with-little.html). Granted, you're dealing with vindictive dirtbags blaming Sprint for their own failure on that one, but it's a good example of worst case scenario with a dying MVNO. It's also a recent example of why I'm so careful about the MVNOs I select and recommend for the guide here.



When did they start charging all those fees?  I don't remember paying any additional fees back in February when I last filled up.  In fact, I just checked mint, and I paid a flat $25.  What caused this change?  One of the things I liked telling people about going to an MVNO is that you don't have to pay all those fees and when they tell you a plan is $12, its actually $12, not $15+.

Yup. America Movil is now tacking it on top instead of including it in the monthly price... any way possible to increase revenue while maintaining the appearance of savings, just like Republic does. All the other MVNOs keep it simple and roll those fees into the package price so it's just sales tax for your region. There's still ways around these taxes with PP and refills, but a) I'm unsure how long those loopholes will last, and b) render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. If Carlos won't pay it anymore as part of the base price, somebody needs to pay it. On the bright side, at least per MB data is reasonable now.

Keep an eye on Selectel (http://www.selectelwireless.com/), I'm starting to think that they just may make it yet.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: adam on April 18, 2014, 10:17:41 AM
Since its the wife on Pageplus still, there's no need for data.  I've even asked her if she'd like one of the ~$30 plans and she said it was unnecessary.

This selectel, its a verizon network?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on April 19, 2014, 10:38:17 PM
This selectel, its a verizon network?

Correct. I'd probably give them at least until their one year mark (July) before I'd consider recommending them, however... and currently, they're still sorting out billing issues. I don't want to repeat the T4G situation.

Keep tabs on Selectel here (http://www.howardforums.com/showthread.php/1799228-New-Kid-on-the-Block-Selectel-Wireless-Verizon-MVNO?s=4b9a7a2b31ecb53205a770557e51d748).
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: annann on April 23, 2014, 08:52:33 PM
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.

Thank you for all you do for all of us.

I am now 67 and DH is soon to be 79 and we are active.  DH rides his bike 300-600 miles a month and I play pickleball (tennis light) 3 or 4 times a week and walk 2-3 miles most days.  We have been known to have accidents including a broken wrist for me and a broken ankle for DH.  So our cells phones have long been needs because we feel we need to be able to call for help if we run into trouble.  Fortunately we heal well and quickly.  Whatever I do in the future, this entire change in phone service for our family has been very beneficial.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: TheDude on April 23, 2014, 09:18:30 PM
Ive been using page plus for a few years. I recently saw somewhere else that they started adding that crap on. You can still buy from third party dealers and not pay that crap I think through some of them like Kitty you can even sign up for autopay every month. I tend to buy from callingmart as i can usually can find a discount code.
Title: Aio while in Cancun
Post by: FireYourJob on May 02, 2014, 04:44:15 PM
I may be in Cancun for a couple of days and in looking at the Aio website, it looks like my phone can't be used.  What other options might one have?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Catbird on May 03, 2014, 01:27:52 PM
Not so long ago, folks traveled the world without needing to have a telephone on their person at all times. Perhaps this brief trip would be a chance for you to experiment with how that might feel?

Realistically though, here is an article with tips on Cancun phone options:

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g150807-c99218/Cancun:Mexico:Cancun.Faq.And.Forum.Tips.html

1. Cheapest: bring a laptop or tablet and use Skype over public wifi (hotel, cafe).

2. Rent a cell phone. "Cancun is unique in that it has two cell phone rental companies dedicated to low cost / high quality service in Cancun - cancuncalet.com and mexitel.net, with the former being postpaid (charged to your credit card) and the latter being prepaid (pay as you go). Calls to your country of choice can be made from anywhere in Cancun for as low as 11 pesos ($1USD) per phone call and phones can be delivered to your place of residence before you leave, or delivered to you upon arrival in the Hotel Zone."

Title: Re: Aio while in Cancun
Post by: Daley on May 05, 2014, 03:11:57 PM
Not so long ago, folks traveled the world without needing to have a telephone on their person at all times. Perhaps this brief trip would be a chance for you to experiment with how that might feel?

Realistically though, here is an article with tips on Cancun phone options:

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g150807-c99218/Cancun:Mexico:Cancun.Faq.And.Forum.Tips.html

1. Cheapest: bring a laptop or tablet and use Skype over public wifi (hotel, cafe).

2. Rent a cell phone. "Cancun is unique in that it has two cell phone rental companies dedicated to low cost / high quality service in Cancun - cancuncalet.com and mexitel.net, with the former being postpaid (charged to your credit card) and the latter being prepaid (pay as you go). Calls to your country of choice can be made from anywhere in Cancun for as low as 11 pesos ($1USD) per phone call and phones can be delivered to your place of residence before you leave, or delivered to you upon arrival in the Hotel Zone."

Thank you, Catbird. Excellent first post, and pretty much what I would have said.

What other options might one have?

Unplug and enjoy Cancun.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Nords on May 05, 2014, 11:50:00 PM
Not so long ago, folks traveled the world without needing to have a telephone on their person at all times.
Yes, but pay phones were a lot easier to find five years ago.

After one weekend at our daughter's college campus, we realized that we'd need a cell phone.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on May 07, 2014, 06:27:23 AM
For those of you who rely on Google Maps to get around: Google has just pushed a big update which now allows you to save  and manage offline maps individually... except they now expire automatically after 30 days. Or maybe they already did before? It was never very clear.

Anyhoo, I now have a mental note to redownload my city's map once a month. Life is so hard.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Scandium on May 12, 2014, 01:04:53 PM
I switched to Aio from AT&T with my unlocked Galaxy nexus few months ago and is pretty happy with it. It pretty much works, not much more to say.. While not quite as cheap as some of the other MVNOs it does come with a hefty 2.5 GB, rather than 300 MB which I would burn through quickly or have severe "data-axiety".

And AIO plans just got a bit cheaper too with family discount
Basic smartphone plan (unlimited/2.5 GB) is $45, and a $10 discount for 2 lines = $40 per line for two.
Four lines is $37.5 each which looks to be the cheapest. Five lines is actually more per line
https://www.aiowireless.com/shop/plans.html

Note; Before switching the "must have latest/fastest phone" crowd had two complaints against AIO
Limited to 8mbps
Higher latency

I don't have LTE so can't comment on #1, but 8mbps sounds fast enough to me..
I have no really noticed any worse latency, but my phone is a bit a old and slow so maybe I'm just used to a wait before websites load.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: GutsGloryRam on May 15, 2014, 09:31:04 AM
Hi IP,
Thanks for all the great work you are doing. Its been about 6 months since I switched from ATT to Airvoice. For my limited usage, am quite happy with the service.
Now the current question is on the entertainment system. I have gone through your post on that and appreciate the info you are sharing. Great work. My question is whats your thought on Raspberry Pi? what are the pros & cons of it in your view?
Appreciate all your efforts.

Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on May 15, 2014, 01:53:24 PM
Glad to be of service and assistance!

My question is whats your thought on Raspberry Pi? what are the pros & cons of it in your view?

As to your questions, I like the idea, price and usefulness of the Pi for a lot of things. My problem with the Pi as an entertainment box comes down to the sticky issue of Flash with DRM support on an OS level, which hinders the availability of certain legal free streaming video services and the added cost of a container to place it in. If you don't mind these shortcomings, then the Pi can be quite the affordable XBMC media box. Otherwise, it might be more cost effective to approach a pre-assembled Android-based device. Yes, the Pi does have a couple Android builds that work, but not as well as actual native Android-targeted hardware, and there's the added issue of APK support and video acceleration.

This old post of mine might be good to give a read if you haven't seen it already:
Ask Daley: Entertainment on the Cheap (http://www.techmeshugana.com/2013/09/ask-daley-entertainment-on-the-cheap/)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: GutsGloryRam on May 15, 2014, 03:59:42 PM
Thanks a lot Daley for your reply. I don't know some how I missed that article. Thanks for sharing. Based on your writings, what i understand is that Pi doesn't support Netflix. Is my understanding correct? Because one of things i am looking forward is to stream Netflix. Pls correct me if am wrong.
Again, appreciate your support.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on May 15, 2014, 04:18:12 PM
Yeah, unless you have a solid collection of already ripped video files, the PI isn't what you're looking for.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: NeverWasACornflakeGirl on May 16, 2014, 04:53:57 AM
Daley, I love your site and the abbreviated version you have here.  I stumbled across something this morning that made me laugh and thought, "I wonder if Daley has thought of this??"


http://twistedsifter.com/2014/05/words-with-no-direct-english-equivalent/ (http://twistedsifter.com/2014/05/words-with-no-direct-english-equivalent/)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on May 16, 2014, 08:49:29 AM
Daley, I love your site and the abbreviated version you have here.  I stumbled across something this morning that made me laugh and thought, "I wonder if Daley has thought of this??"

Hmmm.... prozvonit. Fascinating, but personally I'd like to find out what the equivalent would be for someone doing likewise not for the sake of initiating a callback, but for the express purpose of passing along a contextual message without words (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-26028381). I know we have a few folks from India lurking around the boards, do you guys have a specific word for this concept in Hindi, Bengali, or any other of the many languages spoken?

I also quite appreciated the word ilunga from that list, as it fits my character well and is quite reflective of a situation I'm currently wrestling with. Appreciate the link! :)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: NeverWasACornflakeGirl on May 16, 2014, 09:27:05 AM
Daley, I love your site and the abbreviated version you have here.  I stumbled across something this morning that made me laugh and thought, "I wonder if Daley has thought of this??"

Hmmm.... prozvonit. Fascinating, but personally I'd like to find out what the equivalent would be for someone doing likewise not for the sake of initiating a callback, but for the express purpose of passing along a contextual message without words (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-26028381). I know we have a few folks from India lurking around the boards, do you guys have a specific word for this concept in Hindi, Bengali, or any other of the many languages spoken?

I also quite appreciated the word ilunga from that list, as it fits my character well and is quite reflective of a situation I'm currently wrestling with. Appreciate the link! :)

Fascinating link!  I wish they had given some specific examples of how people use the codes.  Is it "one ring for no, two for yes" or something like that?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on May 16, 2014, 10:38:44 AM
Fascinating link!  I wish they had given some specific examples of how people use the codes.  Is it "one ring for no, two for yes" or something like that?

I think it's more along the lines of the following situations from what I gathered:
Stuff like that. The messages communicated are contextual to the circumstances in which the call is placed. It's kind of like the equivalent of using collect calls from payphones where the message is delivered in the name asking to accept charges, but in the era of ubiquitous personal cellphones and caller ID where you already know who's calling.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on May 17, 2014, 08:55:43 PM
I posted this in another thread, but it deserves to be here too.

On the subject of iPhone 4/4s devices on Page Plus, many many moons ago I said I would never recommend porting an iPhone over to PP until the day Denny Scher of Page Plus corporate said it was safe.

I'm still getting conflicting info regarding iPhone support with Page Plus and Verizon, but I'll always tow the official line. The dealers I've talked with have said things consistent with what I've been saying regarding "official" iPhone support, and they all point to Denny Scher at Page Plus corporate and his official line. Plenty of evidence online from dealers saying the same thing, too. That official word is that iPhones are not permitted for activation on the Page Plus network. Have a couple:

http://www.phonenews.com/page-plus-to-increase-data-on-the-55-plan-to-2gb-on-june-6th-20465/#comment-58615
http://www.iphoneforums.net/forum/verizon-iphone-51/verizon-iphone-pageplus-cellular-8238/index2.html#post204038

There's also no information backing any claims of official support for any iPhones on Page Plus within the HoFo community, not from official channels and documentation, anyway. People will cite CSRs at Page Plus for "official" word on iPhone support, but they're wishy-washy and highly inconsistent. This is one of the reasons why I say what I do about the quality of customer support... most of the people there really don't know what they're doing or what official policy is. It's inconsistent at best.

As of May 15th, Denny Scher said it's safe. (http://www.howardforums.com/showthread.php/1833025-iPhone-Activation-Policy-Change?p=15415978)

http://www.prepaidphonenews.com/2014/05/iphone-4-and-4s-are-now-officially.html

Hopefully Selectel will be able to follow closely behind, so people don't have to deal with America Movil just to do an iPhone on a Verizon MVNO.

It's a step in the right direction, though. *tosses confetti like a nihilist on lithium*
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: adam on May 28, 2014, 08:52:54 AM
So PTEL finally bit me.  I was up near the outer banks in NC for work for all of last week and had no/intermittent signal, no data at all.  It was a problem mainly because I was not working in a building, I was working in an airplane, so I really could have used it out on the tarmac.  I ended up having to use someone else's AT&T iPhone to do a lot of my communications.  Apparently Verizon had an excellent signal up there as well.

Of course just before I left I was told to put in a request for a govt cell, so I may not need any personal phone for much longer.  Still unsure of the rules with that...
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: adam on May 29, 2014, 06:45:51 AM
Airvoice question:
Their 3 unlimited plans show "Long Distance" with no check next to it.   I thought that was a thing of the past, landlines and such.  Or is that just talking international?  I mean, technically my wife's cell number would be long distance when we'd be sitting in the same room together.  That can't be right...
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: frugalman on May 29, 2014, 07:15:42 AM
Adam, I have Airvoice. There is no long distance charge to any point in the US. International may be charged.
I have an iphone 5 on the $10/mo plan which covers voice at 4 cents per minute, texts at 2 cents, and data at 6.6 cents per megabyte. I use the data very sparingly, but it comes in handy sometimes. After a year on the plan, my balance is about $46 (unused dollars roll over month to month). So it fits me very well.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: geekette on May 29, 2014, 09:53:13 AM
Airvoice question:
Their 3 unlimited plans show "Long Distance" with no check next to it.   I thought that was a thing of the past, landlines and such.  Or is that just talking international?  I mean, technically my wife's cell number would be long distance when we'd be sitting in the same room together.  That can't be right...
What you're seeing is poor placement on the website...  The long distance is really part of the "$10 FREE International Long Distance".  Same with the next line down about International texting.

I'm another happy $10/month Airvoice customer (with an iPhone 4S).  Two other family members are on the $10 every three month plan. 
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: adam on May 29, 2014, 11:55:36 AM
Depending on the rules with the new govt mobile I'm getting I'll likely be switching to the airvoice $10 plan for this phone.  Or I might have to pony up for the $30-$40 option, depends on how much personal use I'm allowed.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: LiquidSapphire on May 29, 2014, 12:06:37 PM
Hello
I signed up for Future Nine on Sunday but as of Noon Thursday have not heard a peep from them.  I think I've done everything I was supposed to... loaded up the Future 5 plan, ordered the adapter from them, loaded $100 onto the account via Paypal ($60 for the plan and $40 for the adapter), even "ordered" a phone number (and got charged $5 for it even though it was supposed to be free for Future 5, and yet, I still have no phone number in my account) and... crickets.  I've also sent a question to them via their online interface from my account dashboard screen as well as an email to support@future-nine.com and I have gotten no response what so ever.

How long does this normally take?  I expected at least a "Thanks for your order, we expect it to take us X days to get it all set up."  But... Nothing.  I knew they were bare bones and didn't expect much help but I feel like I just sent $100 into a black hole and I'm considering a charge back.

What is the normal course of events for signing up with them?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on May 29, 2014, 01:27:03 PM
How long does this normally take?  I expected at least a "Thanks for your order, we expect it to take us X days to get it all set up."  But... Nothing.  I knew they were bare bones and didn't expect much help but I feel like I just sent $100 into a black hole and I'm considering a charge back.

What is the normal course of events for signing up with them?

A new account with ATA order could take a bit of time. Be patient, and give them a little longer. :)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: frugalman on May 31, 2014, 09:06:03 AM
Question for Mr. Daley:

From a business perspective, how do MVNO's exist? Is it mandated that discounted voice and data be made available to such entities for resale? Or is it by the good graces of the big companies that they are sharing?

I ask this because I wonder if my AirVoice $10/mo plans will ever be in danger should AT&T, for example, ever feel threatened by the growing market share of the MVNO's?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on May 31, 2014, 11:23:31 PM
Question for Mr. Daley:

From a business perspective, how do MVNO's exist? Is it mandated that discounted voice and data be made available to such entities for resale? Or is it by the good graces of the big companies that they are sharing?

I ask this because I wonder if my AirVoice $10/mo plans will ever be in danger should AT&T, for example, ever feel threatened by the growing market share of the MVNO's?

There is no mandate that the major carriers offer discounted voice and data service. That said, the major MNOs will likely always offer wholesale pricing for larger businesses looking to buy huge gobs of network traffic, because it makes financial sense to do so. The discount of volume business, and all that.

That said, you could technically say that the MVNOs only exist because the major carriers allow it due to the wholesale discount pricing model, the billing access, etc. There is an advantage to the model, however. MVNOs allow the major carriers to continue to extract further profits from a section of the population that they wouldn't otherwise choose to try and make money off of themselves due to the risk/reward factor or the profit margins. They want big, easy money. The MVNOs help get those of us too smart to spend colossal wads of money on wireless service to still spend colossal wads of money on wireless service for their networks; only now, it's some small rinky-dink middle-man chump company working for peanuts who has to support these people instead of AT&T or Verizon having to do it themselves.

As for the stickier specific question of "how" an MVNO exists, it's a cutthroat market. It's why I try to stick with providers who have proven themselves successful in the market over the longer term, because failed MVNO businesses... whoof. The churn is impressive, and the littered corpses of industry giant owned MVNOs is not insignificant. Disney, Comcast, 7-11, Circle K, ESPN and Cox have all tried and failed. Margins are thin, and it's one of the things that's got an eyebrow raised with me about the recent P'tel outage. Not that I don't trust Ahmad's ability to run a profitable ship, quite the contrary. They've survived for nearly 15 years at this point, and that's not by coincidence, but the subtext to the operations outage this past week due to extended catastrophic technical failure can get expensive for any business. If any MVNO could recover from a setback like that, it would be P'tel, but the real question longer term is will they. Well, I'm staying put. They have flourished thus far and I will do what I can to ensure they continue to flourish.

"Why?" I can hear you ask. Well, of all the MVNOs on the market, P'tel, Airvoice and Consumer Cellular are probably the three most important in the American market right now, in my humble opinion. Without them, all that's really left for the consumer after that point is a few smaller brands with negligible savings, a revolving tide of fly-by-nights, the MNOs with an even tighter pricing grip, and Carlos Slim. I don't say this out of disrespect to any of the other MVNOs on my recommended list, but P'tel and Airvoice are two of the oldest MVNOs on the market and Consumer Cellular is a newer 800lb. gorilla. Ting may be getting there, and I am quite fond of some of the other scrappers, but a loss of one of those three specifically would have repercussions that you wouldn't get with say Ultra, Republic or Lyca drying up and blowing away.

Truthfully, the American MVNO market is a little insane when you look at it and what's involved to actually save any real money on service when you factor the middle man issue, but if you're cautious and assess risk appropriately, it can be worth it. Also, it's worth noting that the MVNO model is so successful that even three of the big four carriers have their own boutique brands to cash in on the larger smaller spenders, such as with GoSmart Mobile and MetroPCS (T-Mobile), Cricket (AT&T now), Virgin and Boost Mobile (Sprint). About the only MNO that hasn't gotten into the game as such is Verizon, which is no coincidence as they're the largest carrier in the market, the least MVNO friendly carrier, has some of the strictest wholesale reseller contracts... and well... you get the idea. It's also only recently that AT&T has gotten more serious about competitive wholesale and MVNO pricing as well (it was only after the T-Mobile merger failure and T-Mo's recent push back into the MVNO market that they started pushing there), historically T-Mobile was just a mess with wholesale up until a couple years ago, and Sprint has been the only long term wholesale market scrapper due to market share (there have been periods where, IIRC, up to at least 30% of Sprint's revenues were exclusively from wholesale sales).

There you have it. It's not pretty, but it is what it is. It's also another snapshot into why I'm so picky about my recommendations and I just don't go flailing about with my recommendations for anyone that might catch my fancy like others have in the past and still do today.

As for your final question: the MVNOs really don't pose any real threats to the major carriers. After all, the MVNOs have to buy their service from someone. If attitudes were to change, expect the major carriers to choke the resellers with rising prices instead of just terminating contracts. Keep tabs on the "discounted" monthly package prices of the MNO internal prepaid boutique brands for the network you're on. When the primary carrier starts undercutting their MVNO resellers in the prepaid market, start paying attention. What I'm saying is, you should be watching with a wary eye what AT&T is doing with their new toy Cricket Wireless.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: frugalman on June 01, 2014, 06:53:07 AM
You write so well, Mr. Daley, thank you for your thoughts.

I guess it is similar to the reasons big car manufacturers can sell new, shiny $35,000 vehicles, even though used, $6,000 vehicles would do quite nicely. We Mustachians tend to forget we are a very small percentage of the population, and the rest of the Consumer Suckas are alive, well and even thriving. I so appreciate my $10/mo Airvoice plans. My coworkers to a man and woman all have Verizon, AT&T, Sprint or TMobile plans. They are constantly thumbing up and down their phones, burning expensive data, in an attempt to escape the disquieting thought that on their present trajectories, they will work as cubicle slaves forever, and still have debt when they are done.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on June 01, 2014, 07:25:08 AM
You write so well, Mr. Daley, thank you for your thoughts.

Usually I feel like a chimp pounding on a keyboard, so I will take and appreciate the compliment. Thank you. :)

I guess it is similar to the reasons big car manufacturers can sell new, shiny $35,000 vehicles, even though used, $6,000 vehicles would do quite nicely. We Mustachians tend to forget we are a very small percentage of the population, and the rest of the Consumer Suckas are alive, well and even thriving. I so appreciate my $10/mo Airvoice plans. My coworkers to a man and woman all have Verizon, AT&T, Sprint or TMobile plans. They are constantly thumbing up and down their phones, burning expensive data, in an attempt to escape the disquieting thought that on their present trajectories, they will work as cubicle slaves forever, and still have debt when they are done.

That's one way to look at and approach it. From a bigger picture perspective, however, frugal and FIRE folks are still a minority even within the prepaid MVNO market segment. The real money there comes mostly from the poor and marginalized of the population who can't otherwise afford or pass the credit check for a cellphone from a major operator, or choose to opt out of the credit system due to religious reasons.  This is yet another reason why I'm particular about the MVNOs I select, as some of these businesses can be just as exploitative of the financial arrangements and weak math of the general population as much as big four carriers are.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: adam on June 03, 2014, 08:39:21 AM
I got worried enough at the recent PTEL outage (after the last, actual service outage, which was worse) that I went ahead and ordered an airvoice SIM that arrived yesterday.  Combine that with the phone I just picked up at work and it looks like I'm about to go back to being a $10 plan customer, only this time on an AT&T MVNO instead of a Verizon one.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: adam on June 03, 2014, 12:48:47 PM
So now the question for me is if there is any reason why I should not port my well known cell number to Google voice prior to giving air voice a try?

I would get a new number from air voice and just forward my old number (now a Google voice #) to the new number. Would i need to make all outgoing calls through Google voice in order to have my known number shown in the caller id? Will that affect call quality at all? Tell me what I'm missing here...

edit: Just was reminded of texting, specifically MMS doesn't work, also, it appears that I'll need a data connection to receive the texts (just the SMS kind).  That defeats the purpose of switching to the $10 plan.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on June 03, 2014, 02:38:18 PM
So now the question for me is if there is any reason why I should not port my well known cell number to Google voice prior to giving air voice a try?

Well, I'm looking to port my numbers out of GV, so how does that answer your question?

Would i need to make all outgoing calls through Google voice in order to have my known number shown in the caller id? Will that affect call quality at all? Tell me what I'm missing here...

Yes. Most definitely. You're ignoring the fact that GV is terrible.

edit: Just was reminded of texting, specifically MMS doesn't work, also, it appears that I'll need a data connection to receive the texts (just the SMS kind).  That defeats the purpose of switching to the $10 plan.

Pretty much. You'd get more efficient data usage out of something like Kik or XMS than GV, though it would require both ends using the same chat client instead of getting that nice smooth SMS/POTS network integration. Hooray for the balkanization of chat protocols!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Shivan on June 03, 2014, 06:07:33 PM
I'm confused by how MMM recommends Republic Wireless, this guide trashes it, and neither author appears to acknowledge the other. Can they reconcile their opinions?

Similar question, the guide says that TextNow is better than Republic. Has MMM mentioned TextNow anywhere?

Also about Republic, the guide says "you can replicate it on your own likely for less using any cheap carrier, Android phone, Google Voice and Talkatone", with a link to this page: https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/communications-tech-isps-voip-cell/msg21151/#msg21151

I click that link and it redirects me to: http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/

So I don't see how to do it.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: adam on June 04, 2014, 06:03:09 AM
Point taken. I switched straight over to airvoice, skipping gv. And of course, their APN settings don't work at all on my Nexus 4. It's not an problem right now since I'm only doing the $10 plan but it is becoming a real pain in the ass on mvnos in general to have to keep correcting this.

edit: Correction, it just became a problem because my wife sent me the first MMS in like 6 months just this morning.  Of course...

edit2: Called customer service and they kinda straightened it out.  Since I only opted for the $10 they didn't even turn on my data.  I told them I just wanted to "test drive" the $10 plan to make sure I'd successfully port my number and actually get decent signals around here before considering bumping to the $30 or $40.  I was able to hit a google web page after working with them for about 15 minutes, then I just turned data back off because my signal sucks at work.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: little stache on June 04, 2014, 07:50:53 PM
I.P Daley. I did it. (well almost its coming in the mail). I will be porting my number and going VOIP with a low cost solution for those that are not so tech savvy, saving well over $30 bucks a month. It will also break me free of the dreaded "bundle" and I will loose cable as soon as the port happens on the phone number. That is another easy $40 in cable and another $10 i was paying for HBO. So, I.P. Daley your sage advice (and a punch to the head :L) !) got me to jump over the barriers and save some cash! Thanks man.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on June 04, 2014, 11:26:16 PM
Thanks man.

Glad to have helped. Enjoy the savings!



edit2: Called customer service and they kinda straightened it out.  Since I only opted for the $10 they didn't even turn on my data.  I told them I just wanted to "test drive" the $10 plan to make sure I'd successfully port my number and actually get decent signals around here before considering bumping to the $30 or $40.  I was able to hit a google web page after working with them for about 15 minutes, then I just turned data back off because my signal sucks at work.

By default, the Airvoice $10 plan has data turned off and you have to call into support to enable it, but when you know what's going on it only takes a couple minutes to do. I've discussed this point with others, but I don't think I ever worked it into the core guide. The biggest issue is most people don't realize how data hungry their phones are, and since data has the capacity to rapidly eat the entire $10 balance in a couple days with some oblivious folks, it's just easier to default to the initially off by default status for most people's general good.



I'm confused by how MMM recommends Republic Wireless, this guide trashes it, and neither author appears to acknowledge the other. Can they reconcile their opinions?

What's wrong with differing perspectives? He's entitled to his position as I am to mine. In the case of Republic, I think it's healthy to have a skeptical counterpoint to MMM's unbridled "one size fits all" enthusiasm.

Similar question, the guide says that TextNow is better than Republic. Has MMM mentioned TextNow anywhere?

Better than is a strong statement, TextNow is simply less terrible IMHO... and it's still not on my recommended list. It's just offered as an alternative for those who want a cheap and lazy solution that sounds better than it is.

Anyway, why does MMM have to have an opinion on every MVNO carrier? He paints in broad strokes, I do detail work. Speaking of...

Also about Republic, the guide says "you can replicate it on your own likely for less using any cheap carrier, Android phone, Google Voice and Talkatone", with a link to this page: https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/communications-tech-isps-voip-cell/msg21151/#msg21151

I click that link and it redirects me to: http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/

The forums have been migrated since then, and some of the links don't redirect properly anymore. I need to sit down and try to fix the major ones in the guide, but I've not had the time to do so. As for the link you're wanting specifically:

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/communications-tech-the-isp-voip-and-cellphone-superguide/msg21151/#msg21151 (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/communications-tech-the-isp-voip-and-cellphone-superguide/msg21151/#msg21151)

That should get you.

Ultimately though, what it boils down to is a philosophy on data and leaving VoIP services out of mobile data communications for a whole slew of reasons from quality to reliability and paying for what you need, and avoiding the pitfall of "free" or cheap services that you pay for dearly in other ways. The price difference isn't that much higher month-to-month in the greater picture between Republic's "unlimited" mobile talk and text plan and other providers offering "unlimited" mobile talk and text plans. We're talking $15-20 a month at most (and that includes competitively sized data service plans as well), and it doesn't require you to sign away your rights and submit to an unreasonable terms of service agreement, there's no trying to connect to WiFi all the time, you get proper customer and technical support, and there's no need for a proprietary and fragile handset without a user-replaceable battery that you have to buy to get those rates.

The biggest thing people ignore when number crunching is handset costs. All they see is the monthly rate, and they're usually so conditioned to buy a new handset when they switch service that they don't ever think about it, even if their current handset works just fine. In reality however, when you factor the handset as part of the ROI, most people actually start hitting 12-24+ month break even points on switching out just to go to Republic versus an appropriately sized mobile package from another MVNO that works with their existing phone and is likely on the same network they're already used to. Those are numbers that dance along the same lines of a two-year contract, though in Republic's defense it's not as bad a situation now that you can finally sell and reactivate used handsets. All things considered, why subject yourself to a situation like that just so you can waive around the "unlimited" word to your friends?

Do you know what true unlimited is during any one given month, assuming you're glued to your device 24/7/365?
Those are the theoretical hard limits of what any mobile phone service could provide during a 30 day period. For perspective on the data end, the size of offline GPS road maps for every last blessed street and alleyway in the entire United States only averages 2.5GB.

Show me a mobile provider that would give you anything remotely approaching any of those numbers without sending you an astronomical bill or terminating service when they tell you you're paying for "unlimited" service, let alone give you that for under $50 a month, and I'll eat my hat. Those are insane numbers, and nobody needs them... and on the off-chance that you do need anything approaching those numbers? There's going to be a premium necessary to pay, because those volumes need a level of reliability and coverage that an MVNO simply is not going to provide. This is also why there's weasel words about throttling and termination in the legal boilerplate of phone providers who offer these "unlimited" packages in the first place.

Never forget the value of $10, but also don't be afraid of paying for what you need. $20 a month is not an unreasonable price difference between getting a half-baked solution with no support versus a more reliable alternative if you actually need the amount of mobile minutes to conduct business that "unlimited" might imply.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on June 05, 2014, 11:59:29 AM
Soooooo, how many of the bazillion T-mobile MVNOs are having emergency meetings trying to figure out what the proposed acqui-merger with Sprint?

In other news, the Asha 303 recommended in the guide is out of stock, so I had to go with the newer Asha 302 as my lady friend's 2008 BlackBerry decided to go for a last and fatal midnight swim in a pint of beer the other day. Excited to see what the beast is like when it arrives.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on June 05, 2014, 12:16:41 PM
Soooooo, how many of the bazillion T-mobile MVNOs are having emergency meetings trying to figure out what the proposed acqui-merger with Sprint?

I doubt there's much panic... yet. The thing is, Softbank didn't really retool Sprint's wholesale division after acquisition, so I suspect similar will remain for the time if this merger is approved by the FTC and FCC. Consolidation is never good for the market, however.

In other news, the Asha 303 recommended in the guide is out of stock, so I had to go with the newer Asha 302 as my lady friend's 2008 BlackBerry decided to go for a last and fatal midnight swim in a pint of beer the other day. Excited to see what the beast is like when it arrives.

*sigh* It's the last of a dying breed. Nobody wants to make phones with keyboards anymore because people are UI idiots. Hope the Asha treats your lady friend as well as the C3 has treated me.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Shivan on June 05, 2014, 01:26:45 PM
What's wrong with differing perspectives? He's entitled to his position as I am to mine. In the case of Republic, I think it's healthy to have a skeptical counterpoint to MMM's unbridled "one size fits all" enthusiasm.

Well, you're both champions of personal finance, experts on what is good and cheap! MMM says RW is a top choice. You say it's a pretender and a gimmick. Surely one of you has to be mistaken about how good or bad it is?

Thanks for the correct link. Are you saying that I'd have to use a carrier, a VoIP company, and then four different apps for me to replicate the "cheap cell phone over the internet" concept? That sounds like a lot of dependencies that could go wrong.

My wife and I have 2-year old Verizon phones, so I think we're going to have to buy a new phone no matter what MVNO we go to. Our house has bad signal for every carrier but Verizon, so calling over the internet sounds nice. Page Plus is the only Verizon MVNO that I see recommended and their phone lineup looks pretty bad. (My wife insists on using her phone as her main camera and I don't want crappy pictures of my newborn babies.) If we go to Ting, I'm afraid we'd have to walk outside to get a good Sprint signal. I don't see why getting a separate home line would be an improvement over using Republic. I don't understand most of your statements against its reliability. I have two friends in real life and dozens on the MMM site who say it works fine. I don't need "unlimited" stuff, just less than 500 each of minutes, texts, and MB.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on June 05, 2014, 07:49:38 PM
What's wrong with differing perspectives? He's entitled to his position as I am to mine. In the case of Republic, I think it's healthy to have a skeptical counterpoint to MMM's unbridled "one size fits all" enthusiasm.

Well, you're both champions of personal finance, experts on what is good and cheap! MMM says RW is a top choice. You say it's a pretender and a gimmick. Surely one of you has to be mistaken about how good or bad it is?

The difference is in each of our approaches to the Iron Triangle (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_triangle), which alters who is right based on what is more important to the person taking the advice. MMM's advice is EASY and CHEAP, my advice is GOOD and CHEAP.

I choose this approach because I treat the advice I give out as SRS BSNS (as the internet basement dwellers might say). If I'm going to help guide people to a better and cheaper solution, that requires building and preserving trust. That also means my quality bar has to be higher than most others out of necessity. I could just echo the worn paths laced with big referral payouts like everyone else, but if my advice inspires other people to make changes to their life, I am fundamentally accountable for that change. It is something I take seriously, because this advice touches and changes people and their budgets in a very fundamental manner. Helping others matters more to me than my bottom line, and as a servant to their needs, this means I have to provide and consider information that may involve points of data that they might not have otherwise considered.

As such, I err on the side of higher quality service and support, hardware freedom, and less draconian legal boilerplate... even if it might cost a bit more to get it. I know those recommendations will serve people better in the event that something might go sideways, because something eventually always goes sideways.

I don't say any of this out of disrespect to our gracious host here. His advice has the capacity to do good and help others as well, and I will concede that he has done so far more than me. I'm just saying my approach and philosophy is different; as such, it generates a repository of information that presents greatly differing conclusions.

Embrace that difference. :)

Thanks for the correct link. Are you saying that I'd have to use a carrier, a VoIP company, and then four different apps for me to replicate the "cheap cell phone over the internet" concept? That sounds like a lot of dependencies that could go wrong.

Technically, I think you only need about two apps at this point... but you are not wrong. More moving parts, greater opportunity of failure. I do actually subscribe to the KISS School of Engineering (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KISS_principle), even if my general technical advice does not necessarily steer into the most simple of initial execution territories at times due to the learning curve. As for a good examination of why I'm not a big mVoIP guy, you might want to give this a read (http://www.techmeshugana.com/2013/06/may-31-in-oklahoma-city/).

There's stupid VoIP tricks you could do where you can change the outbound caller ID, and take advantage of conditional call forwarding with the MVNOs that support it, but that increases the cost. It's only mentioned for the sake of academic curiosity.

My wife and I have 2-year old Verizon phones, so I think we're going to have to buy a new phone no matter what MVNO we go to. Our house has bad signal for every carrier but Verizon, so calling over the internet sounds nice. Page Plus is the only Verizon MVNO that I see recommended and their phone lineup looks pretty bad. (My wife insists on using her phone as her main camera and I don't want crappy pictures of my newborn babies.) If we go to Ting, I'm afraid we'd have to walk outside to get a good Sprint signal. I don't see why getting a separate home line would be an improvement over using Republic. I don't understand most of your statements against its reliability. I have two friends in real life and dozens on the MMM site who say it works fine. I don't need "unlimited" stuff, just less than 500 each of minutes, texts, and MB.

A couple of things to remember with both Ting and Republic is that they're Sprint MVNOs first and foremost, not Verizon. They both claim to allow Verizon roaming, but your experience going from Verizon as your primary network to Sprint is not going to be as silky smooth as you might anticipate.

Second, something to remember with Ting. So long as it's been on the market for longer than a year, you can bring any Sprint phone you like to Ting for activation. You are not restricted only to the selection they provide or even "officially" support. They also carry femtocells (https://ting.com/shop/Airave25), though they are pricey.

Thirdly, the rumors have been heating up again since the America Movil acquisition of Page Plus went live that LTE handset activation may finally be coming to Verizon MVNOs. This doesn't mean that there will be 4G LTE data support, just that you wouldn't be limited to only activating non-LTE handsets (without stupid baseband flashing tricks). This would impact both Page Plus and Selectel if true, but these sorts of rumors have also been circulating in general for years, so don't get too enthusiastic. That said, if you can't activate your current Verizon handsets with PP or Selectel due to 4G LTE support (if it has a SIM card), it doesn't hurt to look at the options available phone-wise from Kitty Wireless (http://www.kittywireless.com/pageplus/pageplusphones.html) (PP Master Dealer) and Selectel (http://www.selectelwireless.com/shop/) directly. It's not a rich assortment, but they're functional, and they're not too different from what PP offers directly. That doesn't mean that there aren't other possible handsets available as well. Check Ebay (http://www.ebay.com/sch/Cell-Phones-Accessories-/15032/i.html?_nkw=page+plus).

As to the remaining statements towards Republic and reliability, they've already been loosely covered in the previous section.

Finally, if you genuinely think that an all-in-one hybrid wireless VoIP solution is a viable approach to your needs, do remember that in addition to TextNow, there's also FreedomPop... and both of them will let you bring your own Sprint Android device on top of selling you handsets as well.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: adam on June 06, 2014, 07:59:57 AM
Speaking of legal boilerplate, I actually read the fine print when I got my Airvoice SIM card in the mail.

Does anyone here have the $30-$60 "Unlimited" plans?  Do you actually have to call the support desk to activate the second half of your data?  I don't have the paperwork in front of me any more, but I think it said (for example):
"If you are on the $40 plan with 1GB data, you can use 500MB data and then you will have to call the support desk to activate your second 500MB for the 30 day period"

They claim it is to avoid fraud, but I imagine it doesn't hurt their bottom line when people don't A) track their usage and/or B) read the fine print and never actually call for the rest of their data.

edit: Found it
Quote
To prevent fraudulent activity on the $60 plan, you will receive 1.5 GB of data at the time that you add your refill card. Once you complete your 1.5 GB of data, you must contact customer service at 1-888-944-2355 to apply the other 1.5 GB to your account. To prevent fraudulent activity on the $50 plan, you will recieve 1GB of data at the time that you add your refill card. Once you complete your 1GB of data, you must contact customer service at 1-888-944-2355 to apply the other 1GB to your account. To prevent fraudulent activity on the $40 plan, you will receive 500 MB of data at the time that you add your refill card. Once you complete your 500 MB of data, you must contact customer service at 1-888-944-2355 to apply the other 500 MB to your account. To prevent fraudulent activity on the $30 plan, you will receive 250 MB of data at the time that you add your refill card. Once you complete your 250 MB of data, you must contact customer service at 1-888-944-2355 to apply the other 250 MB to your account
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on June 06, 2014, 08:36:02 AM
Speaking of legal boilerplate, I actually read the fine print when I got my Airvoice SIM card in the mail.

Does anyone here have the $30-$60 "Unlimited" plans?  Do you actually have to call the support desk to activate the second half of your data?  I don't have the paperwork in front of me any more, but I think it said (for example):
"If you are on the $40 plan with 1GB data, you can use 500MB data and then you will have to call the support desk to activate your second 500MB for the 30 day period"

They claim it is to avoid fraud, but I imagine it doesn't hurt their bottom line when people don't A) track their usage and/or B) read the fine print and never actually call for the rest of their data.

That is correct, and it's about the size of it. Not a great arrangement, but it only takes a couple minutes. Yet another reason why not being greatly reliant on data is to your benefit. In the case of Airvoice, less hassle.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Shivan on June 06, 2014, 01:21:54 PM
The difference is in each of our approaches to the Iron Triangle (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_triangle), which alters who is right based on what is more important to the person taking the advice. MMM's advice is EASY and CHEAP, my advice is GOOD and CHEAP.

Fair enough.

As for a good examination of why I'm not a big mVoIP guy, you might want to give this a read (http://www.techmeshugana.com/2013/06/may-31-in-oklahoma-city/).

Maybe I'm still ignorant about how everythink works. I thought that Republic uses your internet at home and regular Sprint/Verizon voice/text/data service when you're away from the internet. Is that not accurate? Are you saying that it's always "data" everywhere, which is the first thing to go in an emergency? It doesn't even dial 911 like a typical cell phone?

A couple of things to remember with both Ting and Republic is that they're Sprint MVNOs first and foremost, not Verizon. They both claim to allow Verizon roaming, but your experience going from Verizon as your primary network to Sprint is not going to be as silky smooth as you might anticipate.

I don't expect Sprint to be as good as Verizon. But I do like the concept of using Wi-Fi, which covers my whole house, over using either network, which can be hit or miss. Is that wrong?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on June 08, 2014, 10:27:22 AM
Maybe I'm still ignorant about how everythink works. I thought that Republic uses your internet at home and regular Sprint/Verizon voice/text/data service when you're away from the internet. Is that not accurate? Are you saying that it's always "data" everywhere, which is the first thing to go in an emergency? It doesn't even dial 911 like a typical cell phone?

Examining the latest maps and legal boilerplate and comparing to the Sprint and Verizon maps, it does appear that they are now using CDMA voice services as a fallback, but they're very tight-lipped about how their service works and they use locked-down proprietary handsets with proprietary dialers and clearly VoIP-based SMS gateway messaging services.

You should look at the bigger picture, though. Republic is owned by a VoIP wholesaler. The service acts like VoIP service even off the home WiFi network. Call quality sounds like cheap VoIP service with higher data compression. It has all the usage and reliability quirkiness of VoIP over a wireless network. Since the Moto X transition, they're most likely using UMA/GAN (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unlicensed_Mobile_Access)-style network hand-off now to achieve transitioning calls between WiFi and the CDMA network, which would explain the coverage map footprint change to include "voice" service areas now instead of the older service footprint that looked like 3G data coverage only. The thing is though, even with UMA, it's still lower-priority data services with a wholesaler. It still impacts reception and quality greater than if you were using the native network's voice services. Your calls are a lower priority than first tier users. You also need to pay attention to the terms of service. They've been a bit more honest now about mobile data usage levels before socking you with their heinous fines and service termination, but there's no disclosure about where those thresholds are for voice. They just really really want you to not talk on their service off your home WiFi network.

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, sounds like a duck...

It's probably safe to call Republic an mVoIP provider that uses a lot of moving parts to deliver service with no actual customer support, not a traditional MVNO. Set expectations accordingly.

I don't expect Sprint to be as good as Verizon. But I do like the concept of using Wi-Fi, which covers my whole house, over using either network, which can be hit or miss. Is that wrong?

Not especially, but adding wireless network latency with VoIP doesn't add any favors, and some routers handle and shape the traffic better than others. The public WiFi spectrum is saturated and there's a lot of noise. This is one of the reasons why I recommend keeping the important part of the VoIP network traffic 100% wired by using an ATA and going cordless via 1.9GHz DECT if you want cordless in the house. There's less interference on that band due to the dying nature of landline phone service, and even if there is (I've never encountered any), it's only noise and doesn't introduce problematic packet latency and jitter issues within the call itself.

I'm not going to tell you to not get a Republic handset and service. There are elements of what they provide given your attachment to doing all calls through a single mobile phone even at home that their service caters to. Just understand that you are trading quality for convenience, and if you can wrap your head around the greater picture of how everything actually operates and is set up, you might find that that convenience isn't much cheaper than the more reliable alternatives that requires learning a bit about the technology used, exercising a little self-discipline, and sacrificing a little convenience.

I ultimately want you to pick whatever solution you pick to fit your needs because you've weighed all the options first and chosen it as the best solution, not because someone getting huge financial and service kickbacks told you it's your best option. It's why I don't have a one-size fits all recommendation for this stuff, and I list out best of the breed companies spanning a range of service options. Each person has different needs. If you find that solution is actually Republic Wireless and can explain why without regurgitating ad copy to do so, then good on you. Great in fact! You'll be one of maybe five Republic users that I can genuinely respect in this place.

Let me close with a final perspective point. Just remember that these are all first world problems and conveniences/inconveniences. It's why I approach things from the minimalistic angle, strip everything down to their most basic of components, examine what is needed, and then find the highest quality provider for those needs at the cheapest prices available. I try to teach people to re-familiarize themselves with technology as a tool instead of a convenience and shift how they interact with those technologies. This is amazing stuff we're capable of using, but it costs money to do so, and the preponderance of it is used for gossip, noise, and laziness. If you feel inclined to spend the money, it's wisest to get the best quality you can for the cheapest price you have to pay... but that takes a perspective shift towards usage for most people to understand and accomplish.

I've quite enjoyed our exchange, Shivan. You've asked questions that most haven't, and it's given me an opportunity to help others have a better understanding of the underpinnings to my guide. Thank you.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Shivan on June 09, 2014, 02:38:15 PM
I'm not going to tell you to not get a Republic handset and service. There are elements of what they provide given your attachment to doing all calls through a single mobile phone even at home that their service caters to. Just understand that you are trading quality for convenience, and if you can wrap your head around the greater picture of how everything actually operates and is set up, you might find that that convenience isn't much cheaper than the more reliable alternatives that requires learning a bit about the technology used, exercising a little self-discipline, and sacrificing a little convenience.

Thanks for everthing. I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around how everything operates, and I doubt my wife would even care to understand, but I feel somewhat more prepared to accept worse service for less money (currently $140/month to Verizon for two smartphones).

Now, how about my ISP? I'm in North Carolina with Time Warner (promotional pricing has expired). I saw on your page (http://www.techmeshugana.com/theguide/internet-service-providers/) that I should look into Earthlink. Do you have any more details on that? It looks like they work with Time Warner to give me the same cable internet that I already have, but under a different name with six months of promotional pricing for some reason? I'm planning to call Time Warner, ask for a lower price, threaten to cancel, and then go with Earthlink or U-Verse if they don't accept it. Any suggestions?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on June 09, 2014, 07:55:24 PM
Shivan, if you have any specific technical questions that you'd like to ask to help clarify the mud, you can always feel free to PM me.

Now, how about my ISP? I'm in North Carolina with Time Warner (promotional pricing has expired). I saw on your page (http://www.techmeshugana.com/theguide/internet-service-providers/) that I should look into Earthlink. Do you have any more details on that? It looks like they work with Time Warner to give me the same cable internet that I already have, but under a different name with six months of promotional pricing for some reason? I'm planning to call Time Warner, ask for a lower price, threaten to cancel, and then go with Earthlink or U-Verse if they don't accept it. Any suggestions?

As for this question, I had someone else ask me nearly the same thing in a PM earlier today. I'll just do a copy-paste redux of what I told him:

I'm afraid not. There's not much more to get than what you've already grown to understand and have asked for confirmation on at this point already.

Most municipalities are pretty much limited to a heavily restricted duopoly split right down the center of cable and DSL service. Stuff like DSLExtreme, Toast.net and Earthlink are more anomalies than anything, don't always save any actual money, and are wholly dependent upon the generosity of the host network operator.

Behold the wonderful world of deregulation!

This is one of the reasons why I pitch learning to survive on less bandwidth throughput and just learning to tolerate the regular price. The only alternative to saving money at that point becomes an ongoing cycle of time-abusive, monkey dance pleading for cheaper service over the phone or wholly unplugging. Let me tell you, I'm beginning to consider that latter choice myself. I'm already at a point in my life that if given a choice between AT&T and Comcast, I would simply do without.

Sorry I can't provide any better solution, but unfortunately broadband in this country is an expensive trainwreck.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on June 09, 2014, 08:36:41 PM
Shivan, apparently the magic word to use with Time Warner Cable in NC (or at least in the Triangle, YMMV) is "frontier". Nevermind that they may not even serve your area yet, what do you know, the rep on the phone suddenly finds you another promotional period to roll you into.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on June 19, 2014, 11:58:37 AM
Just got back from a grueling 3,000 mile road trip helping a friend move all his worldly possessions from NC to WA. 4 days, 3 drivers, one huge moving truck, two cars, one of which was put on a truck trailer on the flat parts of the trip.

If you're ever doing a long multiple vehicles trip, do get one CB radio for each vehicle in the convoy. It takes just a few minutes to install and you will be able to communicate with all vehicles at once as long as you aren't too far from one another (yes, you can play with the squelch, but let's keep things simple). It's a far superior alternative to cell phones because

1) they cost nothing to operate once you have them and remain on all the time. If you have something to say, you just say it without any dialing.
2) no worrying about cell phone towers when you're in the middle of nowhere, especially if your MVNO of choice doesn't offer roaming, I have Ptel and it was basically out 90% of the time after we passed Kansas City
3) you get to listen to the truckers' banter on the popular channels

This trip would have been awful without the CB radios. Between ensuring that everyone at the wheel is still feeling alert, coordinating gas and food stops, setting the pace in the mountains for the moving truck, and just regular conversation, this is a must to any serious road trip.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: babysteps on June 19, 2014, 02:43:15 PM
In other news, the Asha 303 recommended in the guide is out of stock, so I had to go with the newer Asha 302 as my lady friend's 2008 BlackBerry decided to go for a last and fatal midnight swim in a pint of beer the other day. Excited to see what the beast is like when it arrives.

*sigh* It's the last of a dying breed. Nobody wants to make phones with keyboards anymore because people are UI idiots. Hope the Asha treats your lady friend as well as the C3 has treated me.

My 3yo Blackberry is fading, so I am looking for a sturdy phone with a physical qwerty keyboard, text & email--I could live w/o email but spouse has requested this, he's my "boss" as we have our own business so for him I can do that :).  Don't really need web surfing but am capable of ignoring it if that's what's included.  In case it's fixable, "fading" means my phone has a habit of going dead 2 minutes into a phone conversation (must pop battery to bring back to life), and intermittent fast battery discharge.  Yes the moisture-exposure tag is red (has been for a while).

IP, any updated advice?  I know you have recommended Motorola Defy XT560 and NEC Terrain as of Sept 2013 http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/communications-tech-the-isp-voip-and-cellphone-superguide/msg141876/?topicseen#msg141876 (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/communications-tech-the-isp-voip-and-cellphone-superguide/msg141876/?topicseen#msg141876).  At the moment you (shopping hut) are out of the Defy, and Terrain ($85 and up) seems to be less expensive on open market vs. Defy XT560 ($125 and up).  Airvoice says Defy definitely works and Terrain "should, but we haven't configured one yet so we can't promise".  tia :)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on June 20, 2014, 09:36:01 AM
IP, any updated advice?  I know you have recommended Motorola Defy XT560 and NEC Terrain as of Sept 2013 http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/communications-tech-the-isp-voip-and-cellphone-superguide/msg141876/?topicseen#msg141876 (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/communications-tech-the-isp-voip-and-cellphone-superguide/msg141876/?topicseen#msg141876).  At the moment you (shopping hut) are out of the Defy, and Terrain ($85 and up) seems to be less expensive on open market vs. Defy XT560 ($125 and up).  Airvoice says Defy definitely works and Terrain "should, but we haven't configured one yet so we can't promise".  tia :)

Not much has really changed, honestly. The only thing that has changed is that the Terrian failed on the market and can now be bought carrier unlocked for around $100 instead of $300 with a contract. That said, some quirkiness to the firmware has surfaced for the thing, but it is a far more current build of Android than what is available for the Defy XT560, so it would be safer from a patch standpoint, theoretically.

There's really just no QWERTY candybar form-factor handsets coming back onto the market. What's been namechecked is still the best options out there.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: adam on June 24, 2014, 01:25:05 PM
I had to bump my airvoice plan from $10 to $30.  I don't regret it.  I was down to ~$1.20 after 20 days and worrying about it constantly wasn't worth the $20 difference.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: geekette on June 24, 2014, 01:56:47 PM
I was considering bumping mine up to the $30/month for a 10 day trip I'm taking, but I might just add another $10 instead. 
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: babysteps on June 24, 2014, 02:45:52 PM
Not much has really changed, honestly. ....
There's really just no QWERTY candybar form-factor handsets coming back onto the market. What's been namechecked is still the best options out there.

Got it!  thx.  Hopefully this troglodyte will take good care of this old-before-I-buy-it-new device!

I was considering bumping mine up to the $30/month for a 10 day trip I'm taking, but I might just add another $10 instead. 

I run about $20/month at $10 per charge and do tend to top off before a trip.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on June 25, 2014, 08:05:00 PM
Well, this is wholly unsurprising news... Aereo has been struck down by the Supreme Court in a 6-3 ruling (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/06/supreme-court-puts-aereo-out-of-business/). This will have some interesting repercussions in the tech world.

All hail our corporate overlords and the winding tentacled beast that is runaway intellectual property law, etc.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Shivan on June 27, 2014, 07:08:08 AM
Update on my posts from June 3-9: I switched from Time Warner to Earthlink. 10 Mbps Cable for $30 for 6 months, $42 thereafter (plus modem fees). It was really easy, just 15 minutes between their sales chat and on the phone with their tech support to change things over. I didn't have to call Time Warner to cancel. I didn't have to switch out my modem or change any settings. I haven't noticed a single difference in service.

I also got a Republic Wireless phone yesterday and it's done well. My Verizon phone kept dropping calls at my house but the RW one didn't.

Looking forward to my bills being $100/month less!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: NeverWasACornflakeGirl on June 29, 2014, 04:02:56 PM
So thrilled with what I've learned from this thread and from Daley's web site, and psyched about my $15 a month cell phone plan, I blogged about it at http://mommywontwork.blogspot.com/2014/06/how-i-have-smartphone-for-only-15-month.html.  Would love to have your comments on how it could be improved.
Thanks!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Simple Abundant Living on July 07, 2014, 03:50:44 PM
Better late than never!  I just switched the last of our family phones over to Airvoice wireless!  I don't know why it took me so long or scared me so much!  My monthly bill went from $186 to $70, for 1- $30/mo unlimited call/text/500MB data and 4- $10/mo 250mins talk-or-500 texts phones for the kids.  If they want to go over that, the kids can buy their own extra minutes!  I'm excited to have $116 back in my pocket every month!  Thanks, Daley!!!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: livingthedream on July 07, 2014, 04:15:41 PM
Many thanks to I.P. Daley and this thread. I switched from Verizon to Ptel back in November and have used less than $10 per month on my pay as you go plan. The data can be expensive but most of the time I'm on wifi at home or work. I use a free plan from FreedomPop in the car to fill the gap. Big savings.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on July 07, 2014, 05:50:54 PM
Thanks, Daley!!!

Many thanks to I.P. Daley and this thread.

Fantastic news and savings, both of you! Glad to help. :)



So thrilled with what I've learned from this thread and from Daley's web site, and psyched about my $15 a month cell phone plan, I blogged about it at http://mommywontwork.blogspot.com/2014/06/how-i-have-smartphone-for-only-15-month.html.  Would love to have your comments on how it could be improved.
Thanks!

I know I already replied to you in PM, but I did want to tell you publicly that it's an excellent post, and thank you for the attribution... it's much appreciated.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on July 09, 2014, 05:54:01 PM
Harumph, so I just lost some brownie points with the girlfriend, who was originally excited to move from her expensive T-Mobile plan to a cheap AT&T MVNO.

Airvoice's $10 plan has the most annoying feature of sending a notification after each text and call (received/sent) with the current balance. Arghhhhhh. Turning "service messages" off in her phone's settings does not work either. How they manage to circumvent that setting I do not know, and the support rep said there's nothing she could do about it.

(http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-2ev-3FfmadM/T_rcqgd-RkI/AAAAAAAABr8/pIlHwd7sgRo/s1600/huge-mistake.gif)

So my choices right now are to either find another AT&T MVNO with prices I can live with, and without that stupid notification, or move her to Ptel. The latter wouldn't be the end of the world but I'm wary of having both of us on the T-mobile network with no roaming. The whole point of having one of us on AT&T was the additional security for our interstate travels.

On the plus side, according to the guys at HoFo, the notification isn't present on Airvoice's unlimited plans, which means that won't be an issue when I transfer her mother to Airvoice's $30 plan next week (she's a big talker).
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on July 09, 2014, 06:47:26 PM
(http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-2ev-3FfmadM/T_rcqgd-RkI/AAAAAAAABr8/pIlHwd7sgRo/s1600/huge-mistake.gif)

Unfortunately, with the exception of PureTalk (IIRC, but don't hold me to this), the USSD message issue is pretty well universal for AT&T (MVNOs included) prepaid services with balance notifications. Unfortunately, these cannot be blocked or disabled (outside of Android, which had a dedicated app you could use that suppressed USSD messages up until KitKat was released, when Google took away the system level APIs that made it work).

My own mother initially was driven up the wall by the things, but you'd be surprised how quickly you adapt to and begin to ignore them. I'm not sure about the Asha, but there may be roundabout ways to basically set default system/SMS notifications to silent/no vibrate in the phone to silence the things, but then use a group ringtone to set text notifications to appropriately make noise for anyone in the address book. That would at least minimize the audio assault. Sorry I can't recommend better. I secretly think it's AT&T's doing specifically to try and dissuade the more delicate from going prepaid in the first place.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on July 09, 2014, 07:26:07 PM
Unfortunately, with the exception of PureTalk (IIRC, but don't hold me to this), the USSD message issue is pretty well universal for AT&T (MVNOs included) prepaid services with balance notifications.
This thread (http://www.howardforums.com/showthread.php/1784884-Balance-Notifications-after-every-call-text-data-use-on-Airvoice) seems to agree with you (second post) but it's from 2012. I don't mind shopping around and jumping ship every month until we find something that really works, the joy of not having contracts hehe.

I am going to give her a few weeks and see if she can see past it (thank god we were able to disable the beeping pretty quickly), and then investigate the PureTalk option, their 750 simple plan would be perfect for her usage. Anyone here with a simple plan on PureTalk who could confirm/deny the presence of USSDs? If not, I will just ask in HoFo.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on July 18, 2014, 08:33:31 PM
Quick question (I have a lot of these lately...).

I transferred my future mother in law over to Airvoice (from T-Mobile), but she has been getting terrible reception in her home, but excellent reception 4 blocks closer to downtown. She lives very close to downtown Lexington, KY (not the sticks), and her house isn't hidden behind anything, she should be getting full bars everywhere around town. She called Airvoice and they told her it's because her phone is 2G (http://www.phonescoop.com/phones/phone.php?p=2593).

Makes sense, right? AT&T is slowly shutting off their 2G support (http://www.brighthand.com/default.asp?newsID=18716&news=ATT+2G+Network+3G+4G), and that's why she has very limited service? Or are they just talking out of their behinds?


Oh and btw, PureTalkUSA doesn't do the annoying balance notification. Switching once the current Airvoice is depleted.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on July 20, 2014, 08:21:30 AM
Quick question (I have a lot of these lately...).

Before diving in, I'm curious to know your MIL's previous carrier. Was it AT&T or T-Mobile, or someone else? I ask because of the carrier unlocked Samsung T359, which is a T-Mobile phone.

Airvoice speaks the truth on the matter, but it's hard to verify that is specifically the case for her out in Lexington without having more info. The handset is most definitely a 2G GSM handset on the two most important bands for service with AT&T, and AT&T is retiring their 2G network slowly but surely as you know. However, AT&T isn't updating their coverage maps in relation to this switch-over on their own publicly accessible maps, or the ones that are normally on record with the GSMA (http://maps.mobileworldlive.com/network.php?cid=169&cname=United%20States). Truth is, T-Mobile still has a well supported EDGE network that they simply aren't in any hurry to upgrade, so these phones still work great on T-Mo's towers, but not AT&T's. Thus the previous question. If she was with T-Mobile postpaid, there's your answer as AT&T would have only been fall-back in the Kentucky area. If she was with AT&T postpaid, it's entirely possible she was roaming onto T-Mobile's towers at home with that handset.

Of course, this is all speculation without having a 3G GSM handset on an AT&T MVNO at her house to confirm that there is better reception with it over her own. So yes, it makes sense and I suspect Airvoice isn't blowing smoke, but I can't say with authority that they're absolutely correct even if limited anecdotal evidence points in that direction.

If an AT&T MVNO and Airvoice specifically is desired for her situation and it is a 2G vs. 3G coverage issue with AT&T towers, the least traumatic handset switchover to ensure better reception for her without breaking the bank would probably be the Samsung A797 (http://www.gsmarena.com/samsung_a797_flight-3011.php), which is the closest you can get to being the AT&T flavor of the phone she already has (there are some differences). You can pick them up NIB and carrier unlocked off of Ebay for $45 with shipping (http://www.ebay.com/itm/281280019239). The next closest would be the Samsung A687 (http://www.gsmarena.com/samsung_a687_strive-3232.php), which is going used and carrier unlocked on Ebay for around the same price (http://www.ebay.com/itm/151356324724) (careful with this listing, it says unlocked, but lists the carrier as AT&T).

Hope this helps!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on July 20, 2014, 08:49:03 AM
She had been with T-Mobile post-paid for a long time until I switched her about 10 days ago. We had T-Mobile unlock her T359 before the switch because she liked hers so no reason no upgrade (or so I thought!).

I have since heard that her next door neighbor has AT&T postpaid and getting full bars on her modern smartphone, so I really do think it's just a matter of not having a 2G tower nearby. And now that I think of it, I have seen a cousin stream youtube videos on his AT&T post-paid iPhone in her living room last thanksgiving.

Getting a new 3G handset isn't a big deal, we always need backup phones for visitors and whatnot. She'll probably spring for the same Asha 302 since that will make tech support easier because we have the same at home now. Lesson learned, remote tech support sucks.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on July 20, 2014, 09:01:34 AM
Getting a new 3G handset isn't a big deal, we always need backup phones for visitors and whatnot. She'll probably spring for the same Asha 302 since that will make tech support easier because we have the same at home now. Lesson learned, remote tech support sucks.

Excellent. I've been in a bit of a support rut myself here lately with a lot of very inflexible old people, trying desperately to minimize visible and interface change to accommodate. Glad you have a bit more lateral freedom than I in the situation. :)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on July 24, 2014, 11:49:51 AM
Update: Internet Rumor Mill Edition

This is news that primarily applies to individuals who are with or looking to sign up with Page Plus (https://www.pagepluscellular.com/) and Spot Mobile (https://www.spotmobile.com/).

Spot Mobile News: Spot Mobile might be winding down operations. They've notified dealers to cease selling SIM cards and activating accounts. This news could go a few directions, including a completed merger and relaunch. For the sake of stability, however, existing Spot customers should keep a close eye on the company and put in place contingency strategies for possibly migrating to another provider.
http://www.prepaidphonenews.com/2014/07/spot-mobile-may-be-shutting-down.html

Page Plus News: Shortly after the launch of LTE service with Verizon Prepaid, Kitty of Kitty Wireless (http://www.kittywireless.com/) (the recommended Page Plus master dealer to use) has been discussing rumored changes to Page Plus service, including talking about the need to ship SIM cards, and that there are likely to be big announcements within a few weeks. As such, they are recommending anyone in the market to upgrade phones or join to hold off until after the announcement.
http://www.prepaidphonenews.com/2014/07/pageplus-rumored-to-be-getting-lte.html

Once again, thanks to Dennis Bournique of Prepaid Phone News (http://www.prepaidphonenews.com/) for the information. The man is a gem.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on July 24, 2014, 12:29:29 PM
Son of the Superguide Updates - July 24th:
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: tracipam on July 26, 2014, 02:09:14 PM

Hey all,

I couldn't find anything on the forum about this, but if you know of it, please point me in a direction.  Anyone have experience with FreedomPop?  I've looked at their page several times over the years, but have always avoided getting any of their mobile services because they've been limited to major metro areas. 

However, I recently noticed that they have added on a home internet hub option.  I use internet for a little bit of streaming (a few Daily Shows and some Pandora radio) every month and other than that, just checking e-mail and reading a few blogs.  I'm not sure how good their home internet service might be, or how the quantities they offer  (1 GB, 5 GB, 10 GB) correlate to usage.... if anyone has any input, I'd appreciate it! 

Thanks!

Tracy
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on July 27, 2014, 11:17:45 AM
I couldn't find anything on the forum about this, but if you know of it, please point me in a direction.  Anyone have experience with FreedomPop?  I've looked at their page several times over the years, but have always avoided getting any of their mobile services because they've been limited to major metro areas. 

However, I recently noticed that they have added on a home internet hub option.  I use internet for a little bit of streaming (a few Daily Shows and some Pandora radio) every month and other than that, just checking e-mail and reading a few blogs.  I'm not sure how good their home internet service might be, or how the quantities they offer  (1 GB, 5 GB, 10 GB) correlate to usage.... if anyone has any input, I'd appreciate it! 

Tracy, I know a few people around here use FP for both phone and home internet, including Rebel Spy (IIRC), who's taken to only communicating through mod edits lately.

The thing to remember is that it's basically just mobile data on Sprint's network. There'll be latency issues, uneven speeds depending on time of day, that sort of thing. Your usual mobile data issues. If you're wanting to stream videos, even if you set to the lowest quality video, 10GB can get chewed up rather rapidly. That said, if you strip out streaming media, general email and web browsing usually doesn't represent more than 2-4GB of data a month.

On the streaming media end, we'll start with Pandora (http://help.pandora.com/customer/portal/articles/90985-audio-quality). Depending on the stream quality, it could use anywhere between 30MB/hour at their 64kbps stream, to 90MB/hour at 192kbps for PandoraOne.

Getting hard numbers on Hulu data usage is a bit trickier, but it's out there (http://computer.howstuffworks.com/internet/basics/hulu4.htm). At their lowest quality setting, you're looking at around 250MB per hour or more. Their highest quality non-HD stream uses approximately 500MB per hour, and Hulu Plus at least 1.2GB/hour. Don't quote me on these numbers, they're extrapolations... but they're not too far out of line for expected bandwidth usage with say Netflix (https://help.netflix.com/en/node/87). Maybe a little lower, which is why I recommend you only use these numbers as a ballpark rule of thumb.

Have a streaming media data usage calculator (http://streamingmediahosting.com/support/calculator) to help.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: tracipam on July 27, 2014, 01:17:17 PM
Thanks, I.P.!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: NeverWasACornflakeGirl on July 28, 2014, 10:48:32 AM


So thrilled with what I've learned from this thread and from Daley's web site, and psyched about my $15 a month cell phone plan, I blogged about it at http://mommywontwork.blogspot.com/2014/06/how-i-have-smartphone-for-only-15-month.html.  Would love to have your comments on how it could be improved.
Thanks!

I know I already replied to you in PM, but I did want to tell you publicly that it's an excellent post, and thank you for the attribution... it's much appreciated.

Thanks so much!!  I appreciate the inspiration!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on July 31, 2014, 09:47:40 PM
For anyone still looking to consider Republic Wireless, I have a new post for you to consider first:

TruLocalPhone Magic, or how to beat Republic Wireless at their own game (http://www.techmeshugana.com/2014/07/trulocalphone-magic/)

In it is a redux from a couple years ago (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/communications-tech-the-isp-voip-and-cellphone-superguide/msg21151/#msg21151) where I detail how you can still reproduce nearly the entire Republic experience for the same price or less just by picking the right providers and understanding how to utilize call forwarding. Enjoy!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on August 08, 2014, 12:50:44 PM
It's been an eventful week, folks. I should catch you up!

P'tel (https://www.ptel.com/) now has unlimited talk and text plans (https://www.ptel.com/plans) starting at $20/month, and unlimited 2G data is only an extra $5/month above that. They've also lowered other calling plan prices, introduced larger data bundles, and now offer 4G data coverage. Yeah, you know how I feel about the "unlimited" trap, but these are still significant price points as they're now taking square aim at the same price points that Republic has without the need for crummy VoIP service and an perpetual need to find a WiFi hotspot to "keep prices low".

Red Pocket Mobile (http://goredpocket.com/) has just dropped a major bombshell. They've standardized their prices and now offer MVNO service for ALL FOUR MOBILE NETWORKS (http://goredpocket.com/plans), and the prices are competitive. That's right, one stop shopping for AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon refugees.

Sad news for Spot Mobile (https://www.spotmobile.com/), they're officially shutting down. If you have service with them, you have until September 7th to port your number out. Given the news, they have been removed from the guide. Happy trails, guys.

I was invited back for another interview over at Radical Personal Finance (http://radicalpersonalfinance.com/), and this time we talked more philosophy than nuts and bolts of saving communications costs (http://radicalpersonalfinance.com/35/). I have a few notes and references to that discussion on my own site here (http://www.techmeshugana.com/2014/08/cast-of-pods-2/). You can still hear the original interview from last year right here (http://radicalpersonalfinance.com/episode4/). Caution, they're both long, and I'm not as entertaining as I'd like to be, but I do try to be informative.

Finally, I wrote something that I've wanted to do for a while now: The Math of Unlimited (http://www.techmeshugana.com/2014/08/the-math-of-unlimited/), or how advertisers make you override common sense when shopping for calling plans. I show you the real math behind what people think of when they hear or read the word unlimited and compare it to that shallow promise of "unlimited" service that all providers actually give you for your money.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Truckman on August 15, 2014, 05:54:55 PM
Has anyone used the messenger program called Telegram? How is it on data usage? Any better than Kik?

Also, has anyone else used the Glyde website mentioned in the below quoted link to purchase a phone? Are the phones carrier unlocked? I'm guessing not since they seem to be sold by MVO network... Nice blog post, btw.  And of course, kudos and many thanks to IP!!

Telegram.org (https://www.telegram.org)

Glyde (http://www.glyde.com)

So thrilled with what I've learned from this thread and from Daley's web site, and psyched about my $15 a month cell phone plan, I blogged about it at http://mommywontwork.blogspot.com/2014/06/how-i-have-smartphone-for-only-15-month.html.  Would love to have your comments on how it could be improved.
Thanks!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on August 15, 2014, 06:58:09 PM
Has anyone used the messenger program called Telegram? How is it on data usage? Any better than Kik?

Telegram.org

I vaguely remember a ruckus about Telegram last year but never bothered to look into it. *thumbs through website* SHA-1 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SHA-1#Cryptanalysis_and_validation)? AES (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Encryption_Standard#Security)? Infinite Garble Extensions? Rolled their own crypto and protocol? Doctorates of math?

(http://www.myfacewhen.net/uploads/3723-cosby-wut.jpg)
I don't post images often, but when I do...

So they're using flawed and compromised encryption techniques on top of some questionable implementations and calling it secure? I'd rather trust my privacy and security to a company that doesn't promise either than people who try to promise the illusion of both. I don't care that it's free. It's critically flawed, built on compromised cyphers, and they just tell you to trust their servers. No wonder the ruckus. I may not be a master in any sense of the word, but I know enough to be dangerous with cryptography, and recognize bad implementations when I see it.

*pokes around DDG (https://duckduckgo.com/)* Have a few links from people far smarter than myself articulately explain the problems with Telegram:

http://thoughtcrime.org/blog/telegram-crypto-challenge/
http://unhandledexpression.com/2013/12/17/telegram-stand-back-we-know-maths/
http://www.cryptofails.com/post/70546720222/telegrams-cryptanalysis-contest
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6915741

I don't know how its data usage is in relationship to Kik, but given the additional encryption, the overhead should be higher. If you're considering Telegram for some illusion of crypto-based privacy versus strongly worded privacy policies? Well... when it comes to technology, privacy is kind of dead. If someone cares enough to compromise your security and privacy, they eventually can and they will. Make peace with that.

As for the Glyde phones, in the case of Sprint phones for Ting... well, yes, that's CDMA phones for you. That said, unless there's evidence stated otherwise, treat all carrier specific phones as carrier locked unless it states otherwise... that doesn't just go for Glyde, that goes for everywhere.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Truckman on August 15, 2014, 08:03:28 PM
Wow, fantastic reply!  Thank you for going so in depth on Telegram and it's crypto isues. 

As for the phones on Glyde, it's interesting that the same phone on different providers are different prices (Verizon seems less expensive than AT&T).  If we know we're going with an AT&T provider, would it be better to just get the phone listed for that provider? Or could we get the cheaper Verizon model and unlock it ourselves to save a few more $?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on August 17, 2014, 10:25:55 AM
As for the phones on Glyde, it's interesting that the same phone on different providers are different prices (Verizon seems less expensive than AT&T).  If we know we're going with an AT&T provider, would it be better to just get the phone listed for that provider? Or could we get the cheaper Verizon model and unlock it ourselves to save a few more $?

There's an issue with the whole Verizon vs. AT&T thing, and it comes down to the technology. AT&T is a GSM carrier, and Verizon is a CDMA carrier. However, 4G LTE is kind of changing things a bit on the Verizon end (this really doesn't apply to Sprint) with certain handsets. There are some Verizon 4G LTE phones that're technically GSM+CDMA+LTE world phones, like the iPhone 5. Due to the LTE spectrum auction requirements for the 700MHz spectrum that Verizon bid on, they cannot carrier lock the SIM card slot. As such, there are certain Verizon 4G LTE phones that can be taken to US GSM providers without carrier unlocking. There are other Verizon (and Sprint) GSM+CDMA world phones such as the iPhone 4S, but those would only be carrier unlocked for non-domestic SIM cards, which means no US-based MVNOs. That said, there's outfits like Truphone that is a global GSM carrier that has really affordable rates for the United States and their SIM cards will work in these phones.

That said, it's recommended that if you're going to a GSM MVNO, you should be bringing a carrier unlocked handset anyway, even if the handset is branded native to the underlying MVNO network. Without carrier unlocking, you will not be able to get data services at best and the phone simply will not work at worst. Understanding that, the best GSM handset to get for maximum compatibility with all networks would be a T-Mobile pentaband handset as it'll work just fine with both AT&T and T-Mobile MVNOs. It's not to say that AT&T handsets won't work on the T-Mobile network, you'll just be slightly more handicapped on higher speed data connectivity in some regions.

Finally, it's worth pointing out that it's finally legal for users to carrier unlock handsets again as of the end of July, but the third party unlocking outfits are being slow to spool back up. Best route is to just make sure the handset is carrier unlocked first before purchase.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Truckman on August 17, 2014, 10:36:28 AM
Got it. Thanks again!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: adam on August 29, 2014, 11:02:26 AM
I might be going back...

Right now I'm paying $30/mo with Airvoice for "Unlimited talk&text" +500MB data (which I have to call their help desk after 250mb to get my full allowance.  The help desk that doesn't open till 10am est).  Wife has been on Pageplus $12 plan for about 2 years now?  Well she's finally in need of a new(er) phone, so I figured I'd bring her over to Airvoice with me and a Moto G for $180.  Then we'd have two phones with 500mb each (she has recently been complaining about not having data) for $60 a month.

Long story short, AT&T seems to have somewhat come to their senses on pricing, unless I'm totally missing something.
I looked the other day and it would appear that if I bring my own compatible device I can get a mobile share plan with unlimited talk&text one two phones, sharing 1GB data, for $70.  No contract.

For $10 more I would consider going back to a major carrier.  Especially since my wife probably won't use the full 500mb, which means I could have whats left.


edit: I just double checked and its $75.  $25 access fee per phone, $25 for 1GB shared data.  So $15 more than Airvoice (+taxes and fees, so maybe $20).

Hmmmmm  not as awesome .
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: adam on August 29, 2014, 12:18:29 PM
FWIW the best I could do on Verizon was still like $110, and that would require two brand new, much more pricy phones.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on August 29, 2014, 12:29:33 PM
edit: I just double checked and its $75.  $25 access fee per phone, $25 for 1GB shared data.  So $15 more than Airvoice (+taxes and fees, so maybe $20).

Hmmmmm  not as awesome .

Keep in mind, back when my wife and I were with AT&T? We had a $60 plan for two lines that was $72 after taxes.

It'll vary a bit from location to location, but you're probably looking at about $25-30 more per month to AT&T over Airvoice (about $85-90/month with AT&T after everything is all said and done).

The major carriers are snakes in the grass... you have to be careful about these latest rounds of "cheap" "unlimited" service package prices because they all have so many hidden costs in the fine print that you never think about up front that simply are not there in prepaid when WYSIWYG (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WYSIWYG) for the most part as all the regulatory fees and taxes are rolled into the core services paid for, which only leaves service/sales tax.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: adam on August 29, 2014, 01:43:35 PM
edit: I just double checked and its $75.  $25 access fee per phone, $25 for 1GB shared data.  So $15 more than Airvoice (+taxes and fees, so maybe $20).

Hmmmmm  not as awesome .

Keep in mind, back when my wife and I were with AT&T? We had a $60 plan for two lines that was $72 after taxes.

It'll vary a bit from location to location, but you're probably looking at about $25-30 more per month to AT&T over Airvoice (about $85-90/month with AT&T after everything is all said and done).

The major carriers are snakes in the grass... you have to be careful about these latest rounds of "cheap" "unlimited" service package prices because they all have so many hidden costs in the fine print that you never think about up front that simply are not there in prepaid when WYSIWYG (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WYSIWYG) for the most part as all the regulatory fees and taxes are rolled into the core services paid for, which only leaves service/sales tax.
I think my old VZW plan charged ~$12 in taxes/fees, but that was for what was at the time a $130/mo plan.  I would hope something that states it is $75 isn't going to have ~16% in taxes and fees added.  $6-8 is what I would hope.  But anyways, the beauty of being contract free in this case (and getting free sims and activation) is I can leave right after I get that first bill if they really try and pull something like that.

Nothing is decided, but the fact that they're even in the conversation at this point is a step forward for AT&T at least.  Its not really going to change much about the wife needing a new phone, and me getting her either a Moto G, or giving her my Nexus 4 and getting a 5 or 6 if/when its announced.

Pageplus started adding about $1.84 to the $12 plan already (~15%).  How much further behind is airvoice?  Or is that part of the shady stuff you said might start when PP was taken over by American Movil?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on August 29, 2014, 03:15:07 PM
Pageplus started adding about $1.84 to the $12 plan already (~15%).  How much further behind is airvoice?  Or is that part of the shady stuff you said might start when PP was taken over by American Movil?

Not entirely shady per se, just an additional cash grab by the new parent company. It lets them raise their rates to increase profit without actually appearing to raise their rates. I don't expect Airvoice to do this unless they're bought out by Carlos Slim as well.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: bearman on September 12, 2014, 11:50:40 AM
Hi Daley - I may have missed this somewhere, but has Google Voice reduced its feature list? I had set up a number 6 or 7 years ago for testing, but recently decided to look into it as part of my telecom overhaul. However, I was surprised to find 1.) there aren't any available numbers in my area (I've moved since the original account was created) and 2.) I can't see any way to actually send or receive texts from GV online. On top of that, the video support provided doesn't appear to represent the interface that I see today. Is GV being slowly discontinued?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on September 12, 2014, 12:14:45 PM
Hi Daley - I may have missed this somewhere, but has Google Voice reduced its feature list? I had set up a number 6 or 7 years ago for testing, but recently decided to look into it as part of my telecom overhaul. However, I was surprised to find 1.) there aren't any available numbers in my area (I've moved since the original account was created) and 2.) I can't see any way to actually send or receive texts from GV online. On top of that, the video support provided doesn't appear to represent the interface that I see today. Is GV being slowly discontinued?

Google Voice is being depreciated in favor of Hangouts, which is carrying over the GV feature set and adding a few extra bits as well. As of v.2.3 released for Android a couple days ago, Hangouts now supports WiFi VoIP calls to and from phone numbers. (This is great news for those that I received feedback from over my TruLocalPhone Magic post regarding two apps and two services being "too complicated"... congrats, cheapskates, it's back down to one app again!)

If you still want a nice and simple GV interface for your desktop, however, do as I've done for ages. (No telling how much longer this'll last though.)

Open the following link in Chrome/Chromium: http://www.google.com/voice/m/

Go into the Chrome Menu > Tools > Create Application Shortcuts and follow the instructions.

Viola. Tiny little svelte minimalist desktop app for Google Voice.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: adam on September 17, 2014, 12:27:54 PM
I had a facepalm moment yesterday.

You can run two google user accounts on a single android phone.  I don't know how I never tested this.

So now I can download all my apps from my personal google account onto my MotoX work phone, as well as better access my email/calendar/contacts.  I still need to make sure I can effectively separate the contacts by group or something, but its looking like I can just give my Nexus 4 to the wife, put her on the $30 airvoice plan, and that be the only cell bill we have.

Meanwhile, I noticed that Verizon (recently?) offered up a $60 single line plan with unlimited talk/text and 2GB data. (and thats the subsidized phone price).  If you byod its $50.  Which is the exact same cost as Airvoice (different phone technologies, obviously).

Meanwhilex2, if you want the "More Everything" plan (you don't), its $150 for two smartphones with unlimited talk/text and 4GB to share.  Its STILL more expensive for the MORE EVERYTHING (now including more cost!) plan to set up two phones that share 2gb data (~$130/mo) than it would be to get two of those single line options with 2gb each ($120/mo).

Further reminding me why I left them in the first place.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: adam on September 17, 2014, 12:29:02 PM
Also, forgot.  If I give the Nexus 4 to the wife I'm going to want to port my existing phone # to google voice so I don't lose it.  From what I was reading just above... am I going to lose the ability to receive texts from that number now?

Saw this today:
http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2014/09/google-hangouts-gets-a-huge-update-including-google-voice-integration/
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: geekette on September 19, 2014, 04:31:27 PM
Probably an unusual question: changing "ownership" of a phone number.

When my FIL died, my husband ported his Dad's old home number to his own cell phone on Airvoice, abandoning his old cell phone number (which he could never remember) for the one he grew up with.  DH rarely uses the phone, but he's bothered by the CID on the other end showing his deceased Dad's name.  Airvoice says it should just say "wireless caller", but it doesn't.

Is this something only Airvoice can change?

eta: called again, and Airvoice said since I could give them 3 numbers he called and all said the old name, they'll put in a request for it to just say "wireless caller". 
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on September 19, 2014, 05:26:37 PM
Also, forgot.  If I give the Nexus 4 to the wife I'm going to want to port my existing phone # to google voice so I don't lose it.  From what I was reading just above... am I going to lose the ability to receive texts from that number now?

It might get a little complicated with two accounts on one phone. You should still get texts (especially via e-mail forwarding), but Hangouts' GV integration is still getting the bugs ironed out.



Is this something only Airvoice can change?

Yes it is. Airvoice customer service can actually set the CNAM (Caller ID Name) to anything you like, but by default when it's ported in it is set to WIRELESS CALLER. Now, keep in mind that any phone that has the phone number already in the address book with your FIL's name attached, that name will show up on any phone, overriding the actual CNAM sent through the system. Also keep in mind that CNAM doesn't typically get transmitted over mobile networks, only the number.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: geekette on September 19, 2014, 05:50:38 PM
Is this something only Airvoice can change?

Yes it is. Airvoice customer service can actually set the CNAM (Caller ID Name) to anything you like, but by default when it's ported in it is set to WIRELESS CALLER. Now, keep in mind that any phone that has the phone number already in the address book with your FIL's name attached, that name will show up on any phone, overriding the actual CNAM sent through the system. Also keep in mind that CNAM doesn't typically get transmitted over mobile networks, only the number.

We used the cell to call at least one person my FIL would never have called, and it showed my FIL's name.  When he called my cell, it didn't show the name, but displayed old home town. 

He's had the number for a few months now with no change; hopefully it will get changed to just the number in the next few days.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on September 19, 2014, 06:59:04 PM
We used the cell to call at least one person my FIL would never have called, and it showed my FIL's name.  When he called my cell, it didn't show the name, but displayed old home town. 

He's had the number for a few months now with no change; hopefully it will get changed to just the number in the next few days.

It almost sounds like a larger database issue. Your current carrier sets primary CID information, so all CID displays receiving calls should be showing what Airvoice has on record. If it isn't, I'm not sure what to tell you, as many carriers cache CID data... you can either call and harass every phone company to do a refresh where you find the issue, or your husband reaches a point of inner peace about it and doesn't let it bother him as the proper information slowly percolates through the mish-mash of the POTS networks and smartphone-app based Caller ID Name addon databases.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on September 24, 2014, 10:27:13 AM
IP,  I've been reading your information about phones, net etc.. It is a little too techy for me to wrap my head around.

I have a Verizon smart phone with an expired contract.   Can I just downgrade to their smallest monthly text and phone plan and then use the phone via wifi at home and office for calls and web access?

Well, the smallest monthly text and phone plan you're going to get on Verizon's network is basically Page Plus' PAYG plan, which works out to a minimum monthly cost of $2.50+tax, with balance rollover and prices at the cost of 5-10¢/minute, 5¢/text, and 10¢/MB depending on the quantity of credit you spring for. (Alternately, if you're willing to go Selectel (http://www.selectelwireless.com/wireless-plans/), you can get an effective pool of 2000 minutes and 2000 texts a year for $75/year ($6.25/month). That covers an average monthly usage of up to 166 minutes and 166 texts. There's no data, but the rates are technically cheaper than Page Plus at a rough price of 1.875¢ per available minute and text if you use the entire balance, otherwise unused doesn't roll over.)

As for using the phone via WiFi for calls, that requires a VoIP service and a bit of call forwarding to keep things unified. The cheapest, and "easiest" route for most people is to transfer their number to Google Voice, and then use Hangouts for making and receiving free VoIP calls over WiFi (for as long as Google will support that), and having GV forward any calls to your (different) cell number if you're out on the mobile network. It's a solution that gets datamined, it is a solution with call quality that frequently equals what you pay for, but if you're having trouble following the logic flow from this post (http://www.techmeshugana.com/2014/07/trulocalphone-magic/), it might just be the easiest route for you to take.

The last part of the whole thing is your smartphone specifically. If it's an LTE device, you may have to wait until October to take it to Page Plus. There has been no official announcement on LTE support by Selectel, however, I suspect that they shouldn't be much behind that. Alternately, if you're good with AT&T and/or T-Mobile GSM coverage in your area, and your smartphone in question happens to be a GSM+LTE+CDMA world phone (like the Verizon iPhone 5 or Galaxy S3 for example), the SIM card slot should already be carrier unlocked, which means you don't just have a Verizon MVNO as your only option. You also have any of the AT&T or T-Mobile MVNO options at your disposal as well, including Truphone (http://www.truphone.com/us/). If it's just a GSM+CDMA (no LTE) world phone and they only carrier unlocked for global roaming, so long as it has support for the GSM 850+1900 bands, you can still go with Truphone as a GSM MVNO option, but no others.

Any other questions or needed clarity, feel free to ask!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: adam on October 03, 2014, 08:55:52 AM
I've been trying to port my number from Airvoice to Google since Tuesday.  I'm not getting much traction.  It doesn't help that it appears google doesn't have any tech support whatsoever for voice.

Is there another way I can 'park' my number somewhere so I don't lose it?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on October 03, 2014, 02:36:46 PM
I've been trying to port my number from Airvoice to Google since Tuesday.  I'm not getting much traction.  It doesn't help that it appears google doesn't have any tech support whatsoever for voice.

Is there another way I can 'park' my number somewhere so I don't lose it?

Not without paying for it. For the price, you might as just shift over to Airvoice's PAYG plan. $3 isn't far off from nearly anywhere else, and you won't have to pay for porting that way, either.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: subassy on October 21, 2014, 05:15:09 PM
Just found this web site/forum and so far I like it. I hope no one minds this as a first post.

I very much enjoyed the guide but had one note/question: I don't know when it changed by now TracPhone has a BYOP option (http://tracfonewireless.com/byop/). I was wondering if anybody had tried it, does it change the outlook on using them, does this make tracphone move up a notch because of the option...?

I'm actually just curious, probably won't be changing anytime soon myself (since my verizon contract expired I'm month-to-month with an unlimited data plan for relatively cheap :-) )
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on October 22, 2014, 01:28:30 PM
Just found this web site/forum and so far I like it. I hope no one minds this as a first post.

I very much enjoyed the guide but had one note/question: I don't know when it changed by now TracPhone has a BYOP option (http://tracfonewireless.com/byop/). I was wondering if anybody had tried it, does it change the outlook on using them, does this make tracphone move up a notch because of the option...?

I'm actually just curious, probably won't be changing anytime soon myself (since my verizon contract expired I'm month-to-month with an unlimited data plan for relatively cheap :-) )

Great to have you, and I noticed your intro post over in the other thread. I'm humbled to have been the guy to bring you here, and I hope what you learn while here is valuable and uplifting.

Regarding your Tracfone question: BYOD changes nothing in my book, as I make a point to try and avoid recommending America Movil properties under general principle. Their prices aren't that competitive and their customer service is dreadful, I know first hand as my experience with them is one of the many reasons why I created the guide that I had in the first place. There's always a hidden cost when you shop uninformed or focus far too intently on getting the cheapest price possible. As such, what better way to help other people then to show them how to avoid the mistakes I made early on?

Page Plus is currently only on the list out of virtue of being the only established and financially stable Verizon MVNO, not because of their current parent company. The day Selectel (or Red Pocket) has proven themselves to be up to snuff, or at least as "good" a bet as Page Plus is for Verizon refugees...
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on October 24, 2014, 06:06:44 PM
Ha! Something I had long suspected but lacked the scientific knowledge to connect the dots:

http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2014/10/t-mobile-our-network-has-trouble-with-building-walls-and-long-distances/

That explains why we've always had trouble within certain buildings, even surrounded by towers.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on October 25, 2014, 09:03:36 PM
Ha! Something I had long suspected but lacked the scientific knowledge to connect the dots:

http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2014/10/t-mobile-our-network-has-trouble-with-building-walls-and-long-distances/

That explains why we've always had trouble within certain buildings, even surrounded by towers.

Funny you should mention this. From a few days ago in another thread:

For the record, Verizon and AT&T both use 850MHz and 1900MHz frequency bands for voice service. Sprint uses 800MHz and 1900Mhz. T-Mobile uses 1700MHz, 1900MHz and 2100MHz. Technically, the lower the frequency, the better the signal penetration, but the difference between the frequencies are negligible with cellular services, and you get into other things like reflection and propagation that make up for the deficiency with the higher bands. The point being, YMMV, and there's a lot of factors that contribute to reception issues between providers, including the antenna designs in the handsets themselves.

Wave propagation with signals over 1GHz in the UHF band gets interesting. They don't have quite the penetration, but they bounce better in areas where the signal gets in. T-Mo may not have any sub-1GHz voice spectrum currently (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cellular_frequencies#United_States_Carrier_Frequency_Use) (except through AT&T roaming agreements), but the difference is negligible for the most part, IMHO. It cuts both ways, and sometimes it can even be beneficial. I've been in basements where I've gotten T-Mo reception where AT&T and Sprint wouldn't work, and I know it's because of the signal bounce.

Most people aren't going to notice the difference as it'll either work or it won't most places. If there's reception issues in a building that are caused specifically by the architecture and wiring, there's usually going to be some sort of quirky reception issues on all bands with all providers. That's why I typically won't address spectrum in the guide unless people are having specific problems. :)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Ricky on November 02, 2014, 09:57:14 AM
I really don't understand the hate on Republic Wireless. I switched my whole family from paying $170 a month on Verizon with limited minutes and a laughable amount of data to $50 a month for unlimited talk/txt. We can't use the data because we are constantly roaming and there is a 25mb limit on data.

It's by far the cheapest MVNO out there. Unless you could just survive off megabytes and had no will to use data outside of Wi-fi networks. There's no other MVNO that allows unlimited calling/texting for $10/mo or less. And please show me another MVNO that offers 5GB of 3G and unl txt/call for $25/mo or under. Granted, I have no use for this plan, but if I lived in an area where this was feasible, It's a solid option.

The only restrictive and negative part is the phone ecosystem. Of course we are limited to the phones they flash with their proprietary software. I don't see this as a huge downside, though, as you still can buy used and the phones themselves are excellent. So you can BYOD in a sense which makes things more fair.

I think your post needs to be updated because I have not felt that Republic's execution is lacking or that their pricing can be easily replicated. I feel its the best bang for the buck out there having used it for the past few weeks. Elaborating on execution, their customer service is getting better, their responses to issues are incredibly detailed and accurate. They list new known problems on their site and they actively correct existing issues in a timely matter if its something remotely within their power. Wi-fi to cell handoff and vice-versa works incredibly well and is basically non-noticeable. Call quality is great on cell and even better on Wi-fi. There is signal everywhere with Sprint since Sprint has MANY roaming agreements.

They also no longer tie you to their phones per se. You can eBay any of their phones now.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on November 02, 2014, 12:59:43 PM
I really don't understand the hate on Republic Wireless. I switched my whole family from paying $170 a month on Verizon with limited minutes and a laughable amount of data to $50 a month for unlimited talk/txt. We can't use the data because we are constantly roaming and there is a 25mb limit on data.

It's by far the cheapest MVNO out there. Unless you could just survive off megabytes and had no will to use data outside of Wi-fi networks. There's no other MVNO that allows unlimited calling/texting for $10/mo or less. And please show me another MVNO that offers 5GB of 3G and unl txt/call for $25/mo or under. Granted, I have no use for this plan, but if I lived in an area where this was feasible, It's a solid option.

The only restrictive and negative part is the phone ecosystem. Of course we are limited to the phones they flash with their proprietary software. I don't see this as a huge downside, though, as you still can buy used and the phones themselves are excellent. So you can BYOD in a sense which makes things more fair.

I think your post needs to be updated because I have not felt that Republic's execution is lacking or that their pricing can be easily replicated. I feel its the best bang for the buck out there having used it for the past few weeks. Elaborating on execution, their customer service is getting better, their responses to issues are incredibly detailed and accurate. They list new known problems on their site and they actively correct existing issues in a timely matter if its something remotely within their power. Wi-fi to cell handoff and vice-versa works incredibly well and is basically non-noticeable. Call quality is great on cell and even better on Wi-fi. There is signal everywhere with Sprint since Sprint has MANY roaming agreements.

They also no longer tie you to their phones per se. You can eBay any of their phones now.
(Emphasis added.)

I find it humorous that people who have wholly swallowed the Republic advertising always claim I'm "hating" on them. Reality is, I'm just pointing out how impractical they actually are for nearly everyone once a little effort and research is put into investigating what they're providing for the money versus the competition. My primary point is that you can do far better for the money, and you almost always can, especially when you factor replacement handset costs versus keeping your own on a cheaper plan that actually fits your needs. The ROI usually winds up breaking the 24+ month barrier, and that's contract level commitment.

I'm sorry Ricky, but you clearly still haven't run the math. Your comment about spending $50/month basically for feature phone service where you can't even use any data highlights this irrational disconnect. It's the illusion of value, which isn't the same thing as real value.

Say it with me now: NOBODY NEEDS UNLIMITED ANYTHING.

I've already gone over this repeatedly and even recently... have the three most relevant posts refuting the very talking points you're attempting:

The Math of Unlimited (http://www.techmeshugana.com/2014/08/the-math-of-unlimited/)
Ask Daley: The End of Google Voice & Republic Wireless (http://www.techmeshugana.com/2014/07/ask-daley-the-end-of-google-voice/)
TruLocalPhone Magic, or how to beat Republic Wireless at their own game (http://www.techmeshugana.com/2014/07/trulocalphone-magic/)

The only thing I might add is that anyone trying to actually extract 5GB of data off of Sprint's 3G network in under a month is going to be a hero, especially over an MVNO. The idea of 3G data access on this plan is closer to everyone else's 2G/EDGE and throttled speeds. Factoring that consideration, there is an "unlimited" everything plan for $25/month from P'tel. The only thing I might say about this plan is the same wish of good luck trying to actually extract 5GB of data in a month as well. On the bright side though, if P'tel considers you to be abusing their network, they'll just kill your account. If you do that with Republic, you're going to get socked for a $500+ fee and nobody to call and talk to.

Simply put, there is and there will always be better for the money spent. Republic isn't the deal that they try to claim they are. I'm sorry that apparently pointing out this reality somehow makes me a hater in your book.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Ricky on November 02, 2014, 02:52:11 PM
You're missing the point. For me, Republic is an excellent option since i live in a rural area where there are very few GSM towers. Data is horribly slow near my house so relying on Google Hangouts isn't an option. My point is that you're doing others a disservice by automatically saying Republic is a bad option for anyone since you can do better elsewhere.

The fact is that I really can't do better elsewhere. Most of the MVNOs that you recommend are GSM reliant. I can't go with Ting for pure megabytes because I use more data than that and I can't rely on Hangouts as said before. Your all inclusive guide isn't all that inclusive is all I'm saying. And you're right, using 5GB is probably shooting for the stars but even if I used 3GB, and I do quite regularly, I still would come out much better. On top of that, my 3G speeds on Republic have been excellent in areas where Im not roaming.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on November 02, 2014, 04:04:19 PM
You're missing the point. For me, Republic is an excellent option since i live in a rural area where there are very few GSM towers. Data is horribly slow near my house so relying on Google Hangouts isn't an option. My point is that you're doing others a disservice by automatically saying Republic is a bad option for anyone since you can do better elsewhere.

The fact is that I really can't do better elsewhere. Most of the MVNOs that you recommend are GSM reliant. I can't go with Ting for pure megabytes because I use more data than that and I can't rely on Hangouts as said before. Your all inclusive guide isn't all that inclusive is all I'm saying. And you're right, using 5GB is probably shooting for the stars but even if I used 3GB, and I do quite regularly, I still would come out much better.

And you clearly don't actually understand how Republic or the alternatives actually work, which makes you believe that my advice is somehow a disservice because I won't recommend the single third tier mVoIP provider that you like in a huge ocean of MVNOs.

First, we'll address your whole "Republic is a great option because of a lack of GSM" statement. Republic primarily uses Sprint and roams onto Verizon, and the fact that you can't do data because of the Verizon roaming in your area bodes ominously for your future use when they start sticking limits on all roaming services due to customers like yourself not primarily on WiFi or Sprint coverage. Their model isn't sustainable, and the recent changes show this. What you actually need is an MVNO that deals primarily with Verizon coverage where you live, not Sprint coverage, not WiFi coverage.

Next, we'll deal with your claim that Hangouts isn't somehow an option because "data is slow". Google Voice and Hangouts both can initiate calls that ring back to your mobile line, barely any data is needed for this function. If you don't care about having two phone numbers, this is a moot point. Incoming can be set to automatically ring to your mobile line or can be used in VoIP mode over WiFi, and if you can't initiate outbound over mobile via Hangouts, there's nothing preventing you from direct dialing. I never advocate using VoIP over a mobile data connection.

Finally, unless it's specifically for work data access that can't be pre-loaded onto your phone for offline use, your mobile data habit is absurd (http://www.techmeshugana.com/2013/12/what-is-mobile-media-costing-you/).

But you know what? If you're that happy with Republic, good on you. It doesn't change what I have to say, what I know, or what I will recommend, but I'm genuinely glad that you think you got a good deal and are making it work.

Your all inclusive guide isn't all that inclusive is all I'm saying.

I have options for all four major mobile networks and for nearly every reasonable usage scenario, and I focus on quality over quantity. You can't get much more inclusive than that, and I have enough positive feedback at this point and time to feel confident that my advice well serves its audience. I don't recommend Republic for the same reasons why I don't generally recommend America Movil products or a majority of the other MVNOs out there, and it's because I strive to hold high standards. Apparently you think this is unreasonable, and I'm sorry you think as much... but there is very little Republic can do to meet the standards I strive to adhere to with the free advice that I provide and maintain that's built on years of personal knowledge and research.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Ricky on November 02, 2014, 06:31:56 PM

First, we'll address your whole "Republic is a great option because of a lack of GSM" statement. Republic primarily uses Sprint and roams onto Verizon, and the fact that you can't do data because of the Verizon roaming in your area bodes ominously for your future use when they start sticking limits on all roaming services due to customers like yourself not primarily on WiFi or Sprint coverage. Their model isn't sustainable, and the recent changes show this. What you actually need is an MVNO that deals primarily with Verizon coverage where you live, not Sprint coverage, not WiFi coverage.

Next, we'll deal with your claim that Hangouts isn't somehow an option because "data is slow". Google Voice and Hangouts both can initiate calls that ring back to your mobile line, barely any data is needed for this function. If you don't care about having two phone numbers, this is a moot point. Incoming can be set to automatically ring to your mobile line or can be used in VoIP mode over WiFi, and if you can't initiate outbound over mobile via Hangouts, there's nothing preventing you from direct dialing. I never advocate using VoIP over a mobile data connection.


I should have clarified. I don't even roam off Verizon. I roam off a rural regional carrier that Sprint has agreements with. Verizon also has agreements with them but no Verizon prepaid service works here and I would assume the same is true with PagePlus, thus PagePlus isn't an option for me. Apparently Sprint just isn't as restrictive. But even if I could get PagePlus, show me where they beat a $10/mo plan?  I'm obviously hooked up to Wi-fi while at home but its still a good drive until  I hit a Verizon tower, so I'm assuming PagePlus wouldn't even work where I live.

How is Republic's model not sustainable? They've only came out with better phones and better plans. I'd love proof. You seem adamant that Republic is out to screw over their customers but I haven't seen this yet.

Can you explain what you're talking about with two phone numbers and Google Voice? I thought you were advocating using your data for text/calls since you're using very few megabytes to do so.  When you say replicate what Republic does for less elsewhere, again, I assume you are talking about relying solely on low megabyte usage. Otherwise the rate per call/txt is outrageous. If I relied on per minute rates I'd have to pay a minimum of $9 per line with Ting (100-500 min) and Id probably be looking at $10 with 200 minutes of usage on PTel. Still the same as Republic price wise, except Republic is unlimited and also includes text. That's just based on my usage. Sure I could use the phone less, but this is based on my needs. I'm sure others have similar needs. That's why I don't see your logic.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on November 02, 2014, 08:18:50 PM
That's why I don't see your logic.

You don't see the logic because you don't understand many of the competition's pricing models or how any of the technology works, nor are you working with any proper numbers. That's the heart of your problem - you're skimming and assuming, not reading and researching. As for myself, all I can do is work with what people give me if they want custom help, and that requires honesty and details.

You're asking questions and making ill-formed assumptions on basic stuff that I've already gone over in considerable detail within the unabridged guide (http://www.techmeshugana.com/theguide/) and the site itself (http://www.techmeshugana.com/) (many points addressed and explained in the very articles I already linked you). Plenty of other people get it when they take the time to actually read the guide instead of just skimming it, and when they don't, they usually ask nicely and I gladly help them anyway. If you can't make heads or tails out of it, fine. You already chose an alternate carrier and you're happy with it, stick with what works for you. In the mean time, please stop assuming things that simply aren't true and then coming in here half-cocked and telling me how to best help people when you yourself can't work out Ting's multi-line pricing or be bothered consulting coverage maps with Page Plus and Selectel.

So far, all you've mostly done is throw around accusations and question my integrity and experience. I can tell a part of you wants to learn, but I can't teach you anything until you've at least picked up the basics. Please do me the favor of actually taking the time to read the materials I've created and linked before you post again.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Ricky on November 02, 2014, 11:16:19 PM
I've actually mentioned several numbers. I've already proved that Republic is as cheap as anything else I coild get for my situation. I am not coming here to brag on or endorse Republic in any way. Pim saying that in my situation I guarantee you couldn't find a cheaper solution for me that is feasible.

I've read your posts. Your posts do a lot of math but they never acknowledge the fact that you're comparing apples to oranges. You're trying to beat the Republic plan with the thought that no one should use greater than several megabytes of data a month. Again, your TruVoiceLocal "knockout punch" is  a GSM provider that wouldn't work for me. I just mentioned that even if PagePlus did work, there isn't a plan they offer better than Republic.

I'm expressing my situation in detail to outline the fact that there are others out there like myself and you steering people away from a company that's obviously doing well is a little misguiding. You keep referring to their bad customer service. You keep talking about their TOS that NO one has had an issue with otherwise it would be well propagated on the Internet by now. You keep saying they have an unsustainable business model when they seem to be doing just fine and have improved dramatically just over the past year.

All I'm saying is please find a better solution for me because I've read all of your stuff and there is nothing in there any more feasible or cost effective than Republic in my situation.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on November 03, 2014, 07:10:38 AM
All I'm saying is please find a better solution for me because I've read all of your stuff and there is nothing in there any more feasible or cost effective than Republic in my situation.

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

That's why I don't see your logic.

You don't see the logic because you don't understand many of the competition's pricing models or how any of the technology works, nor are you working with any proper numbers. That's the heart of your problem - you're skimming and assuming, not reading and researching. As for myself, all I can do is work with what people give me if they want custom help, and that requires honesty and details.

You're asking questions and making ill-formed assumptions on basic stuff that I've already gone over in considerable detail within the unabridged guide (http://www.techmeshugana.com/theguide/) and the site itself (http://www.techmeshugana.com/) (many points addressed and explained in the very articles I already linked you). Plenty of other people get it when they take the time to actually read the guide instead of just skimming it, and when they don't, they usually ask nicely and I gladly help them anyway. If you can't make heads or tails out of it, fine. You already chose an alternate carrier and you're happy with it, stick with what works for you. In the mean time, please stop assuming things that simply aren't true and then coming in here half-cocked and telling me how to best help people when you yourself can't work out Ting's multi-line pricing or be bothered consulting coverage maps with Page Plus and Selectel.

So far, all you've mostly done is throw around accusations and question my integrity and experience. I can tell a part of you wants to learn, but I can't teach you anything until you've at least picked up the basics. Please do me the favor of actually taking the time to read the materials I've created and linked before you post again.

You have demonstrated repeatedly that you have not actually read the guide or any of the linked articles sufficiently to demonstrate understanding of what was presented. Further, you have not actually asked for help, you have demanded and repeatedly insulted my efforts. I have tried to help you understand three times now, but apparently you don't actually want to know why and how, you just want to try and prove you're right and I'm wrong.

I'm not going to waste any more time or space in this thread trying to convince a mule not to walk off a cliff. You've made your point and I've made mine. You want to continue on with this conversation, I suggest you take it to PM.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Simple Abundant Living on November 03, 2014, 05:27:46 PM
Hey Daley,

I'd just like to say, although I don't understand everything in the Superguide, that I still am saving tons of money on Airvoice and it's working out great!  Don't worry about the haters, there are plenty of us that are appreciative that you helped us save $.  My savings are >$100/mo over AT&T.  I'm sure there are many others that could say the same.  Have a great day!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: geekette on November 03, 2014, 09:09:37 PM
Oh yes, the savings - my extended family of 6 are loving Airvoice and Page Plus (3 and 3), and I've talked up the superguide and the MVNOs to a couple friends.  They're still on the fence, but I had one ask me just last night how I was liking my Airvoice plan, so I know she's interested.  It's hard to trust that you can get a decent plan for so little money.  I had the advantage of seeing how well it's worked for so many on this site.  They just have one person's experience to go by.   
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on November 04, 2014, 07:22:35 AM
Now that I've replayed the same broken "Republic Wireless" record for yet another person (and this rather important update for some users got buried within it), let's get on with an actual useful update (by reposting it)!

Attention Nokia Symbian S40 and Asha Users:

If you haven't noticed already, Microsoft has announced that they're pulling the plug on Nokia Messaging Service (NMS) later this month (http://nms.nokia.com/em/gw/). What does this mean? No more push email, or native email support of any stripe on these handsets. You Nokia Symbian S60 users are still fine, but you'll need to reconfigure your mail clients. That's the bad news.

Now, here's the good news in a nutshell: mujMail (http://mujmail.org/) works beautifully on these S40 handsets, and is really lean on the data. I've already made the switch, and outside of losing push notifications which is excessive at best (and can still be worked around if need be), I haven't missed a beat. Once again, we demonstrate that nearly nobody needs a modern smartphone and there's no need to replace these still perfectly serviceable and frugal handsets.

Greater details on the service loss and this viable alternative can be found here: Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into! (http://www.techmeshugana.com/2014/11/nice-mess-microsoft/)

Happy reading, folks!



Also, thanks for the kind words, ladies.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: rpm1200 on November 14, 2014, 10:54:39 AM
Hi Daley, thanks for the posts, they are really helpful.

I saw you posted the rumor back in July about Page Plus supporting 4G LTE, did you know they are officially supporting it now? Details are up on their site now. Unfortunately it's only supported for the $29.95 and up plans (not the 12 and not PAYG), but at least the SIM is only $5.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on November 17, 2014, 10:24:09 AM
Hi Daley, thanks for the posts, they are really helpful.

I saw you posted the rumor back in July about Page Plus supporting 4G LTE, did you know they are officially supporting it now? Details are up on their site now. Unfortunately it's only supported for the $29.95 and up plans (not the 12 and not PAYG), but at least the SIM is only $5.

Yup, I was aware. They've also unofficially been supporting it since last month through their dealers. I've mentioned it around a few threads here the past few weeks, but held off on the official announcement here. Appreciate the mention all the same.

Unfortunately, according to the grapevine, America Movil may be shutting down Page Plus' Ohio call center in January of next year.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: TheDude on November 19, 2014, 09:42:54 AM
Ok I need some advice. I recently upgraded my internet from 20 Mbps to 1 Gbps At the same time I also decreased my cost from $62 to $50 and got centurylink and comcast out of my life. Now I need to get a new wireless router. My previous router was an all in one century link model and doesn't seem to have an option to put a  input an Ethernet cable only phone. I know i want a router that is 10/100/1000. For cost reasons I probably want 802.11n vs 802.11ac (plus of all the connected devices in our house only 1 supports ac). Dual band with 5 GHz might be nice. And maybe dd-wrt or tomato might be nice (although I have no experience with either one). So any good suggestions?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on November 19, 2014, 11:45:45 AM
Ok I need some advice. I recently upgraded my internet from 20 Mbps to 1 Gbps At the same time I also decreased my cost from $62 to $50 and got centurylink and comcast out of my life. Now I need to get a new wireless router. My previous router was an all in one century link model and doesn't seem to have an option to put a  input an Ethernet cable only phone. I know i want a router that is 10/100/1000. For cost reasons I probably want 802.11n vs 802.11ac (plus of all the connected devices in our house only 1 supports ac). Dual band with 5 GHz might be nice. And maybe dd-wrt or tomato might be nice (although I have no experience with either one). So any good suggestions?

Depends on how much you're looking to spend, how much effort you want to put into potentially loading DD-WRT/Tomato onto the hardware, and how important external gain antennas are to your location.

Have a short list of models to compare that hit or exceed all the minimum major points (gigabit ethernet, 802.11abgn, good third party firmware support, under a hunnerd clams on Amazon or Newegg with open box deals - new prices listed only, features only beyond this baseline are detailed out):

Asus RT-N16 ($78) - 2x USB 2.0 ports, external antennas, max 300Mbps WiFi, 2 year warranty
Asus RT-N66U ($127) - 2x USB 2.0 ports, external antennas, max 900Mbps WiFi, 2 year warranty
Buffalo WZR-600DHP2D ($80) - 1x USB 3.0 port, internal antennas, max 600Mbps WiFi, 1 year warranty, DD-WRT preloaded
TP-Link TL-WDR3600 ($60) - 2x USB 2.0 ports, external antennas, max 600Mbps WiFi, 2 year warranty
TP-Link TL-WDR4300 ($70) - 2x USB 2.0 ports, external antennas, max 750Mbps WiFi, 2 year warranty

If you go Amazon, check out the Amazon Warehouse Deals on the used listings, check for open-box over at Newegg, etc., etc.

There's AC routers in the price range, but they're not well supported by DD-WRT/Tomato/OpenWRT, etc., as of yet. There's been implementation issues with the Atheros chipsets on some of these devices.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: TheDude on November 19, 2014, 02:38:32 PM
Thanks IP

I think i am leaning towards the Asus RT-N66U as newegg has refurbed ones for 80. I really want to the Buffalo AC 1750 but I think I probably need external antennas.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: ZiziPB on November 21, 2014, 01:56:14 PM
IP, you are providing an incredibly valuable service here, so big thank you!

I am trying to figure out the best option for my daughter's cell phone.  I will be cancelling our Verizon contract.  We have 2 lines: mine is iPhone 4s out of contract now and I am planning to move over to Page Plus $12 per month plan.  My daughter has a Samsung Galaxy S3 with a year left under contract.  She is at university abroad and uses her phone there with a local SIM card.  She is at home about a month in the winter and 2-3 months in the summer (I suspend her service when she's not here but that extends the contract time).  I am having difficulty figuring out what would be the best option for her (preferably keeping her Verizon Galaxy phone).  She has typical young person's usage: lots of texting and some data, minimal voice.  Some type of pay as you go plan would probably work best but what and where??

Thanks in advance for any help!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on November 21, 2014, 04:07:43 PM
Thanks in advance for any help!

Zizi, appreciate the kind words and let's see what we can turn up for you.

The first thing I want to ask is how critical Verizon coverage is at your home. Are you with Verizon because you actually need Verizon CDMA coverage, or are you just with Verizon because... well... because? This is an important question to ask, as you'll see when I get to the S3 topic.

If you want to take the iPhone over to Page Plus or Selectel, you shouldn't have any problems, just be sure you pick a package that falls in line with your actual monthly usage expectations. If you don't make many calls and you've gotten the SIM slot unlocked for international use and you have good AT&T and T-Mobile coverage, you could also price TruPhone's PAYGO option against your usage needs on the iPhone. It's free incoming texts and calls, and 9¢/minute/text/MB outbound.

Regarding your daughter's S3... as it's a Verizon LTE device, IIRC, this specific Samsung device is also capable of being used as a global GSM handset as well, including domestically. No carrier unlock required as I'm sure you've noticed, just pop in a SIM, make the adjustment in the settings and you're good to go. If you have good AT&T or T-Mobile coverage in your area, this really opens up the options beyond just Verizon or a Verizon MVNO like Page Plus that will actually activate LTE handsets. However, that only addresses the physical options, and does nothing for the real-world usage wrinkles in this setup... and that is where things can get complicated or costly.

I don't know of any MVNOs that really suspend accounts to save phone numbers (P'tel is one of the most generous with a 120 day inactivity threshold on their Real PayGo account, so long as a $30+ top-up was applied first - most are only 60 days or less), as this is one of the benefits of staying with one of the big four carriers. There's ways around this such as porting the number out to Google Voice or another VoIP provider that does SMS messaging or whathaveyou to keep the number and just have it forward elsewhere, but then you're dealing with new account creation and phone activation for mobile service every time she comes back into the country, which if she switches to a GSM provider, means new SIM cards to purchase (on top of new phone numbers) every time she comes home.

Now, that said... this doesn't mean something like TruPhone couldn't be leveraged to her advantage as well depending on what country she's in, and what her own average usage numbers look like in contrast to the cost with Verizon. The neat thing with TruPhone is that there's an eight country calling area for those prepaid rates, and TruPhone's a bit more forgiving about service inactivity (so long as a text or something comes in once every 30 days or so). It's not likely to be a bargain, but honestly I'm not sure there's much greater financial benefit to be had with her setup until she's finished with school and back stateside for the long haul.

For her (and you both), it'll come down to cost versus convenience. If porting the number over to Google Voice or Ring.to or some other low-quality, zero support, heavily datamining free VoIP service and pairing it with something like P'tel's $20 unlimited talk/text and 150MB data package for four months a year plus the cost of a new SIM with every activation (which you can buy a 10 pack of P'tel SIMs off Ebay for $4) makes financial sense to you both and doesn't sound like a huge hassle (especially if you have good T-Mobile coverage in your area), I say do it. If you don't want to deal with it, leave her line with Verizon and have her tough it out with the higher bills until the extended periods of account suspension are no longer necessary, and then look into alternatives for her own service at that point. Of course if she doesn't give a hoot and holler about keeping her number between visits home, that simplifies things drastically... then whatever is the best financial and usage fit is the best available option amongst the standard namechecked providers, be it P'tel, Airvoice, Page Plus, or whatever. Sky's nearly the limit on carrier options with the phone itself, excuse the Sprint MVNOs. Just note that GSM data speeds on the Verizon S3 aren't going to be anything approaching 4G LTE expectations, but it'll be plenty for anything but heavy multimedia use.

In the mean time, it doesn't mean you can't save a hunk of money now getting yourself ported out. Your daughter's the wrinkle, but it isn't impossible. It just depends on what the savings is truly worth versus her staying put with Verizon for the time left until she finishes school.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: ZiziPB on November 23, 2014, 04:49:59 AM
IP, thank you very much.  You have opened up a lot of possibilities for us.  We have good T-Mobile coverage in this area (I used to have a work issued BB that was on T-Mobile and it worked great).  So that is a possibility.  And I need to talk to my daughter to see if she cares about keeping her phone number.  We have reached the allowed suspension limit with Verizon so I don't think it makes sense for her to stay with them and pay for the months when she is not here.  She will be home before the holidays so we'll make our move then.  She is in the UK and uses her phone there with a local SIM-only plan (and it is amazing how many inexpensive options she has for cell service there!)

I am a very low usage person overall, so I will explore some pay as you go options for myself with my iPhone.  I just have to remember to call Verizon to unlock my SIM slot before I cancel the contract ;-)

Thank you again for all this info!!!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on November 23, 2014, 09:08:39 AM
Thank you again for all this info!!!

Not a problem, glad to help!

Given your daughter is in the UK and depending on her actual ongoing usage in general (both incoming and outgoing), it might be worth re-emphasizing pricing out Truphone SIM (http://www.truphone.com/us/consumer/sim/) for her as well. One of the other neat things about Truphone that I hadn't mentioned is that you can pay an extra $8/month per additional number to have multiple numbers attached to your SIM (up to three). In her case, she could port her US number over and potentially port her UK number over onto the same account/SIM, and use it both in the US and UK for the same rates I quoted for you, plus $8/month for the UK number. If she's not a data hog and willing to offload much of her SMS messaging to something like Kik or XMS, it could be very cost effective and simplify her mobile roaming habits.

Truphone may be your only GSM MVNO option for your iPhone, but it might also be an excellent option for your daughter depending on her actual usage and willingness/ability to rely on WiFi for data. It'd also let folks back home call her across the pond for the cost of a domestic call, so you might perhaps factor that cost into the bigger picture as well. Even hucking $50 a month at TruPhone would let her keep her US number (and use it to receive calls in the UK), give her a UK number, give her unmetered (effectively free) incoming texts and minutes, and some combination of ~467 available outbound minutes, texts and MB of data. It's still in the Verizon monthly gut-punch price territory for her mobile services, but that could still eliminate the need for maintaining two separate mobile accounts in two countries, eliminate additional international calling costs (both ways), and just simplify life and travel in general for your daughter.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: ZiziPB on November 24, 2014, 07:12:29 AM
Actually, TruePhone sounds like it may be a worthwhile option for both of us!  I have never heard of it before but given our needs that may work really well.  It looks like Poland is included in the countries within the calling area.  We have lots of relatives in Poland and travel to Poland at least once a year.  And I travel to the UK to visit her pretty regularly as well.  I actually have an older GSM phone that I use with a local prepaid SIM when I'm in Poland and the UK.  I definitely will look into this further and see if it would make sense for both of us.  In terms of texting, we use Viber quite a lot and also rely on iMessaging and Facetime (she is Mac girl who strayed from the norm by getting the Galaxy phone but still has an Apple laptop and an iPad ;-)

Thank you again!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: geekette on December 01, 2014, 03:05:31 PM
I just noticed an email from VoIPo about their Cyber Monday sale for existing customers - 2 more years added on to the end of your prepaid time for the new customer price of $185 (all fees included), supposedly half the regular renewal rate.

This is a good price, but do I really want to prepay all the way into the fall of 2017?!?  Are their renewal rates really double the original rate? I.P. Daley, have you heard any problems with VoIPo's finances that would warrant staying away from this promotion?

Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on December 01, 2014, 04:46:53 PM
I just noticed an email from VoIPo about their Cyber Monday sale for existing customers - 2 more years added on to the end of your prepaid time for the new customer price of $185 (all fees included), supposedly half the regular renewal rate.

This is a good price, but do I really want to prepay all the way into the fall of 2017?!?  Are their renewal rates really double the original rate? I.P. Daley, have you heard any problems with VoIPo's finances that would warrant staying away from this promotion?

They're still profitable, solvent and stable as far as I know (and have been for years), and their regular base price per year is at the rate you quoted. The introductory two year and this promo both are of the two years-for-one price point. If you're happy with the service thus-far and you have the money, it's your call. Keeping the overall aggregate price point at below $8/month for four solid years with the same carrier and the services provided isn't too shabby, though.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Travis on December 09, 2014, 01:53:09 PM
I'm looking at switching to an MVNO early next year.  We're currently T-Mobile users and together use on average 500mins/2000 texts/500MB per month.  I just saw an ad that Ting is accepting GSM users starting in February and appears to use T-Mobile at AT&T as roaming partners.  I checked my phone IMEI and it appears compatible with their service (Galaxy S3).  My wife has a Galaxy Light.  Have you had a chance to check this out?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on December 09, 2014, 02:59:54 PM
I'm looking at switching to an MVNO early next year.  We're currently T-Mobile users and together use on average 500mins/2000 texts/500MB per month.  I just saw an ad that Ting is accepting GSM users starting in February and appears to use T-Mobile at AT&T as roaming partners.  I checked my phone IMEI and it appears compatible with their service (Galaxy S3).  My wife has a Galaxy Light.  Have you had a chance to check this out?

I'm not sure where you're sourcing your information, but it's a bit different that the information I've seen on it, and I'm only dealing with facts from Ting directly. Knowing what I do of the GSM network maps with all the providers, unless there's a last minute Hail Mary deal with AT&T before February, it's T-Mobile plus a mess of regional GSM providers according to Ting's new map (https://ting.com/m/coverage/) (what really gives it away are the dead zones West of the Rockies and Montana). There's also no mention of roaming agreements with AT&T in their official announcement (https://ting.com/blog/ting-to-offer-service-on-a-gsm-network/#more-19005) today, though granted, they don't disclose who their primary GSM carrier is either (T-Mobile), but that's easy to figure out from the map page. Granted, it's still better coverage that T-Mobile only MVNOs, but there's still non-emergency coverage gaps if you're concerned about that sort of thing with T-Mo MVNOs.

Ting's got great customer service, but their prices really only shine with multiple lines, and typically three or more at that. They're also entering into Consumer Cellular's turf, who does have roaming agreements with both T-Mobile and AT&T and aren't too much more per line and bucket than Ting, though they don't keep texting and data separate. It looks like if they keep their current pricing wholly intact come February, you're looking at around $48+taxes with them.

As for your texting, I'm guessing the bulk of those messages are between you and your wife? If so, and given you're both using Android handsets, there's no reason why you couldn't offload most of those texts to something like XMS which uses far less data than it would cost to pay for the texts to do the same thing (no matter which carrier you used, unless you had an "unlimited" texting plan). Lastly, if you went on a data diet (http://www.techmeshugana.com/2013/12/what-is-mobile-media-costing-you/) and got your monthly usage under 150MB and you were fine with straight-up T-Mobile coverage without the smaller roaming partners, you could each do the P'tel $20 plan, which would be at least $10/month lower than Ting and you could switch right now. The added roaming coverage for an extra $10/month isn't a bad deal if you need it, but it's still not AT&T coverage and it's conditional on if you need it in the first place.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Travis on December 09, 2014, 03:32:30 PM
They didn't come right out and say AT&T, but that was a guess on my part from the coverage map.

Quote
you could switch right now.

I'm deployed to the Middle East for another month, and I'll have orders for my next assignment the end of January so I'll know for sure what part of the country I'll end up in next around that time.  I think a data diet is easily doable since we fluctuate wildly on monthly data usage when I'm home. One month it's the normal 9 to 5 and we use 300MB while another month we do some traveling and consume close to 1GB.  The texting is equal parts wife and close friends back home.  I use Kik to text with my soldiers here in the region since we're all either using T-Mobile international roaming or using Kuwaiti sim cards.  I see that XMS is offered on Android and IPhone. Are they compatible to talk to each other?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on December 09, 2014, 06:00:13 PM
I'm deployed to the Middle East for another month, and I'll have orders for my next assignment the end of January so I'll know for sure what part of the country I'll end up in next around that time.  I think a data diet is easily doable since we fluctuate wildly on monthly data usage when I'm home. One month it's the normal 9 to 5 and we use 300MB while another month we do some traveling and consume close to 1GB.  The texting is equal parts wife and close friends back home.  I use Kik to text with my soldiers here in the region since we're all either using T-Mobile international roaming or using Kuwaiti sim cards.  I see that XMS is offered on Android and IPhone. Are they compatible to talk to each other?

Well, stay safe finishing out your tour and congrats on coming back stateside.

The data diet is easy, it's just planning ahead. That includes pre-loading maps for GPS use.

XMS and Kik aren't compatible, but Kik's another on my list of recommended messengers that's light on data use and not horrifying on the terms of service. Stick with what you're using, no sense adding another one into the mix.

It might be worth your time to price on the AT&T MVNO end as well, you'll still be able to use your handsets. Puretalk USA might be a good choice for the usage levels you're looking at if you can cut down on your data and text use with Kik.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Travis on December 13, 2014, 04:58:31 PM
I've been running several scenarios between P'Tel, Airvoice, and Ting and if I'm doing the math right Ting comes out far ahead only if I bump up against the maximum of that particular bucket. The lower I go it becomes a lot less competitive than a PayGo situation with P'Tel or Airvoice.  The part I'm having a difficult time reconciling is Ting offers a wide buffer in case you do have a heavy-use month.  The threshold I'm looking at with Ting is the 101-500 range for each service.  If I only used 101 mins/texts/MB x 2 phones on Airvoice it would be a total of $28 and $34 for P'Tel.  If I used anywhere in that range on Ting it would be $38.  If I used the maximum that Ting allows in those buckets on Airvoice and P'Tel the bill jumps to over $60 per phone while Ting is still $38.  I know you don't like Unlimited plans, but in that scenario it makes them look attractive.  The key seems to be drastically lowering my data usage.

While I've been gone my wife has used 200-400 minutes a month talk, 200-300MB of data, and the vast majority of her texts have been to me (she installed Kik tonight).  Since I'm international roaming T-Mobile doesn't record my data usage at all and I don't use it to talk.  I'm going to have us both download the data monitor you listed a while back.  I figure a month of monitoring should tell us exactly where our data problem is and go from there.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on December 13, 2014, 10:19:34 PM
I've been running several scenarios between P'Tel, Airvoice, and Ting and if I'm doing the math right Ting comes out far ahead only if I bump up against the maximum of that particular bucket. The lower I go it becomes a lot less competitive than a PayGo situation with P'Tel or Airvoice.  The part I'm having a difficult time reconciling is Ting offers a wide buffer in case you do have a heavy-use month.  The threshold I'm looking at with Ting is the 101-500 range for each service.  If I only used 101 mins/texts/MB x 2 phones on Airvoice it would be a total of $28 and $34 for P'Tel.  If I used anywhere in that range on Ting it would be $38.  If I used the maximum that Ting allows in those buckets on Airvoice and P'Tel the bill jumps to over $60 per phone while Ting is still $38.  I know you don't like Unlimited plans, but in that scenario it makes them look attractive.  The key seems to be drastically lowering my data usage.

While I've been gone my wife has used 200-400 minutes a month talk, 200-300MB of data, and the vast majority of her texts have been to me (she installed Kik tonight).  Since I'm international roaming T-Mobile doesn't record my data usage at all and I don't use it to talk.  I'm going to have us both download the data monitor you listed a while back.  I figure a month of monitoring should tell us exactly where our data problem is and go from there.

If an "unlimited" plan on the GSM end makes sense, use it. I warn against "unlimited" plans because they're not actually unlimited, but I never said not to use them if they made financial sense to do so with your usage profile. In the case of P'tel, you could do their $20/month plan which does unmetered talk and text with 150MB of 3G data, or $25 which does unmetered 2G data. I would never go that high month to month on any PAYGO plan. The threshold is going to be around $20. You spend $20 or more a month on PAYGO, you need to spend the money necessary to actually get a package you need. That said, most of that cost is data. Once you work out the data leaks, that'll probably take care of it for you. PAYGO may work if you get the data habit in check, otherwise... you know my answer. There's worse deals out there than the P'tel $20 and $25 plans.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: nawhite on January 06, 2015, 03:10:01 PM
I have a very different use case than a lot of the advice in the guide. I'm currently with Ting for 2 lines and perfectly happy with that (thanks for the advice) but I'm curious about mobile internet.

My wife and I are planning on buying an RV and full timing in the medium term but I'll still be working remotely. I currently use about 200 MB/work day (work related non-negotiable but probably work reimbursed). So I'm looking for a data plan on AT&T or Verizon's network (sprint and t-mobile don't have the coverage I need for RVing around the Western US) with at least 5GB/month (though I'd pay a fair bit more for 10 for personal use). I could theoretically do a communal plan with the phone lines (2 lines, ~200 min, 200 texts and 1.5GB of Data per month total for the two of them) but I'm not crazy about buying new phones as we would have to switch networks (nexus 5 could go to AT&T not Verizon, iPhone 4s maybe could go to Verizon, but not AT&T)

For speeds, 3g is totally fine all the time but, the 100kbps many carriers drop down to probably wont cut it as I have to do skype video calls for work about 1x per week. The rest of the time that would probably be fine though. I'd like to get LTE hardware mostly to future proof my setup as some of the networks seem to be dropping 2G and soon 3G support.

So far the best I've found is the Red Pocket Mobile Internet Plan $50/month for 5GB but I'm wondering if anyone else is out there or if there is a better plan if I went to a family style plan.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on January 06, 2015, 11:02:18 PM
So far the best I've found is the Red Pocket Mobile Internet Plan $50/month for 5GB but I'm wondering if anyone else is out there or if there is a better plan if I went to a family style plan.

Sorry Nawhite, mobile data is just plain darned expensive. Like roughly $10/GB expensive, especially if you want to tether with it. You also cannot take Sprint CDMA phones to Verizon and vice versa, and the Red Pocket data plan is on T-Mobile. If you don't want to replace handsets and given the data requirement, you might want to consider pricing plans with Sprint proper just to see what they have to say, but if reliable data access and large amounts of it are critical while wandering the earth and solving crimes, Sprint 'aint your network (or T-Mobile for that matter). If you're fine leaving the phones on Ting (and if it makes financial sense), given the roaming around bit and the high data usage, I'd recommend a Verizon data plan with a hotspot. Their prepaid Jetpack service does 10GB of data for $90+tax. Second best coverage is going to be AT&T, and though they're cheaper than Verizon at the 3-5GB mark, they're more expensive at the 10GB point.

The data's going to be the real gut kicker, and with the reliability needs and the tethering and the glavin... you might want to price multi-line postpaid accounts with phone tethering with both AT&T and Verizon as well if there's the need for replacing a handset. It's just not going to be cheap, but you will probably get everything cheaper at this point through the two 800lb. gorillas at this usage level. Sorry.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on January 10, 2015, 09:09:33 AM
Arumph.

http://arstechnica.com/security/2015/01/got-an-asus-router-someone-on-your-network-can-probably-hack-it/

Time to actually switch to DD-WRT or tomato...
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on January 12, 2015, 10:35:19 AM
Arumph.

http://arstechnica.com/security/2015/01/got-an-asus-router-someone-on-your-network-can-probably-hack-it/

Time to actually switch to DD-WRT or tomato...

Gotta love sloppy security vulnerabilities that hardware manufacturers are slow to patch!

I know you already know this Paul, but for the others, this is exactly why I refuse to own or recommend a router that has no third party firmware support.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: SCUBAstache on January 17, 2015, 12:51:09 PM
Hi I.P. - thanks for all the great information you've provided here. My phone and internet charges are a major budget issue I need to address, but I've been procrastinating. I think I have "analysis paralysis" out of fear of choosing the wrong carrier, but of course staying with my current set up is definitely the bigger wrong!  I'd greatly appreciate any insight you can provide.

I've been with Verizon for years and currently have a 450 min talk/500 text/ 6GB data plan which runs be $90/months including taxes and fees.  The data I do use most of, the minutes and texts I use about half.  I could get my data habit down to less than 2GB, I've been eating through it lately because I already pay for it and I don't have wifi at home.

Speaking of the lack of wifi, I live on Northern Virginia and Comcast seems to have a monopoly in my area. I got sick of their antics and canceled both cable and internet after they refused to give me a reasonable deal for internet only and kept pushing "bundles"... I don't miss the cable, I do miss the wifi a bit!  Instead I went with a no contract 4GB month to month data plan, also with Verizon.  While I can't stream long videos, using this data on my iPad does the job.

I see the phone plan as the biggest problem.  After all the initial rave reviews of Republic Wireless I was heavily considering them, but my lack of home wifi gave me pause, as well as no BYOD option. Ting also seems okay, but I can't bring my Verizon iPhone 5S.  Some of the other MVNOs seem promising but I'd really have to be careful of my data usage.

There's also the issue of my ETF, my contract expires this November so I think they would charge me ~$280 to cancel with their new structure. This makes me think T-Mobile might be a decent option?  At least  for a few months to get my ETF paid back, then I could either stay with them or switch again. It looks like my Verizon iPhone would work on their network, so I could buy the cheapest phone they offer but hopefully continue using my iPhone.

As for my home internet/no wifi, I'm not sure I can do much better  than the 4GB for $40.

Sorry for the long post!  Any thoughts?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on January 17, 2015, 08:37:31 PM
SCUBAstache, I might elaborate a bit more sometime tomorrow, but I will at least tag a couple major points for you to chew on.

1) Your Verizon iPhone 5S has a carrier unlocked SIM slot, this means you can take it to any AT&T or T-Mobile MVNO you like.

2) Don't waste your time with T-Mobile postpaid, read the fine print on their "pay off your ETF" gimmick. It's a gimmick, and it's designed to put you in further debt, create more electronic waste, and lock you in for a couple years with them. Just pay off the ETF. You can run numbers here (http://www.techmeshugana.com/tools/wirelessroi.html). This said, if T-Mobile coverage will work for you and you can get by with 100kbps 2G EDGE data (and don't rely on it heavily, P'tel has an "unlimited" talk, text and data plan for $25/month.

3) Mobile data is always more expensive than wired. I know Comcast is terrible... like AT&T terrible... and I'm on the record somewhere as stating that if I had to choose between those two options, that would be the day that I did without... but if you want to reduce your mobile bill in any meaningful way, you'll need wired internet and to go on a major data diet. Otherwise, expect to pay for about $10/GB anywhere you go, with a minimum outlay of $30/month (and that usually only comes with 1GB of data and gets slapped on with "unlimited" talk and text. Also, most MVNOs don't permit tethering, so there's that to consider as well. So no, you can't really do better than $40/month for 4GB of mobile data. This leaves me asking, is DSL an option for you? It won't likely be much cheaper per month, but at least you won't be capped at 4GB of usage. Have a crash course on rethinking how you use your mobile data here (http://www.techmeshugana.com/2013/12/what-is-mobile-media-costing-you/).

That pretty much covers it. Also, your instincts are right on Republic, don't waste your time. Same with Ting unless you go multi-line, otherwise there's cheaper Sprint MVNO options.

If I think of anything else, I'll post more later. If you have any additional questions, just let me know!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: SCUBAstache on January 17, 2015, 09:16:37 PM
Thanks very much for your response!  I'm not sure what my plan is yet, but you've given me lots to think about. I looked into ISPs in my neighborhood - no DSL, sadly. Comcast is IT!  Terrible. They are running a $40/month for a year promo right now which is tempting, I may give them a call but I'm always nervous about ridiculous fees being tacked on. 

The phone is still a tough one, but thanks for confirming that I can at least use it on both GSM and CDMA networks, good to have options.

If I were really mustachian I'd probably sell the iPhone, and use the profits to pay the ETF. Hmmm.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: geekette on January 18, 2015, 12:05:12 PM
My 4s went into constant reboot mode this morning - is that 5s for sale yet?  Heh.

I would have been happy to keep my 4s for a good while longer, but it looks like I'm going to have to buy an off contract phone.  And sorry, I.P., it's going to be an Apple product.   
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on January 18, 2015, 02:12:07 PM
And sorry, I.P., it's going to be an Apple product.

NOOOOOOOOOOO! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWaLxFIVX1s)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Simple Abundant Living on January 18, 2015, 02:40:07 PM
And sorry, I.P., it's going to be an Apple product.

NOOOOOOOOOOO! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWaLxFIVX1s)

Hey IP, what do you think of the new cell phone manufacturers out of china? I want to have a phone in mind when my iPhone 4S gives up the ghost.

http://ri.search.yahoo.com/_ylt=AwrSbD_lJ7xU42gARmhx.9w4;_ylu=X3oDMTByMjAxbTBkBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDNQRjb2xvA2dxMQR2dGlkAw--/RV=2/RE=1421645926/RO=10/RU=http%3a%2f%2fwww.cnn.com%2f2012%2f09%2f28%2ftech%2fchina-smartphone-xiaomi%2findex.html/RK=0/RS=iMFI7S9za9tus0Dcm5Ni25XUZpE-
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: geekette on January 18, 2015, 07:24:05 PM
And sorry, I.P., it's going to be an Apple product.

NOOOOOOOOOOO! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWaLxFIVX1s)

LOL!  Sometimes being FI means doing whatever you want.  iPhone 6 acquired. 

Now back to playing with my new toy...
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Travis on January 24, 2015, 04:52:53 PM
I just cut the cord with Comcast.  Except for being on hold for 20 minutes at the start they didn't give me any hassle for dropping the cable and keeping the internet.  I called back an hour later and they gave me a discount on my current bandwidth though it's probably more pipe than I need. Is there a way to measure bandwidth usage on Netflix or Roku channels?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on January 25, 2015, 08:46:58 AM
Is there a way to measure bandwidth usage on Netflix or Roku channels?

Not accurately without a router that does that sort of thing. Unfortunately, as far as I know, Netflix doesn't have more granular control or feedback for under Roku for this sort of thing like it does on other platforms.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: ash7962 on February 12, 2015, 02:22:28 PM
I did a *brief* search to see if this had come up and didn't see anything right away.  For those of you who are with Verizon and looking to switch out, Ting will be able to accommodate Verizon iphones (and other GSM compatible phones) very soon.  Their website says they will have GSM support starting February 2015.  I only looked for my iphone 5s, but if Ting said your phone wasn't compatible in the past it might be worth checking again.

Per their FAQ:
Quote
Can I bring my Verizon device?
Most Verizon devices that meet the following criteria will work on the Ting GSM network:

smartphone
LTE-capable
released on or after September 2012
Smartphones from Verizon that meet these criteria will likely be automatically unlocked for domestic use on other carriers and should be ready to go for use on the Ting GSM network. However, the level of compatibility will vary pretty widely.

That means some devices, like the iPhone 5 for example, will be mostly compatible with Ting but won't get LTE service on our GSM network. On the other hand, Verizon iPhone 5c, 5s, 6 and 6 Plus should have full compatibility with the Ting GSM network.

To know for sure which services you'll have, you'll want to check your device's IMEI in our compatibility checker.
Source: https://help.ting.com/entries/105240696-Can-I-Bring-My-GSM-Device-to-Ting-Compatibility-and-Unlocking-Guide
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on February 13, 2015, 12:34:46 PM
I did a *brief* search to see if this had come up and didn't see anything right away.  For those of you who are with Verizon and looking to switch out, Ting will be able to accommodate Verizon iphones (and other GSM compatible phones) very soon.  Their website says they will have GSM support starting February 2015.  I only looked for my iphone 5s, but if Ting said your phone wasn't compatible in the past it might be worth checking again.

Per their FAQ:
Quote
Can I bring my Verizon device?
Most Verizon devices that meet the following criteria will work on the Ting GSM network:

smartphone
LTE-capable
released on or after September 2012
Smartphones from Verizon that meet these criteria will likely be automatically unlocked for domestic use on other carriers and should be ready to go for use on the Ting GSM network. However, the level of compatibility will vary pretty widely.

That means some devices, like the iPhone 5 for example, will be mostly compatible with Ting but won't get LTE service on our GSM network. On the other hand, Verizon iPhone 5c, 5s, 6 and 6 Plus should have full compatibility with the Ting GSM network.

To know for sure which services you'll have, you'll want to check your device's IMEI in our compatibility checker.
Source: https://help.ting.com/entries/105240696-Can-I-Bring-My-GSM-Device-to-Ting-Compatibility-and-Unlocking-Guide

Yup, not really officially commented (until now), but I've made multiple references around that many Verizon LTE handsets may have the option to migrate to either an AT&T or T-Mobile MVNO. I'm not head-over-heels about Ting's GSM service, partly due to the price of competition in the T-Mobile MVNO marketplace and the availability of a $20 "unlimited" talk and text plus 150MB data package from P'tel, but if you're doing the multi-line handset thing and you want to use both Sprint CDMA and T-Mobile GSM coverage with one billing plan, it's not terrible either.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: geekette on February 13, 2015, 01:42:10 PM
And sorry, I.P., it's going to be an Apple product.

NOOOOOOOOOOO! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWaLxFIVX1s)

LOL!  Sometimes being FI means doing whatever you want.  iPhone 6 acquired. 

Now back to playing with my new toy...

Good news and bad news. 

The "error 29" on my old iPhone 4s seemed to indicate a battery problem, so I paid a whopping $7 to get a battery and tools off ebay and installed it (30 minutes, tops).  Good news - it works! 

The bad news is that while I'm still within the 30 day return window for the iPhone 6, I'm quite enamored with the bigger screen, fingerprint thingie, and the SPEED.

I cut down my airvoice SIM to fit the 6, so it can't be swapped back, of course.  I've ordered another SIM which may or may not get here before Tuesday, which is when my 30 days runs out.  I also don't know if my Airvoice account (and credit) can be transferred to a new SIM. 

Hedonic adaptation...
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on February 13, 2015, 02:46:05 PM
Good news and bad news. 

The "error 29" on my old iPhone 4s seemed to indicate a battery problem, so I paid a whopping $7 to get a battery and tools off ebay and installed it (30 minutes, tops).  Good news - it works! 

The bad news is that while I'm still within the 30 day return window for the iPhone 6, I'm quite enamored with the bigger screen, fingerprint thingie, and the SPEED.

I cut down my airvoice SIM to fit the 6, so it can't be swapped back, of course.  I've ordered another SIM which may or may not get here before Tuesday, which is when my 30 days runs out.  I also don't know if my Airvoice account (and credit) can be transferred to a new SIM. 

Hedonic adaptation...

Hooray for the fix. Boo for the adaptation.

You shouldn't have any trouble switching account and balance to the new SIM on activation, IIRC. Just gotta call in and tell 'em you needed to swap SIM cards.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: bronxdude on February 14, 2015, 02:20:23 PM
Hi I.P.,

I asked this in a different forum on MMM, but thought it would be more appropriate for here. I have been an iPhone user for the past 2 years and an Android user previous to that. I currently have about a 4gb/month 4GLTE data habit and am using cricket wireless. I would love to start going on a mobile data diet. I am impressed with your super guide and knowledge. I would prefer to stick with an ATT MVNO as I know the coverage in areas I travel to is great with ATT.

So the carrier side of things I can figure out. However, as an avid iPhone user over the past few years and current iPhone 6 user what would you recommend as a cellphone for a new "data-diet" user. I would love to pare my data usage down to 1gb per month. I use iTunes a lot and also stream music, I use GPS a lot and email and texting. I absolutely need a phone with a good camera, email, texting, gps and music capability (preferably something that would allow me to use my iTunes purchased music). I will try and give up everything else. Any recommendations, advice thoughts? Thanks!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: TheFirstMan on February 17, 2015, 05:24:18 AM
I'm wondering if anyone has an MO for doing all calling over wifi/data but otherwise for free.

I plan to move to Ting, with DW and my kids (three phones total). I love Ting's ethos and the positive pressure to use devices less. (Actual pay for what you use.)

I plan to ditch our $35/mo ATT home internet to save money. (There are no other providers, and I'm eager for the challenge.)

DW and I have wifi at work. The line for the kids is basically for emergencies. (Yes, I know I could get something cheaper, but I think I want to go for it with Ting for all our comms needs.) My employer will cover most of my phone expense.

We plan to not use the Ting numbers for voice or messages. All voice/messages through the data plan when not on wifi.

I hope to have one number (each) for voice and messages. I used to use my ATT number for voice and then TextPlus for messages, but it confused people and annoyed me.

We're on used/old iPhones that we intend to use for the next couple years.

What is the best step from there? I'm open to melding solutions but I would like to have only one number.

1. Talkatone: got a number, free incoming voice, free SMS, and outgoing calls are 1.7 cents/min ($1/hour). I think you can call out for free when on wifi. And you call other Talkatone users for free anytime.

2. Hangouts (with G-Voice): most similar to Talkatone: got a number, free incoming voice, free SMS, and outgoing calls seem to be 2 cents/min (but I'm abroad now, so I'm not sure if that's why it says there's a charge). You get the added benefit of texting and calling from the laptop, but I don't think I'll be using that much. My key question here: can anyone check if you can call out from Hangouts for free on wifi and also on cellular data? If so,

3. Facetime etc: call other iPhones for free. Right?

4. Skype: call other skype usernames for free.

TL;DR: Can you use Hangouts as your only phone for US calling and messaging without paying anything except related data usage when not on wifi? Does any other service do this?

I'm new, so please advise if this should go elsewhere on the forum.

Thanks!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on February 17, 2015, 08:12:16 AM
Hi I.P.,

I asked this in a different forum on MMM, but thought it would be more appropriate for here. I have been an iPhone user for the past 2 years and an Android user previous to that. I currently have about a 4gb/month 4GLTE data habit and am using cricket wireless. I would love to start going on a mobile data diet. I am impressed with your super guide and knowledge. I would prefer to stick with an ATT MVNO as I know the coverage in areas I travel to is great with ATT.

So the carrier side of things I can figure out. However, as an avid iPhone user over the past few years and current iPhone 6 user what would you recommend as a cellphone for a new "data-diet" user. I would love to pare my data usage down to 1gb per month. I use iTunes a lot and also stream music, I use GPS a lot and email and texting. I absolutely need a phone with a good camera, email, texting, gps and music capability (preferably something that would allow me to use my iTunes purchased music). I will try and give up everything else. Any recommendations, advice thoughts? Thanks!

Same advice I give everyone looking to go on a data diet. See those two items I bolded in your post? Stop streaming your music, and use an offline GPS like Sygic. Read this (http://www.techmeshugana.com/2013/12/what-is-mobile-media-costing-you/), and it'll help put you in the mindspace on how to gut that data habit.



TL;DR: Can you use Hangouts as your only phone for US calling and messaging without paying anything except related data usage when not on wifi? Does any other service do this?

It's the right thread, but you're not going to like the response because I advocate not being a cheapskate and actually paying for the services you need. As such, free VoIP providers aren't really recommended. However, to answer your question specifically, yes, Hangouts can work as you stated... BUT, I do not recommend going the data path, especially for mobile voice service. The quality will be lower, and the cost could be just as high.

PAY FOR WHAT YOU NEED! (...and of course, read the guide that this thread belongs to (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/communications-tech-son-of-the-superguide!/).)

Ignore Ting for this case usage given it sounds like you've got AT&T GSM iPhones and look at either Puretalk USA or H2O Wireless instead. Odds are, if you're already talking about a level of stripped down talk service like you are and you can handle eliminating mobile data, you could probably get away with only dropping about $5-10/month on some sort of PAYGO plan anyway and get way more to use through one of the other approved MVNOs from the list than you'd get for the money spent with Ting just to keep the phone number active.

If you approach it rationally and intelligently with solid numbers on what your real usage needs are, you're going to find that doing it right isn't going to cost significantly much more than doing it cheaply... but the quality difference between those two points will be dramatic. Don't involve crap like Google Voice unless you need to.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Simple Abundant Living on February 18, 2015, 10:19:26 AM


Good news and bad news. 

The "error 29" on my old iPhone 4s seemed to indicate a battery problem, so I paid a whopping $7 to get a battery and tools off ebay and installed it (30 minutes, tops).  Good news - it works! 



Do you have any links for what you bought or how to do this. My mom and dad gave us their old iPhone 4S's, but my moms battery depletes rapidly. I'd love to know how to do this!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on February 18, 2015, 10:28:30 AM
Do you have any links for what you bought or how to do this. My mom and dad gave us their old iPhone 4S's, but my moms battery depletes rapidly. I'd love to know how to do this!

http://www.ifixit.com/Device/iPhone_4S (http://www.ifixit.com/Device/iPhone_4S)

http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_nkw=iphone+4s+battery+replacement+kit (http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_nkw=iphone+4s+battery+replacement+kit)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: geekette on February 18, 2015, 02:52:14 PM
What he said.

I bought from this guy (http://www.ebay.com/itm/251727532008?_trksid=p2060778.m2749.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT), but it looks like the price has gone up $2.  There are a ton of sellers, and it's a crap shoot, really.  The tools are poor, but they worked for me, and the battery has done well. 

I actually had my 6 packed up and ready to go back when I looked at the receipt.  Apple only allows 14 days for a return, not 30 (changed a year ago - oops). 

So now I have a 4S with a new battery and nowhere to go.  It's not worth much!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Scandium on February 23, 2015, 12:48:37 PM
So what is the cheapest VOIP provider, for mainly emergency use? My wife think we should have some form of landline phone once our child is a little older, in case he needs to call for some emergency, or to call us etc. I think landlines are silly and old fashioned, but I guess I do see some utility in this case. And it will also mean we'll have a reason not to get him a cellphone for longer:) 

Seems like Verizon will charge me at least $5/month for a million min per month for a landline, and many VoIP providers are $5-10 or even $15/month! This is way overkill. Ideally I'd pay $0/month and just pay per minute in an emergency. We both have cellphones with dataplans and therefor unlimited minutes (yeahyeah I know, waste of money, whatever) so don't plan to actually use the VoIP much at all.

The cheapest looks like voip.ms, except they will charge up to $1.50/month for a number. Is there no way to keep a number for $0? Now the $20 per year isn't a big deal, just annoying since it's pretty pointless.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on February 23, 2015, 01:31:51 PM
So what is the cheapest VOIP provider, for mainly emergency use? My wife think we should have some form of landline phone once our child is a little older, in case he needs to call for some emergency, or to call us etc. I think landlines are silly and old fashioned, but I guess I do see some utility in this case. And it will also mean we'll have a reason not to get him a cellphone for longer:) 

Seems like Verizon will charge me at least $5/month for a million min per month for a landline, and many VoIP providers are $5-10 or even $15/month! This is way overkill. Ideally I'd pay $0/month and just pay per minute in an emergency. We both have cellphones with dataplans and therefor unlimited minutes (yeahyeah I know, waste of money, whatever) so don't plan to actually use the VoIP much at all.

The cheapest looks like voip.ms, except they will charge up to $1.50/month for a number. Is there no way to keep a number for $0? Now the $20 per year isn't a big deal, just annoying since it's pretty pointless.

Verizon is gonna sock you with a pile of extra taxes and recovery fees that they never mention with their phone service, and whenever you bundle services, long term, it will get more expensive as there's always a promo involved to bait you in.

The thing with VOIP.ms is that you don't need to buy a phone number to use the service, in fact, you can set the outbound caller ID to whatever number you already own, it'll just be outbound only... that said, if you're wanting to have e911 service, it will cost you a $1.50 a month. There are cheap and free DIDs available if you don't care about what area they're in. CallCentric has free NY state numbers, but then you're dealing with configuring and setting up multiple VoIP providers unless you want to pay higher outbound fees. There's also IPKall for Washington state numbers, but there's restrictions needed to keep the number active, and number turnover is worse than the pool of numbers with Tracfone/NET10 burners... using IPKall for your number is like licking the floor of the local YMCA showers, you don't know what you're gonna get exactly, but you're gonna get something. It's the old adage of you get what you pay for.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Scandium on February 23, 2015, 02:04:43 PM
So what is the cheapest VOIP provider, for mainly emergency use? My wife think we should have some form of landline phone once our child is a little older, in case he needs to call for some emergency, or to call us etc. I think landlines are silly and old fashioned, but I guess I do see some utility in this case. And it will also mean we'll have a reason not to get him a cellphone for longer:) 

Seems like Verizon will charge me at least $5/month for a million min per month for a landline, and many VoIP providers are $5-10 or even $15/month! This is way overkill. Ideally I'd pay $0/month and just pay per minute in an emergency. We both have cellphones with dataplans and therefor unlimited minutes (yeahyeah I know, waste of money, whatever) so don't plan to actually use the VoIP much at all.

The cheapest looks like voip.ms, except they will charge up to $1.50/month for a number. Is there no way to keep a number for $0? Now the $20 per year isn't a big deal, just annoying since it's pretty pointless.

Verizon is gonna sock you with a pile of extra taxes and recovery fees that they never mention with their phone service, and whenever you bundle services, long term, it will get more expensive as there's always a promo involved to bait you in.

The thing with VOIP.ms is that you don't need to buy a phone number to use the service, in fact, you can set the outbound caller ID to whatever number you already own, it'll just be outbound only... that said, if you're wanting to have e911 service, it will cost you a $1.50 a month. There are cheap and free DIDs available if you don't care about what area they're in. CallCentric has free NY state numbers, but then you're dealing with configuring and setting up multiple VoIP providers unless you want to pay higher outbound fees. There's also IPKall for Washington state numbers, but there's restrictions needed to keep the number active, and number turnover is worse than the pool of numbers with Tracfone/NET10 burners... using IPKall for your number is like licking the floor of the local YMCA showers, you don't know what you're gonna get exactly, but you're gonna get something. It's the old adage of you get what you pay for.

Thanks, especially for the YMCA shower mental imagery.. I know Verizon will give me herpes, that's for sure. So VoIP is definitely the way to go. Been thinking about getting a UPS for my server anyway, now I'll have an actual reason.

Sounds like paying the $1.50/month to maintain a number with voip.ms is the simplest, safest way. I can live with that.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on February 24, 2015, 03:28:47 PM
This coming month of March will be my final month of promo pricing with the infamous TWC. The amount is supposed to jump from my current $35 (all taxes included) to an amount that I cannot even find in their litterature. Funny how they don't bother reminding customers of impeding rate hikes, all the while sending daily snail mail offers for TV packages.

Any tips on how to handle "the talk"? My current game plan is the following:

1) ask lightly that I remember something about a promo pricing, when is the hike happening and how much will it be
2) sound annoyed about the hike, possibly even make up a story about how I'm not sure I can swing that every month. Student loans, maaaan.
3) either ask or be offered a coupon of some sorts. If not, get transferred to retention.

At retention, I haven't decided whether to be flat out honest with the guy on the other end or play dumb. Being flat out honest would be saying something along the lines of "look, you and I both know your company is a disgrace and you can't wait to find a better job where people don't insult you all day, why don't you write in your entry log that I was very disgruntled and you managed to keep me at the current price, that leaves me happy and your numbers don't suffer". Playing dumb would involve repeating how times are hard and it's hard to find $50 a month (it is! buying stocks and bonds every month is an expensive hobby).

If they agree, what should I do to hold them to their word? I'm thinking of having them send me an email/letter confirming the new rate. Or maybe even record the conversation, NC is a one party consent state. Come to think of it, this whole ordeal is just begging for a convenient flowchart!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on February 24, 2015, 05:26:48 PM
Unfortunately, the monkey dance is getting progressively more difficult to avoid. Even I had to monkey dance with Cox a couple months ago for over 45 minutes just to get them to do contract pricing and take $10/month off their 5Mbps package. It's embarrassing.

Just remember, you might have the Earthlink option to exercise... and recently for those of us in AT&T U-Verse territory, we now have DSL Extreme's trueSTREAM (https://www.dslextreme.com/truestream/residential) service option... dry loop is back for the AT&T folks, sorta! Unfortunately for us, the savings on the contract end wasn't worth the switch, but it might give you some negotiation room.

Just be honest, and work it the best you can. Apparently, internet service is becoming a barter/bargain service now. *rolls eyes*
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: geekette on February 24, 2015, 06:11:01 PM
Go Google fiber!

At least I haven't heard anything bad about it.  Our town is supposed to get it, but I don't know if it'll be months or <groan> years.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on February 24, 2015, 06:28:53 PM
Believe it or not, but we actually have some options here in the Triangle, woohoo!. There's earthlink like you said, but they do promo pricing too and it's unclear if there are fees on top of their advertised rate. There's also Frontier that's slowly gaining ground, I see their trucks over town regularly, but it's DSL and I would rather not invest in another modem. The prospect of Google rolling into town very soon might also make them a little more cooperative. I am fully prepared to walk away from TWC if they don't want to play and will use the other options as negociating tools, but it would be so much easier for everyone if they let me stay on their promo pricing. Their service has actually been very good over the past 11 months: hardly any outages and speeds working as advertised.

Geekette, it will be interesting to see which neighborhoods get it first. I assume there will be the most traction wherever all the RTP folks primarily reside, so maybe the north Raleigh/540 area?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: geekette on February 24, 2015, 06:59:41 PM
There are a lot of tech folks in Cary, believe me.  My neighborhood is already organizing for google fiber, as much as we can this far out.

We have earthlink (have had it for years).  About 5 months ago I called TWC for my Mom, who also has TWC and earthlink, to attempt to get her (non-mustachian) package of digital/DVR/phone/internet down to around $100.  In my attempts, I asked about lowering the speed, and somehow got put through to earthlink, IIRC.  They had a 6 month intro price of ~$30 (internet only, package independent), and told me to call back in March to get the more permanent rate of $35/month (although I'm seeing $42 on their website - we'll see next month). 

Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on February 24, 2015, 07:21:11 PM
There are a lot of tech folks in Cary, believe me.  My neighborhood is already organizing for google fiber, as much as we can this far out.

We have earthlink (have had it for years).  About 5 months ago I called TWC for my Mom, who also has TWC and earthlink, to attempt to get her (non-mustachian) package of digital/DVR/phone/internet down to around $100.  In my attempts, I asked about lowering the speed, and somehow got put through to earthlink, IIRC.  They had a 6 month intro price of ~$30 (internet only, package independent), and told me to call back in March to get the more permanent rate of $35/month (although I'm seeing $42 on their website - we'll see next month).
That's great info, thanks! I'll make sure to give earthlink a call before going after the dragon. I actually work in Cary (by Crabtree lake), but know next to nothing about its demographics, aside that apparently families like it. I don't see many techies in downtown Durham, so we'll probably be last. :(
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: geekette on February 24, 2015, 09:51:44 PM
There's a reason 54, 55, and Davis drive are parking lots every weekday morning!

Post back about your results. I'm hoping the info I wrote down 5 months ago isn't incorrect.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Simple Abundant Living on February 25, 2015, 12:20:28 PM
There are a lot of tech folks in Cary, believe me.  My neighborhood is already organizing for google fiber, as much as we can this far out.

We have earthlink (have had it for years).  About 5 months ago I called TWC for my Mom, who also has TWC and earthlink, to attempt to get her (non-mustachian) package of digital/DVR/phone/internet down to around $100.  In my attempts, I asked about lowering the speed, and somehow got put through to earthlink, IIRC.  They had a 6 month intro price of ~$30 (internet only, package independent), and told me to call back in March to get the more permanent rate of $35/month (although I'm seeing $42 on their website - we'll see next month).

Thanks for the info, I was wondering what the internet options were in Raleigh. It looks like we'll be out there in April. Google fiber has a website that lists Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Durham, Cary, Morrisville, and Garner as the first cities, but any Cary address I plugged into their address search said "not available".
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on February 25, 2015, 02:55:10 PM
There are a lot of tech folks in Cary, believe me.  My neighborhood is already organizing for google fiber, as much as we can this far out.

We have earthlink (have had it for years).  About 5 months ago I called TWC for my Mom, who also has TWC and earthlink, to attempt to get her (non-mustachian) package of digital/DVR/phone/internet down to around $100.  In my attempts, I asked about lowering the speed, and somehow got put through to earthlink, IIRC.  They had a 6 month intro price of ~$30 (internet only, package independent), and told me to call back in March to get the more permanent rate of $35/month (although I'm seeing $42 on their website - we'll see next month).

Thanks for the info, I was wondering what the internet options were in Raleigh. It looks like we'll be out there in April. Google fiber has a website that lists Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Durham, Cary, Morrisville, and Garner as the first cities, but any Cary address I plugged into their address search said "not available".
Right, there's nothing concrete yet. Don't forget to stop by the NC meetup thread in the meetup forum once you move out here, we manage to get a few people together everynow and then.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: MrMoogle on February 25, 2015, 08:23:12 PM
Help me please :)

I'm moving back from overseas and need a cell phone and plan. 

Last time I was where I'm moving, I used AT&T, had an iPhone4, and a plan with 250 minutes, ~1000 texts, and unlimited data.  On busy months I might have used 100 minutes and 500 texts.  I used a lot of data, 100's of MB to a GB, but I believe I can cut that down.  I haven't used a cell phone in two years, so I don't feel the need to pull it out and check facebook anymore :)

I would like to be able to check text emails, listen to downloaded music, and play some downloaded games.

How do kik and XMS work?  Can I send messages to other people that come up as text messages to them, and they reply to that so it comes back using data for me? 

My first instinct is to try Airvoice Wireless's "250 Minute Plan" for $10/month and see how that works.  Think I can survive off that?

Any recommendation on a cheap smartphone?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on February 25, 2015, 08:55:43 PM
Help me please :)

First, stuff like Kik and XMS have to be installed on both ends to send messages. They're basically just two of many smartphone-based, Balkanized instant messenger apps that happen to use a minimal amount of data. I prefer open-standards across the board, but Kik and XMS are the sorts of apps that I'll take a pass on for the less technical due to their ease of use and terms of service (though I've been considering dropping Kik here recently).

If you're wanting to do data-based real SMS messaging to other phones "for free", your main game in town is Google Voice, though there's also TextNow and Republic Wireless' guineapig service Ring.to. Your best option is probably Google Voice if you want to take that route, but their data usage is pretty heinous just for texting and a lot of people get confused by multiple phone numbers. My advice? Don't.

You could always start off with the Airvoice plan, but it's up to you. If T-Mo coverage will work (and Huntsville is pretty well covered as is the denser parts of 'bama), it might be easier to go P'tel as you could simply adjust accordingly between starting out with their PAYGO and possibly switching to a $20+ unlimited talk and text plan if it makes sense to do so without number porting or switching carriers. Per minute or MB is a couple pennies higher than Airvoice, but at the PAYGO level, it's maybe the difference of $2-3 of airtime credit at that $10/month mark, you still have rollover, refills are more convenient, and P'tel could let you drop down as low as $5/month. For the record, Liberty Wireless also has a 100 minute, unlimited text, no data plan for $10/month. Personally, I spend between about $5-8/month with P'tel currently. It's plenty for my needs, but I also have a "house" phone.

E-mail is a pretty low bar with phones, as anything that can run J2ME binaries (nearly every feature phone from the past five years) can run mujMail if they don't already have a built in mail client. If you wind up on an unlimited text plan or don't need to text that much, you then don't really need to worry about Kik or XMS, which opens things up beyond just smartphones (though XMS can run in the background on a Symbian S40 handset). Cheap texting has gotten significantly easier over the years without dragging in data now, mostly with T-Mo and Sprint MVNOs.

Music is also a pretty low bar with phones, as anything that'll take an SD card usually has an MP3 player. The real hurdle is the games. You leave those out of the mix, you could probably get away with a used $30 Nokia C3 like I have and gain ruggedness and awesome battery life, otherwise you're pushing $75-100 for something potentially without a user replaceable battery that'll have to be plugged in nightly and is way more fragile just so you can run Android and cut fruit when you're bored (something like the Moto E could work, as could literally any used flagship smartphone from the past five years that may or may not - but would ideally - support current builds of Android and/or Cyanogenmod (http://wiki.cyanogenmod.org/w/Devices)). If you want help finding something specific, use this (http://www.gsmarena.com/search.php3).

That should get you started.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: MrMoogle on February 26, 2015, 12:17:35 PM
Thanks :)

Ok, I'll skip the texting "hack" and just pay for what I need. 

Huntsville is funny with it's coverage, there are lots of deadzones.  I'm not sure why, if it's the hills, or the arsenal next door, or what.  My last job was in the middle of the city, but no one used Verizon, because it wouldn't make calls anywhere on the property.  Most of my friends use AT&T, but a couple do use T-Mobile.  I'll talk with them to see where they have issues, and my new boss and see what he uses. 

I won't have a house phone, and I didn't before either.  I just didn't use my phone that much for phone functions.  I'll admit, playing games is a want, not a need, and maybe I don't really need it :)

I started this reply last night, but the more I thought about it, the more research I need to do, so I'm going to go do that and get back with you.  Thanks for your help!!  It really got me thinking.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on March 05, 2015, 09:48:05 AM
So the earthlink rep didn't know of anything that would change in March. The offer was $29.95 for 6 months, $41.95 thereafter, plus sales tax.

In the end TWC extended my promo rate for another year after a quick web chat, so I have locked the $34.99 price (all included) until 2016, at which point I will most likely I have left their territory anyway. I have emailed myself the transcript in case they decide to change their minds.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: geekette on March 06, 2015, 08:50:30 AM
I didn't mean to imply things were changing in March, that's just when my promo period runs out. So they changed the price. Phooey.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: MrMoogle on March 28, 2015, 11:09:00 AM
I decided to try ptel.  It seems to be working well so far.  I activated last Sunday, so I have about 6 days worth of activity.  I've spent a whole $2, which is $0.33/day, or about $10/month.  But that included the first day and a "ton" of texts with "here's my new number."  And since I just moved, I'm making more phone calls than normal.  I don't have a work phone yet, so I'm using this for work too, although that's only been a handful of calls.  Either way, I'm ok with $10/month if that's what it works out to be, but I think it'll be less.

I went with a Nokia Lumia 521 smartphone for $45.  I was having trouble buying used because of my overseas billing address, so I bought new.  Used would have only saved about $10.  I like it, and it allows games.

I'm only using data for emails, and during the work week, I turn that off, since I have a computer at work.  Then just d/l everything when I get home through wifi.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on March 28, 2015, 10:58:08 PM
I decided to try ptel.  It seems to be working well so far.

Rockin'. Good to hear things are working well.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on April 10, 2015, 06:19:33 PM
From another thread posted here for reference:

I could use a guide!  I currently have Consumer Cellular - the rub is there is no service outside the US.  I go to Canada to visit family - no service the minute you cross the border.  I travel abroad to other places - again same problem.  What would you recommend?

Roaming to other countries can be handled three ways: by primary carrier permitting international roaming, by local carrier in foreign country, or by VoIP over a borrowed internet connection.

Right now, the only domestic MVNOs that have international roaming are Ting's CDMA service, and international PAYGO SIM providers like Truphone - neither of these are particularly frugal options up in Canada. If you really want to roam into Canada with your phone without swapping SIM cards or using a free WiFi hotspot and a VoIP provider, you're gonna have to spend the shekels with one of the major mobile network operators like AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, etc... and it won't be cheap.

Otherwise, just swing into a 7-11 once you cross the border, pick up a SpeakOut Wireless SIM card (http://www.speakout7eleven.ca/) to swap out your Consumer Cellular SIM with, toss $35-50 onto the account, and use that every time you head North. Granted, you'll want to check coverage maps (http://www.speakout7eleven.ca/support/coverage), but it covers most of the population dense areas. Otherwise, see what other prepaid option (http://www.techmeshugana.com/2012/10/dial-c-for-canada-eh/) might work for your area. Credit lasts for a full year with SpeakOut, so you can just swap SIM cards as you travel and re-up as needed. Otherwise, you're stuck trying to use some VoIP solution which really doesn't address the need for international mobile phone service.

I also need to upgrade to some kind of smart phone - company is now paying me an allowance and I need to be able to check email.  Current phone is a Nokia C3 - not exactly a flip phone, but not exactly a smart phone.
thanks!

I applaud your taste in phones, my friend. I too own a Nokia C3 and have a handy trick up my sleeve for you regarding the NMS fiasco with Symbian S40/60 phones from last November leaving everyone without email access. So long as you don't need push mail support and manual checking is fine (not critically time-sensitive), you can probably keep rocking that C3 until it dies thanks to mujMail (http://www.techmeshugana.com/2014/11/nice-mess-microsoft/).

If that doesn't work for you, there's no shortage of used, cheap GSM smartphones on the market at this point... especially on the Android end, but most of the phones sacrifice replaceable battery at this price point. Just aim for something that's can run Android 4.x or higher to keep reasonably current with security patches. Alternately, since recently discovering that BBOS10 doesn't actually require BIS support anymore, that really opens up the Blackberry Q5 and Q10 as some excellent options at the $100-150 price point these days for us QWERTY keyboard and long battery life snobs. They're also smartphones that haven't gone painfully dated to the point of loss of support and OS updates.

Any other questions, don't hesitate to ask. Hope that helps!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: innkeeper77 on April 17, 2015, 11:51:46 PM
First off, thanks for the superguide! It has saved my wife and I about $500 so far, and probably a lot more over the next few years by simply moving away from the large carriers.

However, we gave into some hedonistic adaptation, and now we both have android smartphones...
Airvoice $10/month plan, and we each have a google voice number for people with our old contacts, and free wifi calling/texting. This mostly gets used for tech support and other such phone calls, so the call quality isn't an issue.

Restricting data: Afwall+  is a firewall to restrict applications from accessing the network- with seperate settings for wifi and mobile data. This requires root, but having turned on mobile data (even with just cyanogenmod) for just a few minutes and not doing anything, yet having the phone use up a quarter of a megabyte, convinced me that it was needed. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=dev.ukanth.ufirewall -- Plus it significantly improves security! I haven't seen this mentioned yet for Android phones, and it seems invaluable to me for using a low cost prepaid plan.

Question 1: Texting/IM. We have hangouts working for google voice texts and calls (Which is awesome on wifi!) but I don't like how proprietary it feels, and how much data it uses (miniscule, but more than it should be using) - I also prefer open standards, so I am shying away from Kik and it's bretheren. Is there a good open alternative? Most texts we use would be eliminated if my wife and I could use mostly data/wifi- which we have been doing using google messaging and google voice. Is there a better option that would use less data to allow over the mobile data network, and get notifications? I am considering just using a raspberry pi, setting up my own XMPP server, and using xabber on the phones- but I haven't tried xabber yet. -Oh, being able to do end to end encryption would be nice. No real need for it, but privacy is good in and of itself..

Question 2: Mobile data in France for a week. My wife will be in Paris for work for a few days, and using her phone to email/text and use google maps / translate if needed would be nice, since we would like to keep in contact and she doesn't know French.. are there any favored solutions for this? A quick google search found a 1 GB sim in english for 20 euros. Assuming her hotel has wifi, 1 GB would be very much overkill. (Oh, and we have global GSM quad band phones)

Thanks!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on April 18, 2015, 06:47:41 AM
Question 2: Mobile data in France for a week. My wife will be in Paris for work for a few days, and using her phone to email/text and use google maps / translate if needed would be nice, since we would like to keep in contact and she doesn't know French.. are there any favored solutions for this? A quick google search found a 1 GB sim in english for 20 euros. Assuming her hotel has wifi, 1 GB would be very much overkill. (Oh, and we have global GSM quad band phones)
10 EUR prepaid card, valid for 10 days, 500 MB of data, can be purchased from any Bouygues store.
https://www.bouyguestelecom.fr/carte-prepayee
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on April 19, 2015, 09:31:30 AM
First off, thanks for the superguide!

Thanks for reading and giving a little feedback!

Restricting data: Afwall+

Not a bad tip, but Android firewalls are a touchy subject for me. I'm familiar with ukanth's work on it over at XDA Devs, and it's an excellent firewall for rooted devices... but my inner sysadmin has grown increasingly itchy about Android rooting from a purely security-minded standpoint, especially now that the OS has matured and you don't need to root anymore for so many of these functions that you used to need to do it for. That said, this is a case of do as I say, not as I do, as I'm still someone who's more inclined to root. *cough*

...and I also recognize the irony of this statement as someone who frequently advocates Cyanogenmod to users here, as it has root baked in. That said, I typically recommend CM for users who would otherwise not have more current and security patched Android builds on their handsets if not for CM, so it's again a trade-off. Patched OS for greater general security and better app compatibility, but in trade for allowing root. Yet another reason to hate smartphones on general principle - yay planned obsolescence.

Anyway, there's a way of doing a pseudo-firewall without rooting by subverting the VPN function. This method is what Mobiwol (https://dschwartzberg.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/mobiwol-no-root-firewall-for-android/) and its ilk do, but this method seems to be a bit more battery intense and a bit quirkier. (It also sounds potentially sketchy in theory, as MITM attacks would be trivial to execute with these firewalls if the dev went evil.) Kind of a six-a-one, half dozen the other situation. Firewalls on Android clearly require some sort of calculated security trade-off, and have their own quirks in the process. Fortunately, there's methods to granularly control most Android apps and data usage now without rooting or firewall usage, if you're willing to commit the time to go spelunking for the configuration settings on each and every app... but this too is still not perfect and can miss leaks. Granted, I've not tried very hard, but I've not been able to get my own mother's Moto E down below the 70MB a month mark... but I won't root her phone, don't want the added break-point of a VPNish firewall that could cause random connectivity issues, and she's also on P'tel's $20 package which includes 150MB 250MB of data instead of dealing with the data restrictions of PAYGO, so it's not as critical.

Now you see why I just recommend most people stick with a "smartphone" platform that's just intrinsically lean on data usage by nature.

Question 1: Texting/IM.

If you're wanting to give the finger to the Balkanized mobile texting app landscape and go open standards (which I can sympathize with and deeply respect), you're already on the right track. XMPP and Xabber are probably your best option, just remember that encryption adds additional data weight to the messages. Regarding running your own XMPP server, if you really want to, go for it... but unless you're inclined to keep your conversations as private as possible, I see no advantage to going with this solution over just signing up with an account on jabber.org (or another well cared-for XMPP server (https://xmpp.net/directory.php)).

Question 2: Mobile data in France for a week.

Paul covered this better than I ever could have. Thanks dude!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: captainawesome on April 20, 2015, 02:17:41 PM
First off - I have been a fan of this thread for a long time, so thanks IP.  I actually used Ptel then GivMobile for a while when they were offering 50% for 3 month packages, making my "unlimited" data only $20 a month. Sadly they must have caught on to guys like me who were getting half price service for almost two years and got rid of the promotion when they switched plans.

We made the jump to Cricket mainly because my wife uses a good amount of data for a mix of personal and contracting work (coach/manager of a cheerleading gym and does all their social media) I reluctantly signed on to the data plan to get the "discount" however I don't nearly use the data and find myself looking for ways to use the data.

With that said, T-mo sucks in our area and I don't want to go back to it. I was looking at the different Airvoice Plans and trying to determine what would fit "best" I don't necessarily need a ton of talk minutes and I could probably stay under the texts as I use Imessage a lot too (usually on wifi) My data is pretty minimal (spotify premium allows offline listening, podcasts all downloaded off wifi etc) I do need to check email occasionally when at work/on the road, but I don't need it constantly.  I also noticed with the Airvoice plans that the $10 250/500 didn't seem to include Voicemail, can anyone verify?  That I do need, so would it be better to do a PAYGO option which had it listed?  In terms of rollover, does the $10 plan still roll over or only Paygo? Thanks!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on April 20, 2015, 03:16:20 PM
With that said, T-mo sucks in our area and I don't want to go back to it. I was looking at the different Airvoice Plans and trying to determine what would fit "best" I don't necessarily need a ton of talk minutes and I could probably stay under the texts as I use Imessage a lot too (usually on wifi) My data is pretty minimal (spotify premium allows offline listening, podcasts all downloaded off wifi etc) I do need to check email occasionally when at work/on the road, but I don't need it constantly.  I also noticed with the Airvoice plans that the $10 250/500 didn't seem to include Voicemail, can anyone verify?  That I do need, so would it be better to do a PAYGO option which had it listed?  In terms of rollover, does the $10 plan still roll over or only Paygo? Thanks!

Sounds like you need/want to stick with AT&T coverage in your area. Airvoice might be an option, as might PureTalk USA, and possibly even Consumer Cellular if you put both lines on the account. Regarding your specific questions regarding the Airvoice $10/month plan, yes it includes voicemail (though like data and MMS, you might need to activate it on your account - same as Airvoice PAYGO, IIRC), and yes the unused balance rolls over.

As for the whole P'tel/Giv situation, they recently did some plan restructuring. They now have a $20 "unlimited" talk and text plan with 250MB of data, and a $25 "unlimited" talk, text and 2G data plan. Kind of an unnecessary price hack at this point.

Also, I'm not sure if you're familiar or not with my more recent official position on Cricket, GoSmart and Boost Mobile these past few months with the data pricing. A debate on the topic with my reasoning for no longer supporting the likes of Cricket and their subsequent removal from the guide can be read starting here (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/cricket-wireless-users-worth-the-savings/msg538461/#msg538461).
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: geekette on April 20, 2015, 06:21:37 PM
With that said, T-mo sucks in our area and I don't want to go back to it. I was looking at the different Airvoice Plans and trying to determine what would fit "best" I don't necessarily need a ton of talk minutes and I could probably stay under the texts as I use Imessage a lot too (usually on wifi) My data is pretty minimal (spotify premium allows offline listening, podcasts all downloaded off wifi etc) I do need to check email occasionally when at work/on the road, but I don't need it constantly.  I also noticed with the Airvoice plans that the $10 250/500 didn't seem to include Voicemail, can anyone verify?  That I do need, so would it be better to do a PAYGO option which had it listed?  In terms of rollover, does the $10 plan still roll over or only Paygo? Thanks!

Both the $10/month and the $10 PAYG (that lasts 3 months) have voicemail and credit carries over.  I have the former and my DH has the latter, and we both have a lot of credit that can be burned through on vacation or something.

You may have seen a mention that you don't get "visual voicemail" on the iPhone, though.  You have to check to see if any messages have been left.  A small disappointment.

On a completely different subject, I went through the very, very annoying process of canceling our TWC cable TV.  Thus far, we still have our Earthlink internet access (which was a big worry, given TWC's habit of screwing things up).  Amazing the lengths they'll go through to get you to stay... 

We bought a Tablo, hard drive, and a Roku a couple weeks ago.  The antenna that's been languishing in our attic for 20 years has been pressed back into service (funny how it didn't work for analog TV back then, but works great for digital now).  Because we were on such a cheap plan, the payback period is about 2 years, but I think it'll work out better.  We finally have an HD DVR rather than our much loved SD ReplayTVs.  <sniff>
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: captainawesome on April 21, 2015, 08:00:01 AM

Sounds like you need/want to stick with AT&T coverage in your area. Airvoice might be an option, as might PureTalk USA, and possibly even Consumer Cellular if you put both lines on the account. Regarding your specific questions regarding the Airvoice $10/month plan, yes it includes voicemail (though like data and MMS, you might need to activate it on your account - same as Airvoice PAYGO, IIRC), and yes the unused balance rolls over.

As for the whole P'tel/Giv situation, they recently did some plan restructuring. They now have a $20 "unlimited" talk and text plan with 250MB of data, and a $25 "unlimited" talk, text and 2G data plan. Kind of an unnecessary price hack at this point.

Also, I'm not sure if you're familiar or not with my more recent official position on Cricket, GoSmart and Boost Mobile these past few months with the data pricing. A debate on the topic with my reasoning for no longer supporting the likes of Cricket and their subsequent removal from the guide can be read starting here (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/cricket-wireless-users-worth-the-savings/msg538461/#msg538461).

Thanks, I feel like I overlooked Consumer Cellular based on my previous research and thoughts on it being better for family plans, but they seem to have a decent way to add data on easily if I need it. I'll have to crunch the numbers to see which one would be more cost effective in the long term, especially if I have a rollover with say Airvoice and what that would look like.  And I'm not unaware of the tactics to which you are referring. Most recently they "upgraded" us for free so that each of our lines has 5gb of data before getting throttled, and I didn't come close to using that much before.  Unlike my wife, I still operate as if I have 1gb or less of data, and only use it when I really have to.  I will have to look into the data-less GPS maps, I do enjoy Waze when I have to commute or travel. Not a necessity, but certainly a huge convenience.
 

Both the $10/month and the $10 PAYG (that lasts 3 months) have voicemail and credit carries over.  I have the former and my DH has the latter, and we both have a lot of credit that can be burned through on vacation or something.

You may have seen a mention that you don't get "visual voicemail" on the iPhone, though.  You have to check to see if any messages have been left.  A small disappointment.

Thanks for the info. I was used to no visual Voicemail when I was on Ptel/Giv, it is a nice feature to have again, but I'm not sure it's worth the extra $20 per month.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: MrMoogle on April 21, 2015, 04:33:18 PM
I've been using P'Tel for a month now, and it's been a whopping $8.60.  Half of the data I've used is background stuff I think I've turned off now.  My girlfriend thinks I'm crazy, so it gets bonus points for that too.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: geekette on April 22, 2015, 11:44:02 AM
We've had some problems of late with our VoIPo line. Dead air, rolling over to the cell (as if our internet service isn't working) and the odd "ring back". I emailed VoIPo and they had us run a test (looked to be a LOT of pings and trace routes). 

Since that looked fine, they asked if we were using house wiring, which we are (and have been for many years), and said if we were, it was not supported and could degrade the adapter over time.

By that time the calls had settled down to normal, so I just dropped the issue. But really, degrade the adapter over time?  What could cause that? We had one "dead air" call today and DH is about ready to change back to (overpriced) Vonage, since he doesn't remember these problems.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on April 22, 2015, 12:41:17 PM
I've been using P'Tel for a month now, and it's been a whopping $8.60.  Half of the data I've used is background stuff I think I've turned off now.  My girlfriend thinks I'm crazy, so it gets bonus points for that too.

Great to hear!



Since that looked fine, they asked if we were using house wiring, which we are (and have been for many years), and said if we were, it was not supported and could degrade the adapter over time.

By that time the calls had settled down to normal, so I just dropped the issue. But really, degrade the adapter over time?  What could cause that? We had one "dead air" call today and DH is about ready to change back to (overpriced) Vonage, since he doesn't remember these problems.

Regarding their statement specifically, it is theoretically possible from a power load issue as house wiring can add additional resistance to the setup, especially with ATAs that are rated at a REN value lower than 5B combined with multiple high REN handsets. It's a good way to shorten the lifespan of the cheap capacitors in most consumer grade ATAs. Best advice is to keep your combined REN value on the handsets as low as possible, and try not to exceed about 80% of the ATA's supported REN value.

That said, the problems you're experiencing and described, I'm not entirely convinced that it's a failing ATA... it could be, but if they're failing, they don't typically get better in the middle of calls or stop misbehaving. Given the sporadic nature of connectivity, it could be an intermittent line noise or network issue with your ISP. A few minutes of diagnostics (especially when it's already working well enough to connect a call) usually won't actually catch the problem.

If the problem happens again, download a copy of PingPlotter Standard (http://www.pingplotter.com/standard.html) (free 30 day trial - Windows only), turn off sleep/hibernate on your computer, and let it run for a couple days on a 10 second test cycle and let it just accumulate hours and hours of logs doing so... if there's a line problem, it will eventually show up. Now, I don't remember if you're an OSX family or not, and I know PingPlotter is Windows only, but there's really no OSX equivalent. The good news is, a Linux guy is making this software recommendation and admits to using it himself, so that means PingPlotter works fine under WINE with a couple minor caveats: you need to install the GDIplus winetricks package and run the app as root (https://appdb.winehq.org/objectManager.php?sClass=version&iId=17231) (don't worry, that last point makes me uncomfortable as well, but fortunately a single trusted Windows app installed in a dedicated WINE instance isn't a huge risk). If you're not already familiar with WineBottler (http://winebottler.kronenberg.org/) (great WINE configuration/application front end for OSX, similar to PlayOnLinux (https://www.playonlinux.com/en/) which I use), just use that to install and run. Of course, if you already have a Windows virtual machine, just use that instead.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: geekette on April 22, 2015, 03:03:50 PM
Total REN for the house is 1.6 (the one phone that doesn't have line power is 1, and the ringer's always off, if that matters).

So yeah, probably something else. DH is a Windows person, so if it gets bad again, he'll check out ping plotter.

My mom, who also has cable through TWC and lives nearby, had problems with her phone for the same few days. I'll just blame TWC. They're used to it.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on April 22, 2015, 04:19:10 PM
My mom, who also has cable through TWC and lives nearby, had problems with her phone for the same few days. I'll just blame TWC. They're used to it.

Probably safe to blame nothing but TWC given common network issues between services for people in the same area. Regarding the REN issue, even if the ringer is off, it's a good rule of thumb on and applies to talk voltages as well. REN is basically just the peak. Depending on your ATA, you're probably either rated for 3 or 5 REN. If it's one of the older Grandstream units, it might be 3 REN. If so, I wouldn't try to load your lines heavier than they are currently.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: alsoknownasDean on May 01, 2015, 05:23:37 AM
Does anyone have any recommendation on SIP apps for iOS? I've got a VoIP account that comes free with my Internet plan, and figured I'd give it a whirl. I've tried to use Zoiper, but can't get it working properly (it seems I can hear the other party but they can't hear me). My Android phone has CSipSimple, but that isn't available for iOS :)

The VoIP plan is the following:

http://www.iinet.net.au/internet/broadband/naked-dsl/iitalk/ (http://www.iinet.net.au/internet/broadband/naked-dsl/iitalk/)

Another thing, is my parents are heading off to Canada (with a few days in the States on either end), and want to have a SIM with some calls and a decent amount of data (a few gigabytes or so maybe, used for tethering to their laptop) for the six weeks they're away (at least on the Canadian leg of the trip).

Roaming data is bullshit expensive, and my dad's got a dual-SIM smartphone, so it makes sense to get at least one Canadian SIM to channel most of the data through. Would I be right in saying that each of the Bell/Telus/Rogers 3G networks are 850 or 850/1900MHz? That'd be fine for my dad's phone, but my mum's phone is a fairly old Nexus S that does 900MHz/2100MHz 3G only. I guess that phone'll be stuck on 2G (probably easier to just turn data off and pay roaming rates on the Australian SIM for the occasional call).

Any recommendations? From what I've seen, the Canadian mobile plans are terrible value compared to those here in Australia, but I could be wrong.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on May 01, 2015, 08:29:50 AM
Does anyone have any recommendation on SIP apps for iOS?

As with anything on iOS, the best SIP clients are pay SIP clients. Acrobits' Softphone (http://www.acrobits.cz/products/retail#tab_softphone) and Counterpath's Bria (http://www.counterpath.com/bria-iphone-edition/). Zoiper (http://www.zoiper.com/en) was the only decent, free, open provider, iOS SIP phone that I was aware of... so given its failure? If I could only buy one, I'd personally go with Counterpath's Bria.

Another thing, is my parents are heading off to Canada (with a few days in the States on either end), and want to have a SIM with some calls and a decent amount of data (a few gigabytes or so maybe, used for tethering to their laptop) for the six weeks they're away (at least on the Canadian leg of the trip).
...
Any recommendations?

Their options aren't great, unless they're spending 95+% of their time in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa, Kingston, Windsor, London, and the GTA (Toronto + 'burbs). Wind Mobile (http://www.windmobile.ca/plans-and-devices/plans) would probably be the best option. The only wrinkle, they are quite fond of their 1700/2100MHz AWS bands for data, but if the data's mostly for the laptop, this might be an option (http://www.windmobile.ca/plans-and-devices/mobile-devices/device-details/unlimited-data-data-stick-bundle). If a greater coverage map is needed in addition to tethering, it looks like the only other viable option is going to be Chatr (http://www.chatrwireless.com/web/chatr.portal?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=PlanBrowse), with $25/1GB portions of data.

Mobile service is just stupid expensive up there, so if they're wanting any serious quantity of calling, texting, and data, expect to pay $50+ CAD or more a month while up there for what's being asked for.

Would I be right in saying that each of the Bell/Telus/Rogers 3G networks are 850 or 850/1900MHz?

Correct (http://www.wilsonamplifiers.com/frequencies-by-provider).

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. For what it's worth, look into KnowRoaming (http://knowroaming.com/) as well, if some of the usage might be low enough to do PAYGO. They have the cheapest Canadian PAYGO rates I've seen, but their service requires a smartphone running Android, iOS, or Windows Mobile.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: jmusic on May 01, 2015, 04:45:46 PM
IP, Sorry for the OT post, but is there a VOIP provider that handles SMS?   

I'm on Google Hangouts now, but looking to transition to a paid VOIP for privacy/quality.  That's probably the only hitch that keeps me from going whole hog.

Typically I like to keep these sorts of things in the guide discussion thread (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/communications-tech-discussion-thread-1/). VoIP providers from the guide itself that does SMS, however: VOIPo and VOIP.ms. Not in the guide currently, Anveo. There's also a few VoIP-based, proprietary providers that do SMS as well such as NETtalk and Rebtel. There's a few around, but not too many, especially with reasonable SMS rates. The technology term you're looking for specifically is SIP SIMPLE (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SIMPLE_%28instant_messaging_protocol%29) (though it's not the only method).

So continuing the discussion from your savings thread, which do you prefer between VOIPo and VOIP.ms? 

Also, I know Android and Symbian have a native SIP client, are they also able to handle SIP SIMPLE text messages either natively or via paid apps? 

My end goal is to get seamless WIFI calling such that it's transparent when in use, has only one number to give out, and easy enough for my non-techie wife to use. 
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on May 01, 2015, 05:21:55 PM
So continuing the discussion from your savings thread, which do you prefer between VOIPo and VOIP.ms? 

Also, I know Android and Symbian have a native SIP client, are they also able to handle SIP SIMPLE text messages either natively or via paid apps? 

My end goal is to get seamless WIFI calling such that it's transparent when in use, has only one number to give out, and easy enough for my non-techie wife to use. 

No, the native clients don't handle SIP SIMPLE. Many of the VoIP providers also provide SIP to email gateway services. Coutherpath Bria for Android and iOS (paid) handles SIMPLE, as does CSipSimple (free) for Android. One of the things on my longer goal list (which needs time and money) is eventually putting Bria through its paces, as technically it has had the capacity to seamlessly transition between WiFi and 3G network calling since about 2011. Rebtel technically has had this capacity as well with the addition of handover to mobile voice network since 2013, IIRC.

Regarding a "favorite", I have none as each provider addresses different needs. They are simply guide-worthy, and each address different usage scenarios. :)

This said, VOIPo doesn't officially support "third party" ATAs and SIP phones, and enabling such on the account cuts the available monthly minutes from 5,000 to 3,000, again IIRC. I know VOIP.ms is working on implementing XMPP and SIMPLE support for their SMS service, but I don't know if they've been successful. VOIPo I believe will only do an email gateway.

TextNow also upgraded their services to do exactly that now, so BYOD Sprint device with their software does all this as well. There's also been talk that FreedomPop and RingPlus have similar coming on tap.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: firelight on May 02, 2015, 01:17:41 PM
We've used this guide to actively cut down two lines @160 to two lines@40. We can go lower but my husband is a data hog that uses data in subways and trains where there is no WiFi.

I convinced my husband to cut cable and we are saving well over $100/month there. My husband tried OTA and sling TV but says he still can't watch his NFL games. That is the only thing he watches and doesn't need any other content. If i understand right, it comes on a couple of channels like fox, espn, etc. What is the best/cheapest way to get only NFL content?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: alsoknownasDean on May 03, 2015, 06:37:01 AM
Does anyone have any recommendation on SIP apps for iOS?

As with anything on iOS, the best SIP clients are pay SIP clients. Acrobits' Softphone (http://www.acrobits.cz/products/retail#tab_softphone) and Counterpath's Bria (http://www.counterpath.com/bria-iphone-edition/). Zoiper (http://www.zoiper.com/en) was the only decent, free, open provider, iOS SIP phone that I was aware of... so given its failure? If I could only buy one, I'd personally go with Counterpath's Bria.

Thanks for that Daley. It turns out that I've actually bought Acrobits in the past, so I'll give it another crack. Last time I tried it I think I had to set up my SIP account manually as I couldn't find iiNet's VoIP configuration preloaded in the app. It authed, but there were issues with calls. It was preloaded in CSipSimple. :)

Obviously the problem isn't the device or the app :)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: innkeeper77 on May 26, 2015, 12:15:20 PM
First off, thanks for the superguide!

Thanks for reading and giving a little feedback!

Restricting data: Afwall+

Not a bad tip, but Android firewalls are a touchy subject for me. I'm familiar with ukanth's work on it over at XDA Devs, and it's an excellent firewall for rooted devices... but my inner sysadmin has grown increasingly itchy about Android rooting from a purely security-minded standpoint, especially now that the OS has matured and you don't need to root anymore for so many of these functions that you used to need to do it for. That said, this is a case of do as I say, not as I do, as I'm still someone who's more inclined to root. *cough*

...and I also recognize the irony of this statement as someone who frequently advocates Cyanogenmod to users here, as it has root baked in. That said, I typically recommend CM for users who would otherwise not have more current and security patched Android builds on their handsets if not for CM, so it's again a trade-off. Patched OS for greater general security and better app compatibility, but in trade for allowing root. Yet another reason to hate smartphones on general principle - yay planned obsolescence.

Anyway, there's a way of doing a pseudo-firewall without rooting by subverting the VPN function. This method is what Mobiwol (https://dschwartzberg.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/mobiwol-no-root-firewall-for-android/) and its ilk do, but this method seems to be a bit more battery intense and a bit quirkier. (It also sounds potentially sketchy in theory, as MITM attacks would be trivial to execute with these firewalls if the dev went evil.) Kind of a six-a-one, half dozen the other situation. Firewalls on Android clearly require some sort of calculated security trade-off, and have their own quirks in the process. Fortunately, there's methods to granularly control most Android apps and data usage now without rooting or firewall usage, if you're willing to commit the time to go spelunking for the configuration settings on each and every app... but this too is still not perfect and can miss leaks. Granted, I've not tried very hard, but I've not been able to get my own mother's Moto E down below the 70MB a month mark... but I won't root her phone, don't want the added break-point of a VPNish firewall that could cause random connectivity issues, and she's also on P'tel's $20 package which includes 150MB 250MB of data instead of dealing with the data restrictions of PAYGO, so it's not as critical.

Now you see why I just recommend most people stick with a "smartphone" platform that's just intrinsically lean on data usage by nature.

Question 1: Texting/IM.

If you're wanting to give the finger to the Balkanized mobile texting app landscape and go open standards (which I can sympathize with and deeply respect), you're already on the right track. XMPP and Xabber are probably your best option, just remember that encryption adds additional data weight to the messages. Regarding running your own XMPP server, if you really want to, go for it... but unless you're inclined to keep your conversations as private as possible, I see no advantage to going with this solution over just signing up with an account on jabber.org (or another well cared-for XMPP server (https://xmpp.net/directory.php)).


Thanks for your input! I confess, I am a user who will ALWAYS root, if for nothing else than to get rid of the unused standard applications many phones come with. I understand the security issue, but android is too locked down without it for me. With the firewall, I actually feel safer, because I can severely limit applications without depending on their own settings. Integrated applications did not seem to even have such settings available, and "limit background data" is disabled on system processes. My phone has only used about 0.25 MB this month (not including web browser usage- I'm actually at 4.7 MB) - that's worth rooting for me! Of course, I wouldn't do it for my parents. My wife's moto E has used even less, but she uses mobile data less often.

I'm mostly replying to ask if you have looked at Cyanogenmod 12 yet. It has really changed root access. It's now completely disabled to start with, and has to be enabled in development settings. Once it's enabled, it is integrated with Privacy Guard- I'm not sure if I am happy with the change from SuperSU but it seems "cleaner" at least. Since the code is reviewed, I feel safe trusting that root access doesn't exist unless I explicitly select "yes" on the popup. I currently have only one application with root permissions, and that is AFwall. As I am just a tinkerer/hoobbyist and you are much more advanced than I, am I missing a big security hole here? (I am assuming the user is intelligent enough to not allow root when it is asked for unless they are 100% certain they wanted to grant root and it is safe for that application)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on May 28, 2015, 08:13:34 AM
As I am just a tinkerer/hoobbyist and you are much more advanced than I, am I missing a big security hole here?

I don't believe so, but technically with enough code - no matter how many eyes are on it, anything can potentially be exploited (http://www.cio.com/article/2390961/data-protection/cyanogenmod-developers-remove-code-that-logged-device-screen-lock-patterns.html). The new method reminds me a lot of RIM's application permissions management utility in the pre-BBOS10 days. It could be useful, it could be annoying, it might be poorly coded and open a potential channel to exploit elevated permissions, dunno personally.

I'll have to take a closer look when I have the opportunity.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on June 06, 2015, 11:51:47 AM
My SO is starting a sales based business and will need a land line as I am not comfortable putting her personal number up for everyone to see. Since we currently have no home phone at all (and haven't held one in our hands in nearly a decade), I am thinking of using this opportunity as an excuse to offload some of our personal chatter to another home line and save on what are currently mobile minutes. On top of that, there is a possibility of my starting some side hustles in the not so distant future, so that could mean yet another line.

Do I need to look for something specific in the hardware for handling potentially more than one line? The ATA devices' descriptions indicate how many lines they support, but it's not clear to me if I need to look for something in the phone itself. Also what happens if someone calls into line 2 when I'm on the phone with someone else on line 2? Which part of the stack handles routing to the correct voicemail?

If it makes any difference, I am thinking of buying service from voip.ms.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on June 07, 2015, 11:08:55 AM
Paul, call handling itself with VoIP is independent of the ATA or softphone(s) attached. If more than one person calls into the same line, you can configure VOIP.ms (and most other open standards VoIP providers) on how you want handling of any further inbound callers, and can either be handled as something as simple as call waiting, straight to voicemail, ringing multiple subaccount lines or phone destinations as the call comes in (handy for forwarding to cellphones when out of the house!), or shunted off into any number of IVR labyrinths. It can be as simple or complex as you want to make it, but it's (mostly) handled on the VOIP.ms end. That said, some multi-line ATAs have additional complimentary (and even potentially duplicated at times) call handling settings on how multiple incoming calls between separate accounts can be handled as well, either ringing through as call waiting, forwarded to another line by the ATA itself, or shunted back to VOIP.ms for voicemail or call forwarding by registering the extension as busy or offline, etc.

It's also worth pointing out that VOIP.ms lets you set up as many SIP sub-accounts as you like on the main account (think of it as creating virtual line extensions), and because you can handle multiple DIDs on the account, you can route each of those numbers to ring into any specific or all line extensions... but you can even treat those line extensions as separate SIP sub-accounts. You can even assign any outbound Caller ID information you like (including spoofing other phone numbers you own, say, your cell phone numbers) to those specific lines for outbound calls.

This isn't to say that you can't influence and impact phone behavior and call handling with the equipment. Now hang onto your socks, this one's gonna be information dense.

With an ATA like the OBi202, you have support for two physical phone lines out and up to four SIP accounts. With those two lines out, you could either just terminate each line to a separate POTS telephone (corded or cordless), or you could use a two-line combiner kit (http://www.phonegeeks.com/twolcomkitbr.html) (2x RJ11 to 1x RJ14 - never found these on Amazon) in combination with POTS telephones that support two physical call lines, if it's needed and the two line handset doesn't have separate jacks for each line. The only problem is, if you haven't already made the investment in two line handsets or have a source for cheap used on the equipment, the price of new two line handsets (especially if wireless is desired) can be just as costly (if not more so) and not as flexible (in some applications, but less so in others) as some of the entry-level Grandstream IP telephones. The OBi202 also treats multiple SIP accounts configured on the same physical line with a second call in on a separate account as being handled like traditional call waiting on the phone. You can then prefix the number you dial out on any phone connected to the OBi202 with **1, **2, **3, or **4 to select a specific SIP account (or line if you prefer) for outbound calling to either route through a cheaper VoIP termination provider (email me on a couple of those, I've got some newer options that I haven't added to the guide yet that's worth looking into, but not ready for inclusion) or select a different SIP sub-account to change your outbound Caller ID.

Not to say this couldn't also be done using various internal extensions coupled with DISA (http://wiki.voip.ms/article/DISA) on a VOIP.ms account, but the dial pattern to switch outbound CID credentials before dialing the number you want to connect to becomes considerably longer than just **x due to the necessity of a four digit security PIN number, but you could also theoretically use a single digit speed dial number on the telephone itself to program in and simplify dialing the extension and PIN, but it has to be a speed dial number that isn't conflicting with your own ATA's speed dial system (if it has it and is configured). That said, you should keep this feature in mind as it can also permit you to return calls from your cell phone to business customers and have them see your business CID number instead.

Getting back to the Grandstream IP telephones and desiring multi-line phones, you have desk phones like the GS-GXP1400 which can handle two SIP accounts as line one and two effectively ($40), or there's cordless handset models like the GS-DP715 (starting at $65 for one handset plus $40 per additional handset all the way to $190 for a kit of five, it's max supported extensions/handsets) where each handset is treated and configured as a specific line extension with its own SIP account credentials, but you'll need to bust out the labelmaker to keep from confusing the phones. Of course, going this route (or any situation where you might have more than two inbound SIP lines at home) and you don't want to run your own Asterisk PBX server, you're going to start running into potential timeout and collision issues on the UDP ports between accounts (especially between the same servers and internal network addresses), but this can be addressed with a little NAT magic and port routing with each extension (http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r24952251-Voip-ms-best-practices-for-multiple-Aastra-SIP-phones) if you got decent networking chops (enter the brilliance of using a router that runs DD-WRT, for example - but NAT solutions with VoIP can potentially get messy (http://www.voip-info.org/wiki/view/NAT+and+VOIP), and tomes have been written on the subject). This said, most VoIP providers can use UDP port 5060 or 5080. This can be handy to remember for configuring, say, two inbound VOIP.ms accounts to your house and phone equipment, thus avoiding any need for a PBX and leverage VOIP.ms's configuration and routing features instead. Just specify a different port for each account. Of course, you lose the ability to call out via different accounts to change outbound Caller ID with these solutions as you're restricted to only two accounts without additional network fiddling.

Like I said, configurations can be as simple to as complex as you want, but what you're after is going to involve a bit of necessary complexity. I do think it might be worth the effort to potentially learn how to NAT at least four to five extensions, but I suspect the easiest hardware solution setup for your needs will probably be the OBi202 paired with something like the VTech DS6151 two line cordless system paired with a multi-extensioned VOIP.ms account. That'll give you two physical lines that can be used at the same time that'll both ring the same multiple cordless handsets throughout the house but differentiate which incoming line is ringing, have the option for a second (or third) incoming number on either line differentiated by ring profile type (say two short instead of one long), and you can call out with up to two more accounts for either the sake of lower cost termination and/or to switch Caller ID credentials (great for either just having and using a home phone number or fooling people into thinking you're calling from your cell phone when you aren't). It'll also probably be the easiest to configure and provision from a physical hardware standpoint. Be mindful though, the Obihai and VOIP.ms have some overlapping call handling features (not to mention the Obihai having some potentially overlapping NAT features with a router), so be sure to choose and remember which side you want certain features to be handled for routing and failover.

Any specifics you want on setup or need clarification on, you know how to reach me. ;)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: alsoknownasDean on June 11, 2015, 05:27:19 AM
Does anyone have any recommendation on SIP apps for iOS?

As with anything on iOS, the best SIP clients are pay SIP clients. Acrobits' Softphone (http://www.acrobits.cz/products/retail#tab_softphone) and Counterpath's Bria (http://www.counterpath.com/bria-iphone-edition/). Zoiper (http://www.zoiper.com/en) was the only decent, free, open provider, iOS SIP phone that I was aware of... so given its failure? If I could only buy one, I'd personally go with Counterpath's Bria.

Another thing, is my parents are heading off to Canada (with a few days in the States on either end), and want to have a SIM with some calls and a decent amount of data (a few gigabytes or so maybe, used for tethering to their laptop) for the six weeks they're away (at least on the Canadian leg of the trip).
...
Any recommendations?

Their options aren't great, unless they're spending 95+% of their time in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa, Kingston, Windsor, London, and the GTA (Toronto + 'burbs). Wind Mobile (http://www.windmobile.ca/plans-and-devices/plans) would probably be the best option. The only wrinkle, they are quite fond of their 1700/2100MHz AWS bands for data, but if the data's mostly for the laptop, this might be an option (http://www.windmobile.ca/plans-and-devices/mobile-devices/device-details/unlimited-data-data-stick-bundle). If a greater coverage map is needed in addition to tethering, it looks like the only other viable option is going to be Chatr (http://www.chatrwireless.com/web/chatr.portal?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=PlanBrowse), with $25/1GB portions of data.

Mobile service is just stupid expensive up there, so if they're wanting any serious quantity of calling, texting, and data, expect to pay $50+ CAD or more a month while up there for what's being asked for.

Would I be right in saying that each of the Bell/Telus/Rogers 3G networks are 850 or 850/1900MHz?

Correct (http://www.wilsonamplifiers.com/frequencies-by-provider).

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. For what it's worth, look into KnowRoaming (http://knowroaming.com/) as well, if some of the usage might be low enough to do PAYGO. They have the cheapest Canadian PAYGO rates I've seen, but their service requires a smartphone running Android, iOS, or Windows Mobile.

Little update.

I decided not to bother with using the iiNet VoIP, I couldn't get Acrobits working anyway. I've recently changed mobile carriers to one with unlimited calls*, so I guess using the VoIP doesn't bother me as much.

* It's cheap enough that it's worthwhile. I wanted to go back to a major carrier anyway.

By the way, my parents ended up going with Fido (their choice). It seems to work well enough for them, and they've found being able to go to a retail store for support useful.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: bluesman on July 26, 2015, 11:17:25 AM
After reading Paul's post above and I.P.'s response, I was wondering if anyone has thoughts on small business VOIP in general.  I am using RingCentral for my small law firm. I have not been very satisfied with the call quality of late and the prices seem to be going higher and higher.  We have ten extensions using Polycom IP phones with an internet connection that we only use for the phones.  We really only use the call routing, voicemail, voicemail-to-email and fax features of Ringcentral's hosted PBX.  Anyone have a high quality cheap solution they would recommend?  I set up my current system so I am fairly tech savvy. 
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: babysteps on July 27, 2015, 10:51:26 AM
Looks like Airvoice is reducing the cost of their 'unlimited' plans? And I don't see a PAYgo anymore, but there is now a $5 for 5-day option.

I was on the $30 plan (unlimited talk & text, 100mb data/mo), that's now $20
The old $40 plan (unlimited talk & text, 1gb data/mo) is now $30
The top plan is now $50 (was $60 last I looked - unlimited talk & text, 5gb data/mo)

Other than yay for competition and lower costs, any thoughts?  I was afraid they might try to upgrade folks without their noticing (same $/mo), but that doesn't seem to be the case as they contacted the spouse to explain his service fee would be going down.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Simple Abundant Living on July 27, 2015, 01:36:18 PM
Looks like Airvoice is reducing the cost of their 'unlimited' plans? And I don't see a PAYgo anymore, but there is now a $5 for 5-day option.

I was on the $30 plan (unlimited talk & text, 100mb data/mo), that's now $20
The old $40 plan (unlimited talk & text, 1gb data/mo) is now $30
The top plan is now $50 (was $60 last I looked - unlimited talk & text, 5gb data/mo)

Other than yay for competition and lower costs, any thoughts?  I was afraid they might try to upgrade folks without their noticing (same $/mo), but that doesn't seem to be the case as they contacted the spouse to explain his service fee would be going down.

I was on auto-renew option for the $30/mo plan (unlimited with 500mb data). They kept me at $30, but now I get 500mb high speed/500mb throttled speed data. I'm happy with it, because I'm getting more for the same amount of $. My kids are still on the $10/mo plan and it works for them. I'm a happy Airvoice customer.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: babysteps on July 29, 2015, 10:52:58 AM
I was on auto-renew option for the $30/mo plan (unlimited with 500mb data). They kept me at $30, but now I get 500mb high speed/500mb throttled speed data. I'm happy with it, because I'm getting more for the same amount of $. My kids are still on the $10/mo plan and it works for them. I'm a happy Airvoice customer.

Just got off the phone with Prepaid Wireless, Airvoice's payment partner.  The new $20 plan (was $30/mo) is *NOT* available as an autorenew, at least not at this time.  Disappointing, but not completely out of left field as the old $20 plan was PAYgo and not available as autorefill either...

It appears that for most $30/mo Airvoice customers, the default will be what happened with Simple Abundant Living (same $/mo, more data included).  Service-creep alert :)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Left on July 30, 2015, 11:47:18 PM
since I got the invitation to google's project fi, I'm going to toss this out as an alternative to republic wireless.

I know how ip daley feels about republic, but google fi seems to be same setup but better, at least they refund you the data you don't use... so it is a cross between ting and republic to me

I'm not using project fi so no first hand impressions, they won't work with my passport phone so I wont use it because I like the phone more than nexus phone...
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Simple Abundant Living on July 31, 2015, 08:44:35 AM
since I got the invitation to google's project fi, I'm going to toss this out as an alternative to republic wireless.

I know how ip daley feels about republic, but google fi seems to be same setup but better, at least they refund you the data you don't use... so it is a cross between ting and republic to me

I'm not using project fi so no first hand impressions, they won't work with my passport phone so I wont use it because I like the phone more than nexus phone...

That looks interesting to me. I probably wouldn't save money since I pay a flat $30 with Airvoice, but I'm curious about the network set up. I need to buy a new phone, so I'm not opposed to buying the Nexus.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: tanguera on August 04, 2015, 09:50:26 AM
I've been reading up on VOIP and softphone apps but I'm hoping one of you with more knowledge might have some suggestions for me.

I get a free phone through work with unlimited data but we recently moved to a new house where I don't get reception with Verizon (my husband uses Ting and does get reception). I've been using Google Voice for calls when I'm home but that doesn't have e911 service which I'd like to have with two little kids in the house. We don't make phone calls very often but I think we're going to get a VOIP line as the 4-year-old is old enough to learn to make emergency calls and it will be useful for relatives who are watching the kids.

Even with the VOIP line I'd like to be able to make better use of my cell phone for calls if I can do so inexpensively. Google says I can port my current cell phone number to Google Voice for $20. It would be convenient to be able to receive calls via just one number regardless of where I am, however the call quality with Google Voice has not been great, and Google Voice doesn't have e911. Is there a better way to do this? Should I get a new number and service from some VOIP provider and forward calls to a softphone app? Is there another provider that would let me use my current number?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Left on August 04, 2015, 06:20:05 PM
go to local police station to register your number with them, that way if it comes from that number they know the address unless told otherwise during the call
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Exprezchef on August 13, 2015, 01:14:14 PM
We cut the cable and phone service today!! We live in a pretty mountainous rural area and were concerned with what OTA channels we would be able to receive. Using the TV fool and Antennaweb websites it looks like we can get everything we need for our local channels and local news. I did however need to purchase a pretty powerful antenna and amplifier to get the signals. (A shout out to the customer serve of Antennas Direct for their help and patience with my questions and numerous phone calls). We are going to keep only the high speed internet (Cox) and Netflix. Since my wife and I are huge fans of shows on AMC, we took advantage of the offer through Sling TV and are picking up the Roku 3 for 50% off plus the monthly service. The channels offered through Sling TV are the ones we watch most anyway.The only thing we have not decided on is whether or not to get Hulu Plus, which we currently do not have. By making these changes we are now lowering our monthly TV watching bill by just shy of $100.00. We will make up for the initial outlay for the antenna and Roku 3 in only a few months. Once I get everything installed and running I will be sure and provide feedback on my experience.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: elysianfields on August 27, 2015, 04:18:31 PM
We've used VoIP for a long time, because having a US number on which we can receive live calls (as opposed to a voice mail service) is so useful.  Furthermore, we have lots of friends and family in Europe with whom we wanted to remain in touch.

Until recently we've been using Lingo, a Primus company.  Until we moved to Europe, we had their world package, which includes free calls to the US, Canada, and landlines in most of Europe.  They advertise at $23.95/mo, but with add-on fees we were paying $36.05/mo.  However, our European Internet provider includes VoIP with a local number and a large number of minutes for free calls to landlines in Europe.  So I cut back Lingo from the world plan to the strictly US & Canada option at $9.95/mo ($20.31/mo with fees).

At the suggestion of a co-worker and after some rumination, I decided to move everything to Google Voice and to buy a VoIP device from Obihai, which you can set up to receive your Google Voice calls (details here: http://www.obihai.com/docs/OBi202DS.pdf (http://www.obihai.com/docs/OBi202DS.pdf)), available on Amazon for $66.92 here: http://amzn.com/B007D930YO (http://amzn.com/B007D930YO).

The problem was that Google Voice cannot port "landline" numbers in from Lingo, only "mobile" numbers.

So instead I ordered a SIM from AT&T GoPhone for $4.95 and ported my Lingo number there.

I'll go to the US next month and ensure that the number is working, then port it to Google Voice.

Total costs of the SIM, the Obihai device, and a one-time Google Voice port-in fee of $20 total $91.87.  Given the $20.31 I was paying per month, my payback time is just over 4.52 months, after which my VoIP service is free.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: geekette on August 30, 2015, 04:57:07 PM
Airvoice has made a small change I appreciate for their $10/month plan.  It used to be that I'd get a grey screen after each call, text, and randomly for data usage, showing how much I'd used and how much I had left.  Fairly useless for me, plus recently the data usage would pop up at rather odd times with a text tone (annoying!)

I called and they can take that off completely.  No more interrupting screens, no more text tones when I wasn't actually getting a text.  I tend to keep a pretty high balance, so I don't worry about running out, but you can also dial *777# to get your balance and expiration date.

I suppose this also works for their other PAYG plans, but I didn't ask.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: alsoknownasDean on September 01, 2015, 06:28:11 AM
I have to admit, mobile service seems to be insanely cheap here down under compared to a few years ago.

$30AUD ($22USD) gets unlimited calls/SMS and 1GB or more of data, even with some of the major carriers.

I remember paying nearly a dollar a minute for calls and 28c for an SMS ten or so years ago. I remember signing up to a plan in 2012 with 1.5GB of data and $800 of calls, and the phone plan was a fair bit more than $30 a month.

Of course I'm paying $50 now because I recently decided to sign up to some silly antimustachian plan with insanely huge amounts of data (8GB). I'll change plans once Optus drop the price of their $45 plan :)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: gimp on September 09, 2015, 02:48:13 PM
My travels over the past couple years have showed me that - unfortunate as it is - verizon is the best choice for me, simply due to much better coverage. All manner of driving through Egypt, where the only reception is verizon - that sort of thing.

I'm also getting the new iphone soon.

The best plan I've found so far for my sort of usage is from rok mobile - $50/month for unlimited data (5GB LTE, the rest at 3G). I don't want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere throttled to 64 kbps trying to load a webpage.

Anyone have any advice for this?

I quite like republic wireless's price, but I am fed up with sprint, and I can't bring my phone to their network.

A plan like Ting would be much better for me, except for the fact that it's still got the same shite coverage.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on September 09, 2015, 05:04:06 PM
The best plan I've found so far for my sort of usage is from rok mobile - $50/month for unlimited data (5GB LTE, the rest at 3G). I don't want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere throttled to 64 kbps trying to load a webpage.

Anyone have any advice for this?

Rok's new Verizon service has been proving to be twitchy on the data end (reports of data cut-off instead of throttling, no throttling after 5GB, etc.), but it's likely new service pains. Also be mindful that their definition of "3G" pretty much means nothing, and they're planning to throttle at 256kbps max... better than most with throttling (including Page Plus, etc.), but still technically in the realm of real-world 2G EDGE/1xEV-DO speeds.

I'm also unsure of any Verizon roaming partnerships with Rok. It's worth noting that even with many Verizon MVNOs, quite a bit of the BFE coverage in certain areas winds up from roaming agreements with US Cellular - though granted, there's no data with that roaming. Not saying that is the case with you specifically, I'm just speaking broadly.

Bottom line: If Verizon service with 5GB+ of data a month is a necessity and you're comfortable trying Rok (DeJoria or not, new MVNOs or new networks on established MVNOs are a gamble and Rok's pricing is right on the edge of TGTBT on Verizon - so weigh that risk if you're porting numbers), go for it. I would just make sure first and foremost that you can activate the new iPhone with them before making the investment as Verizon and Sprint both have new handset blacklist activations with their MVNOs, and the latest iPhones are usually on there, paid in full or not. If activation is contingent upon ESN/IMEI, be mindful of that.

Just remember to be willing to pay for what you need. If you genuinely need phone service with 5GB+ of BFE mobile data on Verizon with a new model iPhone, then whatever the cost is to provide that is what you need to pay... but of all the combos out there, it is quite literally the one that can potentially be the most expensive as it usually falls into using Verizon postpaid territory to make it happen.

Best of luck, dude.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: gimp on September 09, 2015, 08:03:33 PM
Thanks, I really appreciate the advice.

Roaming is definitely something I'd like. Basically the scenario which I face with regularity is: if my car breaks down, it might be over a hundred miles to the closest town or gas station, so first and foremost I need to be able to make a call if there's ANY cell service whatsoever; and ideally I'd like to be able to google my problem (data). Similarly, even if there is no service wherever the hell I am, the closest town might have it, and I might need to contact someone ("stuck in BFE").

I might be willing to sacrifice data in trade for good, solid roaming. I use wifi at home and work and therefore sincerely doubt I'd hit 5 gigs. With that said, with 1) faster internet and 2) a modern browser, I'd probably consume more data (bigger files and be able to play files I currently can't.)

Would you possibly recommend the basic 1 gig prepaid plan from verizon? It's $45... I think. I would want a plan that allows me to go over the data (even better if I can toggle this option on and off), even if it absolutely destroys me with fees for doing so, because I'd only imagine going over in case of an emergency.

Can you elaborate on handset blacklist activations? I definitely plan to buy the phone outright from apple, as soon as it becomes available on discount for me.

Overall, it's kind of a shitty decision: I will need the flexibility and good service for about 3% of my yearly usage, but if I need it during that week or two, I need it.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Left on September 10, 2015, 03:52:55 AM
exactly how much "need" is there? there's an unmustachian Iridium Go that is a $800 device that turns your phone into a satellite phone (at an expensive monthly service plan, but it is monthly so you could just pay that one month). Though for a sat phone, it's pretty reasonably priced... one of those things where you can "buy" too much phone...
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on September 10, 2015, 09:43:24 AM
Thanks, I really appreciate the advice.

Not a problem. As for the new questions/talk points, I may need to take things a bit paragraph by paragraph.

Roaming is definitely something I'd like. Basically the scenario which I face Well, Sprint and Verizon both have had a history of blacklisting new premium phones for 12-24 months from activation on their MVNOs. Sprint has gotten much better about this, but Verizon is still being picky about this as far as I know... but it is a topic that may have changed a bit with the newer introduction of LTE support with the independent Verizon MVNOs the past couple months. I can't answer this one with authority as there's not much info floating around about it yet. If you want to use a new iPhone, try calling up Selectel's customer support and ask if you can potentially activate an iPhone 6 right now, or possibly an iPhone 6s after it drops.with regularity is: if my car breaks down, it might be over a hundred miles to the closest town or gas station, so first and foremost I need to be able to make a call if there's ANY cell service whatsoever; and ideally I'd like to be able to google my problem (data). Similarly, even if there is no service wherever the hell I am, the closest town might have it, and I might need to contact someone ("stuck in BFE").

To address this one, I need to mention something specifically about CDMA network service and then something about all network based mobile services.

First, with proper CDMA services on Sprint/Verizon/US Cellular handsets, even if you have no roaming service with your carrier or MVNO, you should still potentially have access to place calls through ARN (http://www.americanroaming.com/). This isn't universal, and the best way to guarantee access to ARN nationwide is to have a deactivated CDMA handset from Verizon, but it's an option as you can pay roughly $0.25/minute or place a collect call. The only downside is the human factor and people unwilling to answer calls when they have caller ID and don't recognize the number or the number comes up unknown.

Second, any handset, active service on a network or not - if there's a frequency compatible tower within range of any handset, whether it's native network or not and even if you can't place a regular call, it will handle a 911 emergency call. This applies to CDMA and GSM both. Even though I'm on P'tel myself, and P'tel only uses T-Mobile's native network... if I need to call 911 from the middle of a Nebraska cornfield, I'll still have service to do so as that call will route over any of the closest active GSM towers in the area. If you can't flag down anyone and you're stranded in the middle of nowhere with no way to get the car going again, that would constitute enough of an emergency to warrant dialing 911. I cover this stuff with a bit more depth on the unabridged guide on my site, it's about 4/5ths of the way down the cell phone providers page here (http://www.techmeshugana.com/theguide/cellular-providers/) under "Unique Alternatives".

Just be aware that even if you can't place a direct dial call, it doesn't mean you can't place any call.

Lastly on this point, now that Verizon uses SIM cards with LTE and has to carrier unlock their handsets for GSM use, even if you're restricted to Verizon only network coverage? You can now leverage stuff like a KnowRoaming (https://www.knowroaming.com/) sticker to give you additional access to the AT&T network for these sorts of occasions, and AT&T frequently fills in gaps that Verizon leaves and vice versa.

I might be willing to sacrifice data in trade for good, solid roaming. I use wifi at home and work and therefore sincerely doubt I'd hit 5 gigs. With that said, with 1) faster internet and 2) a modern browser, I'd probably consume more data (bigger files and be able to play files I currently can't.)

If you're convinced that you need Verizon coverage with good solid roaming, then your best bet (minding customer support is important as well) is either Selectel (http://www.selectelwireless.com/wireless-plans/) (which is a Verizon MVNO that has supports LTE handsets and has voice/SMS partner roaming with Sprint, US Cellular and a few other smaller regional providers), or Verizon postpaid. Verizon Prepaid is Verizon native network only, and doesn't permit roaming except through ARN.

As to the data usage point, try using a browser that allows you to turn off image loading completely or provides an image compression proxy such as Opera Mini or Dolphin browser. Since I retired the Nokia C3 in April, I've used Opera Mini on my BB Bold 9900 with images set to low quality. I don't do anything with it that I don't want passed through a third party proxy, but of the 139.6MB of internet browsing I've done with it since April, I've only actually used 9.8MB of billable data ($0.98 of data on P'tel). The internet's still pretty useful with images turned off.

I don't know if you're familiar with it or not, but maybe give my post "What is mobile media costing you? (http://www.techmeshugana.com/2013/12/what-is-mobile-media-costing-you/)" a read as well to help keep some perspective on phone data storage capabilities and mobile data usage. I think even without WiFi, you could probably get by with less than 1GB of data a month with just a bit of lateral thinking, pre-planning, and avoiding a bit of hedonic adaptation.

Would you possibly recommend the basic 1 gig prepaid plan from verizon? It's $45... I think. I would want a plan that allows me to go over the data (even better if I can toggle this option on and off), even if it absolutely destroys me with fees for doing so, because I'd only imagine going over in case of an emergency.

Given what you've stated thus-far and what I've responded with, I'm sure you already know the answer to this.

Now, I will say this about Selectel: In addition to their monthly packages, they have $10 Flex cards that covers minutes/SMS/MMS/MB of data at a rate of $0.05 a pop for any plan overages, and the unused balance rolls over. So given Selectel offers LTE service, voice roaming, has optional prepaid overage billing at $0.05/MB, and their 1GB "unlimited" talk and text plan is $40...

Can you elaborate on handset blacklist activations? I definitely plan to buy the phone outright from apple, as soon as it becomes available on discount for me.

Well, Sprint and Verizon both have had a history of blacklisting new premium phones for 12-24 months from activation on their MVNOs. It was an act done specifically to keep people with deep pockets wanting shiny phones stuck on high margin, expensive postpaid plans under contract. Sprint has gotten much better about this, but Verizon is still being picky about this as far as I know... but it is a topic that may have changed a bit with the newer introduction of LTE support with the independent Verizon MVNOs the past couple months. I can't answer this one with authority as there's not much info floating around about it yet. If you want to use a new iPhone, try calling up Selectel's customer support and ask if you can potentially activate an iPhone 6 right now, or possibly an iPhone 6s after it drops.

For the record, you don't have this sort of premium handset blacklist activation problem over on the GSM end... this is a purely CDMA problem.

Overall, it's kind of a shitty decision: I will need the flexibility and good service for about 3% of my yearly usage, but if I need it during that week or two, I need it.

Which brings me to ask the following question: Are your BFE reception experiences limited solely to your past experiences on CDMA networks/through Republic Wireless, and when was the last time you checked for GSM coverage in your little slice of Egypt?

I only ask because going GSM might be a better alternative for your core services. Consumer Cellular has AT&T coverage with partner roaming on T-Mobile and elsewhere, and they're one of the only good AT&T MVNOs that can properly handle the AT&T SIM based data auto-configuration issue with iOS. The footprint would be near close to Verizon, you could unquestionably use an iPhone 6s without possible activation issues, and $50/month+tax would give you 1500 minutes, unlimited texting, and 1.5GB of data, and the less you use, the cheaper it'll get.

I know there's not much definitive in my answers, but I'm trying to get you to think a bit more creatively and laterally about that two week window, your carrier, and even your potential phone choice. Hopefully it all helps.

Any other questions, you know where to find me.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: gimp on September 11, 2015, 02:33:08 PM
Quote
If you can't flag down anyone and you're stranded in the middle of nowhere with no way to get the car going again, that would constitute enough of an emergency to warrant dialing 911.

Hmm. Interesting. I guess that might be true. That's not a bad point.

Quote
You can now leverage stuff like a KnowRoaming sticker to give you additional access to the AT&T network for these sorts of occasions

I'm an electrical engineer, but this feels like magic.

Quote
Given what you've stated thus-far and what I've responded with, I'm sure you already know the answer to this.

More expensive, but quite possibly logistically easier to go with a giant than a small company. I will give it serious consideration, though it doesn't seem that good of a deal. With that said, overages are pretty easy on that plan (I care a lot more about ease of use than cost.)

Quote
Which brings me to ask the following question: Are your BFE reception experiences limited solely to your past experiences on CDMA networks/through Republic Wireless, and when was the last time you checked for GSM coverage in your little slice of Egypt?

Ah, that's the rub. It's not a little slice of egypt, it's pretty much every slice of egypt in the entire country that I care about. Believe it not, it's not an unrealistic worry. Even truckers usually stick to well-travelled routes and interstates. I find the roads with signs saying "not patrolled after dark."

My experiences are that me on sprint, and other people on verizon, and if only one of us has service it is always them and not me, and having at least some basic service in some fairly surprising places.

Blacklisting might be an issue. I will look into it.

Satellite phones are not a bad idea, to be honest. That would free me up to using much cheaper plans. I must do the math for a satellite phone + strictly prepaid plan (per minute cost) + cheap cell plan versus more expensive cell service plan. I really appreciate the suggestion.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on September 11, 2015, 03:15:18 PM
Quote
If you can't flag down anyone and you're stranded in the middle of nowhere with no way to get the car going again, that would constitute enough of an emergency to warrant dialing 911.

Hmm. Interesting. I guess that might be true. That's not a bad point.
Yeah, authorities don't exactly want to have to deal with dead visitors on their roadways. Would it be possible to have the 911 operator assess whether your situation is worthy of sending a trooper, and if it's not, send a tow truck instead?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on September 11, 2015, 05:51:25 PM
Quote
You can now leverage stuff like a KnowRoaming sticker to give you additional access to the AT&T network for these sorts of occasions

I'm an electrical engineer, but this feels like magic.

No magic, the KnowRoaming SIM sticker basically converts a single SIM card into a dual-SIM card. It's all OS level software controlled to switch between. Most smartphones can actually do this already. If you absolutely want the best/maximum humanly possible mobile coverage in the US but done easily, you'd want to go Verizon LTE+CDMA network first with a carrier that does roaming onto US Cellular, Sprint, and other CDMA partner networks combined with either a KnowRoaming SIM sticker which will give you the ability to switch over to the AT&T network without fiddling with SIM cards.

If you want to wedge in as many GSM and CDMA networks on one phone combined, the Verizon LTE with roaming path with an iPhone is still the way to go, but instead of using KnowRoaming, you'd need to get a MagicSIM Elite (http://www.magic-sim.com/product/id/36/MAGICSIM_ELITE_-_iPHONE_6_DUAL_SIM_ADAPTER.html) adapter and go with either TruPhone (the better choice as prepaid with no expiration so long as you use it every 30 days) or Consumer Cellular which will give you both AT&T and T-Mobile networks combined with other incidental smaller GSM networks. This setup will literally provide you with the capacity to make regular or 911 calls no matter the tower. Of course, we're approaching diminishing and absurd levels here for ensuring terrestrial mobile phone coverage.

Quote
Given what you've stated thus-far and what I've responded with, I'm sure you already know the answer to this.

More expensive, but quite possibly logistically easier to go with a giant than a small company. I will give it serious consideration, though it doesn't seem that good of a deal. With that said, overages are pretty easy on that plan (I care a lot more about ease of use than cost.)

Logistically easier, but Selectel and Page Plus both basically offer the same coverage as Verizon postpaid. Selectel's the one of the two with the better customer support.

It's not a little slice of egypt, it's pretty much every slice of egypt in the entire country that I care about. Believe it not, it's not an unrealistic worry. Even truckers usually stick to well-travelled routes and interstates. I find the roads with signs saying "not patrolled after dark."

My experiences are that me on sprint, and other people on verizon, and if only one of us has service it is always them and not me, and having at least some basic service in some fairly surprising places.

Blacklisting might be an issue. I will look into it.

Satellite phones are not a bad idea, to be honest. That would free me up to using much cheaper plans. I must do the math for a satellite phone + strictly prepaid plan (per minute cost) + cheap cell plan versus more expensive cell service plan. I really appreciate the suggestion.

If you're hedging bets, remember that there's the law of diminishing returns here... especially when you're throwing money at "safety", and safety is ultimately an illusion. You can plan and have failsafes, but there's no guarantee in this life for anything but death and taxes. Man plans, G-d laughs. If you're wandering off the trail deliberately, perhaps learn to accept the risks that go with it and plan accordingly. If you're wandering off the trail accidentally, perhaps work on sharpening some solid navigation skills that aren't GPS dependent and still plan for it accordingly.

Iridium satellite phones are certainly an option to hedge bets on regularly preserving communications in Likenowheresvilleman, but for the price trying to hedge bets? I'd rather invest in an UberScoot 2x (portable gas powered scooter) for $600 and carry two gallons of gas for it while on these trips. Might not be able to guarantee calling for help immediately, but it'd give you an extra 100+ mile range. A far more sane (and cheaper) solution would just be getting your amateur radio license, a portable CB/GMRS/FRS radio that can charge on solar and/or hand crank and maybe a conceal carry permit.

Even this, though... I know I'm not you, and you have to accept your own level of risk tolerance, but bottom line? If you're counting on technology to save your ass in an emergency, you're not gonna live. Technology's just a tool. Your best tool in these situations will be your brain. If you're concerned about breaking down in BFE, take enough provisions on these trips to keep you thriving for three days, basic first aid equipment, an assortment of low-tech signaling equipment (flare gun, signal mirror, flashlight with SOS mode, emergency request sign for the car), some common sense, and just remember that 99.9% of Americans traveled all over the country without any mobile phone service even just 25 years ago in far less reliable cars. I'm pretty sure in this day and age (short of full societal collapse), your odds of winding up in an Alfred Packer situation is pretty slim.

Don't let fear of a car breakdown situation during 3% of your lifetime drive your phone budget. Keep the car well maintained, stick with well traveled roads as often as possible, go with a Verizon MVNO if you need that piece of mind, learn some basic survival skills, and just carry a small go bag with some basic signaling on these trips where you run a risk of being in BFE to ensure you don't dehydrate or bleed out before someone finds you.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: gimp on September 11, 2015, 07:35:19 PM
:)

I have enough gear in my car to fix most basic things, and I have enough gear and food and water (and filtration / purification / first aid) in my car to survive for weeks in most conditions. Which is why I never considered breaking down to be a 911-level emergency, you know?

I'm not worried about dying, just wanted the convenience of not having to wait two weeks if I break down near Inuvik or some such place. I worry a lot more about dying when I hike alone in the winter on snow-covered mountains (because fuck me, that's why).

Unfortunately, I think carrying is not a good option - states have a lot of different rules on what and how you're allowed to carry (especially crossing state lines), and obviously countries even more so. Oh, and a concealed carry permit is impossible to get where I live. But it's in the back of my mind.

CB radio is on the agenda. I never got my HAM license due to laziness, and then when I went to get licensed, one of the examiners didn't show...



I think I'll go with Page Plus, and get the sim adapter + secondary prepaid plans whenever I feel it's necessary. Wonder if I can make that work outside the country too... hmm.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on September 13, 2015, 02:33:50 PM
I have enough gear in my car to fix most basic things, and I have enough gear and food and water (and filtration / purification / first aid) in my car to survive for weeks in most conditions. Which is why I never considered breaking down to be a 911-level emergency, you know?

Excellent and encouraging!

I think I'll go with Page Plus, and get the sim adapter + secondary prepaid plans whenever I feel it's necessary. Wonder if I can make that work outside the country too... hmm.

Both KnowRoaming and Truphone SIM are PAYGO international providers, so yes. I believe KnowRoaming has the better Canadian and Mexican rates of the two, IIRC, but don't quote me on that.

My time on Tracfone/NET10 will certainly caution you with going Page Plus due to crappy customer support with language barriers and billing issues, but if you want to go with them over Selectel anyway... consider yourself warned in advance, and I wish you all the luck in the world.

Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: TheDude on September 13, 2015, 03:22:34 PM
To some degree I agree with IP. Page plus is very much a DIY mvno now. I have pretty good discount otherwise I would most likely go with puppy wireless or slectel over PP. If you do need something from them I would recommend  you sign into your account and use chat.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: gimp on September 14, 2015, 03:29:05 PM
Bah. Fine. I asked for your advice so I should actually listen to it. I'll go with selectel. A few bucks a month in return for them actually fixing problems if they arise is not a bad trade.

Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on September 16, 2015, 07:40:12 AM
A few bucks a month in return for them actually fixing problems if they arise is not a bad trade.

And that right there captures the central guiding principle of the guide and all the advice I provide. :)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: alsoknownasDean on September 19, 2015, 06:57:06 PM
I recently changed mobile carriers (they seem to be offering bulk data for next to nothing these days). I'm getting 8GB of data and unlimited calls/SMS for $50 a month, including a data share SIM that sits in my cellular iPad. I'm on Optus, but Virgin and Vodafone offer 10GB for the same price currently.

I'm actually considering cancelling my ADSL and using mobile data alone for my Internet. I may have to cancel Netflix, but I barely use it anyway.

Currently I'm paying $60 a month for ADSL (with iiNet), which includes 100GB of data (and I use about 30-40GB on average). I'm under contract until November 2016, and it's about $150 to break it.

If I cut my usage down somewhat, I may be able to use the phone data as my sole Internet source and cancel my ADSL. The other advantage is that 4G is probably faster, especially if I get a wifi hotspot and position it for the best signal. Even if I go to the top-tier plans with 15GB or so of data for a bit more, it might still be worthwhile.

Going to Virgin or Vodafone would net me a bit more data, but they each have their own pitfalls, Virgin's excess data is charged at 5.2c/MB (vs $10/GB as is normal), and my phone doesn't support Vodafone's 850MHz 4G network (yet it supports every 4G frequency used on Telstra and Optus).

Hmm :)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on September 21, 2015, 03:30:50 PM
Yet another TWC adventure... last time we spoke, they assured me my promo rate of $35 was extended until April 2016.

Two weeks ago, I finally get the upgraded speeds of 50/5 they are giving to everyone in my area because of Google Fiber, which while not necessary, are nice.

Today I get a letter in the mail saying my rate is going to $45 next month. I call them and not only do they keep me on the promo rate until April like promised, they also drop an additional $5 effective immediately without me even asking. So I'm now paying $30 for 50/5- not a bad deal at all. Go figure.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: geekette on September 21, 2015, 04:34:40 PM
Several people in our area have reported TWC's speed bump, but we're stuck at 17/1.  Got the Google Fiber t-shirt, though!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on September 25, 2015, 07:15:37 PM
geekette, I didn't sign up to get one, but apparently it was such a popular item that this post (https://www.reddit.com/r/triangle/comments/3kq44k/yes_we_all_got_a_shirt_too/) showed up on /r/triangle!



I need to do some business experiments by buying some domain names and see which ones catch people's eye. Ideally, I'd get some intro pricing coupons to snatch them for a few dollars each, and only keep the most successful ones after a few months. Are there any companies that offer intro pricing that do NOT require me to spend an hour on the phone with this guy (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJXww8aizAM) when I want to cancel/transfer them out?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: alsoknownasDean on October 05, 2015, 08:49:56 AM
Well I'll be heading to the States in a couple of weeks for 2 weeks. Hooray.

Of course I'll need to work out what to do with mobile service there, and whether it's worth buying a local SIM versus roaming on the Aussie SIM.

If I use the Aussie SIM, I'll port to Vodafone locally and use their $5 a day roaming offer (and maybe return to Optus once I get back, haha). Otherwise I'll grab a SIM of an AT&T or T-Mobile (GSM phone) carrier and use that.

I'll either use my LG G3 (which doesn't seem to support any American LTE bands, as it's the D855 model, so it'll be 3G only in the States), or put an American SIM into my old iPhone 5 (which is the GSM A1429 model, still won't support any American LTE bands IIRC).

Chances are I'll be pretty heavy on the data as it'll be my sole Internet connection (unless I can get wifi somewhere).

The American SIM would be cheaper, but roaming would mean I'd be able to be contacted from home on my Aussie number and can roam between AT&T and T-Mobile networks depending on the best signal.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Left on October 06, 2015, 06:49:29 AM
It is a hassle but you can be contact by email through text, or the first 140 characters, enough to let you know to check email. If on ATT you can use their email to text service and forward emails to it to get the text. Or setup a Google voice account? Not sure if it is available in Australia

http://www.thegeekstuff.com/2010/08/sms-using-email/
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on October 06, 2015, 07:44:36 AM
The American SIM would be cheaper, but roaming would mean I'd be able to be contacted from home on my Aussie number and can roam between AT&T and T-Mobile networks depending on the best signal.

Dean, didn't you mention at one time having VoIP service? If you do, I'll elaborate on a quick, dirty and cheap way to forward calls to a US number if your provider does INum call forwarding (it involves LocalPhone, which might be the cheapest way to call mobile lines back home anyway - they offer VoIP without using mobile data).

As for the whole roaming between networks, unless you want to pay for SIM cards and service on both networks, just stick with AT&T for better coverage. There's only one good BYOD MVNO I know of that roams between the two and it's Consumer Cellular, and they're not really a provider designed for visitors. Also, don't get hung up on LTE, HSPA+ service in this country is plenty zippy itself, though ping time is a bit higher.

Given your $70 budget cap just roaming, clearly we need to aim for less to make it worthwhile. The big thing is going to be data rates. The best data rate going is about $10/GB with a base cost of $20 for calling. Lucky for you, H2O Wireless' sub-brand easyGO (https://easygo.h2owirelessnow.com/) just launched a SIM program and restructured their prices. $20 for "unlimited" talk and text for 30 days with 100MB of data, a free SIM card with this calling plan, and the ability to PAYGO on data at $10/GB. If you keep yourself under ~290MB a day (4GB total), you'll be ahead of the game. Just remember to use existing data storage for the data hungry stuff like GPS maps, and turn off image loading on websites when not on WiFi, and you'll be fine.

By the way and mostly unrelated, what part(s) of our enormous country are you planning to trek across?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Rosy on October 06, 2015, 12:10:49 PM
IP - I could use a little help in reducing our phone bill. I did read your guide - twice:) and concluded that until we paid off our two new smart phones in September 2016 I'd like to stay with our current carrier, T-Mobile.

Neither one of us is tech savvy, but since we took the plunge in 2014, we do enjoy our smart phones.

My question is primarily about our data needs - it looks to me like based on your guide I could cancel some of the extra data we now have. Maybe if I give you a rundown on our usage you can tell me whether dropping the extra date will cripple our activities - we have cable and I do have my phone on Wi-Fi setting - I saw that our cable provider offers Wi-Fi hot spot, but I don't really understand what that means.

Usage - me:
camera - almost daily:)
g-mail - daily
FB - upload pics/post (5-6 times mo)
library - e-book reading-app? (weekly)
Map-GPS -2-3 times a week
Internet - bank and shopping (10-15 times mo)
Text - 3-10 month
Phone - local 8-10 times a month - int'l (Germany) - 2-3 times a week - (we have add on Int'l call unltd $15mo)

Usage - Mr. R.: text and local and US calls - about 10 a week, GPS and Internet news-weather about 12 times a month.

We both use a few apps in case that matters, but don't play games and although I'd love to use my cell in conjunction with my TV - I don't know how. We don't have netflix or roku, but it is something I would like to consider. Do they even work with a phone or would you recommend a  tablet?

So here it goes - consumer sucka $193.20 mo

$ 80.- Simple Choice Val Family Plan UnlTT+D

my line:
$ 10.- SC UNL + 5GB SMHS til 1/2/16
$ 15.- Stateside Int'l w/Mob

my phone:
$ 22.- LG D959 G Flex
$ 10.- Jump Ins. Warr & Mob Sec

Plus various taxes and fees.

Mr. R.s cell phone
$ 10.-    SC UNL + 5GB SMHS til 1/2/16
$ 16.60  LG D801 G2
$ 10.-     Jump Ins Warr & Mob Sec

Plus $4.30 in taxes and fees

What do you think IP?:
1. Cancel the Jump-Warr-Sec $10 = $20  savings monthly
2. Not sure about the SC UNL + 5GB SMHS - can I drop that and still use our phones the way we are now? Would be another $10 = $20 sav mo
3. The phones will be paid off in September of 2016 - $16.60 plus $22 = $38.60 sav mo

I hope we at least chose well on our phones, because we plan to use both our phones for at least another 4-5 years.


Thank you in advance for your input - much appreciated!


Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: alsoknownasDean on October 06, 2015, 08:14:10 PM
The American SIM would be cheaper, but roaming would mean I'd be able to be contacted from home on my Aussie number and can roam between AT&T and T-Mobile networks depending on the best signal.

Dean, didn't you mention at one time having VoIP service? If you do, I'll elaborate on a quick, dirty and cheap way to forward calls to a US number if your provider does INum call forwarding (it involves LocalPhone, which might be the cheapest way to call mobile lines back home anyway - they offer VoIP without using mobile data).

As for the whole roaming between networks, unless you want to pay for SIM cards and service on both networks, just stick with AT&T for better coverage. There's only one good BYOD MVNO I know of that roams between the two and it's Consumer Cellular, and they're not really a provider designed for visitors. Also, don't get hung up on LTE, HSPA+ service in this country is plenty zippy itself, though ping time is a bit higher.

Given your $70 budget cap just roaming, clearly we need to aim for less to make it worthwhile. The big thing is going to be data rates. The best data rate going is about $10/GB with a base cost of $20 for calling. Lucky for you, H2O Wireless' sub-brand easyGO (https://easygo.h2owirelessnow.com/) just launched a SIM program and restructured their prices. $20 for "unlimited" talk and text for 30 days with 100MB of data, a free SIM card with this calling plan, and the ability to PAYGO on data at $10/GB. If you keep yourself under ~290MB a day (4GB total), you'll be ahead of the game. Just remember to use existing data storage for the data hungry stuff like GPS maps, and turn off image loading on websites when not on WiFi, and you'll be fine.

By the way and mostly unrelated, what part(s) of our enormous country are you planning to trek across?
Hi Daley, thanks for that :)

I certainly do have a VoIP line that goes largely unused. I'll have a look into the call forwarding. I probably should install CSIPSimple (I now have an Android phone too), although I haven't had much incentive to use it locally with unlimited calls on my mobile plan.

So I'm looking at $20 plus $10/GB? Does that include tax, or is tax and other charges added on top of the $20? Is it easy to get a SIM?

Ah, that $70 (actually $75 as I'll be there for 15 days) is in Australian dollars, so it's about $53US. I guess that means that if I use less than 3GB, I'm better off with the easyGO sim,  but if it's over 3GB, I'm better off paying for roaming on Vodafone.

I was hoping there was a carrier that had a daily plan,  didn't T-Mobile have one at one stage?

I don't know much about Google Voice here. I've got some spare Skype credit,  maybe I could use that to get a US DID number for the period if I roamed on an Aussie SIM?

By the way, the AT&T and T-Mobile websites are awful to navigate.

With only two weeks, I won't be able to cover the whole place,  so I'm sticking to the west coast. Flying in to Seattle via Sydney and Honolulu,  driving to LA and flying directly back. I can cover the rest another time :)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on October 06, 2015, 08:52:44 PM
IP - I could use a little help in reducing our phone bill. I did read your guide - twice:) and concluded that until we paid off our two new smart phones in September 2016 I'd like to stay with our current carrier, T-Mobile.

Rosy, I'm gonna need a bit of time to process and research this one. Let me get back to you.

In the mean time, I need you to be more specific about your billable usage. I need actual minutes, texts and amounts of data used per month from your bills. This "use X feature X times a day/week/month" unfortunately doesn't tell me squat about your actual billable usage, because things like the idea of calling Germany twice a week doesn't articulate how long the phone calls are. Those two calls could literally describe anything between two minutes and sixteen hours. Same with the "bank and shopping"... I need real world usage to provide real world solutions.



Hi Daley, thanks for that :)

I certainly do have a VoIP line that goes largely unused. I'll have a look into the call forwarding. I probably should install CSIPSimple (I now have an Android phone too), although I haven't had much incentive to use it locally with unlimited calls on my mobile plan.

So I'm looking at $20 plus $10/GB? Does that include tax, or is tax and other charges added on top of the $20? Is it easy to get a SIM?

Ah, that $70 (actually $75 as I'll be there for 15 days) is in Australian dollars, so it's about $53US. I guess that means that if I use less than 3GB, I'm better off with the easyGO sim,  but if it's over 3GB, I'm better off paying for roaming on Vodafone.

I was hoping there was a carrier that had a daily plan,  didn't T-Mobile have one at one stage?

I don't know much about Google Voice here. I've got some spare Skype credit,  maybe I could use that to get a US DID number for the period if I roamed on an Aussie SIM?

By the way, the AT&T and T-Mobile websites are awful to navigate.

With only two weeks, I won't be able to cover the whole place,  so I'm sticking to the west coast. Flying in to Seattle via Sydney and Honolulu,  driving to LA and flying directly back. I can cover the rest another time :)

Right right, forgot about the monetary conversion this morning. Sorry about that. Also, yes, the major carrier websites are a trainwreck to navigate.

Taxes are rolled into those prices, excuse sales tax (if the MVNO even charges it directly). Getting a SIM card from H2O Wireless will take a bit of pre-planning if you buy directly.

What few prepaid mobile daily plans that are left are hideous expensive and don't include data. There's barely any weekly or half month plans (even from the crappy carriers) anymore.

Don't waste your time with Google Voice. If you've got the spare Skype credit, that might be an option, otherwise, LocalPhone.

Mobile data is just flat-out expensive here. H2O Wireless (not the easyGO sub-brand) at $35 and up and P'tel at $30 and up both offer "unlimited" 2G data over the high speed allotment with their "unlimited" plans. T-Mobile MVNOs such as P'tel are going to offer more data per buck than the AT&T MVNOs. You can get cheap P'tel SIM cards off Ebay, and H2O usually gives their SIM cards away with new orders. If you'd rather just have a SIM card waiting and activate, though, cheap SIMs can be had from Ebay for them as well.

Going T-Mobile, you might find a few dead spots in the Pacific NW cruising down I-5, but you'd still be able to call emergency services if anything were to happen.

Seriously, I know it'll be your primary internet connection for the visit, but employ as many data saving techniques as possible if you want to keep costs down stateside. Heck, you're on vacation, try to unplug as much as possible.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Rosy on October 06, 2015, 09:58:18 PM
Quote
Quote from: Rosy on Today at 12:10:49 PM
IP - I could use a little help in reducing our phone bill. I did read your guide - twice:) and concluded that until we paid off our two new smart phones in September 2016 I'd like to stay with our current carrier, T-Mobile.

Rosy, I'm gonna need a bit of time to process and research this one. Let me get back to you.

In the mean time, I need you to be more specific about your billable usage. I need actual minutes, texts and amounts of data used per month from your bills. This "use X feature X times a day/week/month" unfortunately doesn't tell me squat about your actual billable usage, because things like the idea of calling Germany twice a week doesn't articulate how long the phone calls are. Those two calls could literally describe anything between two minutes and sixteen hours. Same with the "bank and shopping"... I need real world usage to provide real world solutions.

Thanks, Dailey - much appreciated. Germany is almost always over an hour. My mom isn't doing so well....
The printed bill doesn't show usage - but I bet it does on line somewhere, I'll figure it out:) and get back to you, later tomorrow.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: alsoknownasDean on October 09, 2015, 07:58:50 AM
IP - I could use a little help in reducing our phone bill. I did read your guide - twice:) and concluded that until we paid off our two new smart phones in September 2016 I'd like to stay with our current carrier, T-Mobile.

Rosy, I'm gonna need a bit of time to process and research this one. Let me get back to you.

In the mean time, I need you to be more specific about your billable usage. I need actual minutes, texts and amounts of data used per month from your bills. This "use X feature X times a day/week/month" unfortunately doesn't tell me squat about your actual billable usage, because things like the idea of calling Germany twice a week doesn't articulate how long the phone calls are. Those two calls could literally describe anything between two minutes and sixteen hours. Same with the "bank and shopping"... I need real world usage to provide real world solutions.



Hi Daley, thanks for that :)

I certainly do have a VoIP line that goes largely unused. I'll have a look into the call forwarding. I probably should install CSIPSimple (I now have an Android phone too), although I haven't had much incentive to use it locally with unlimited calls on my mobile plan.

So I'm looking at $20 plus $10/GB? Does that include tax, or is tax and other charges added on top of the $20? Is it easy to get a SIM?

Ah, that $70 (actually $75 as I'll be there for 15 days) is in Australian dollars, so it's about $53US. I guess that means that if I use less than 3GB, I'm better off with the easyGO sim,  but if it's over 3GB, I'm better off paying for roaming on Vodafone.

I was hoping there was a carrier that had a daily plan,  didn't T-Mobile have one at one stage?

I don't know much about Google Voice here. I've got some spare Skype credit,  maybe I could use that to get a US DID number for the period if I roamed on an Aussie SIM?

By the way, the AT&T and T-Mobile websites are awful to navigate.

With only two weeks, I won't be able to cover the whole place,  so I'm sticking to the west coast. Flying in to Seattle via Sydney and Honolulu,  driving to LA and flying directly back. I can cover the rest another time :)

Right right, forgot about the monetary conversion this morning. Sorry about that. Also, yes, the major carrier websites are a trainwreck to navigate.

Taxes are rolled into those prices, excuse sales tax (if the MVNO even charges it directly). Getting a SIM card from H2O Wireless will take a bit of pre-planning if you buy directly.

What few prepaid mobile daily plans that are left are hideous expensive and don't include data. There's barely any weekly or half month plans (even from the crappy carriers) anymore.

Don't waste your time with Google Voice. If you've got the spare Skype credit, that might be an option, otherwise, LocalPhone.

Mobile data is just flat-out expensive here. H2O Wireless (not the easyGO sub-brand) at $35 and up and P'tel at $30 and up both offer "unlimited" 2G data over the high speed allotment with their "unlimited" plans. T-Mobile MVNOs such as P'tel are going to offer more data per buck than the AT&T MVNOs. You can get cheap P'tel SIM cards off Ebay, and H2O usually gives their SIM cards away with new orders. If you'd rather just have a SIM card waiting and activate, though, cheap SIMs can be had from Ebay for them as well.

Going T-Mobile, you might find a few dead spots in the Pacific NW cruising down I-5, but you'd still be able to call emergency services if anything were to happen.

Seriously, I know it'll be your primary internet connection for the visit, but employ as many data saving techniques as possible if you want to keep costs down stateside. Heck, you're on vacation, try to unplug as much as possible.
Daley,  do you know much about the Burner app? It seems like I could use that to get a US number while over there :)

Getting a US number via Skype would cost me a further $3 on top of my outstanding credit.

Sent from my LG-D855 using Tapatalk

Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on October 09, 2015, 08:54:44 AM
Daley,  do you know much about the Burner app? It seems like I could use that to get a US number while over there :)

Getting a US number via Skype would cost me a further $3 on top of my outstanding credit.

Burner is only a free service long enough to try it out, it'd cost you $2USD to have it last the full 14 days, and it'd still only give you 20 minutes of talk time. Combined with the one shot freebie credit (at least on iOS), you're only looking at 21 days and 25 minutes of talk time for that two bucks. If you're using it on Android, it gets a bit more expensive as the trial is only good for 24 hours and the "mini" package is only good for seven days.

If you don't mind the datamining, maybe give TextNow a look. That'll give you a US phone number with "unlimited" "free" calls and texts. Of the lot of "free" VoIP number apps, it's one of the more robust and has one of the least skin crawling privacy policies.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: jerebo on October 10, 2015, 12:31:15 PM
Hello all,

I'm new here, but have been reading the blog for a while and lurking in the forums for a week or so. I've also read Mr. Daley's guide. This will be a somewhat long thread. I'm looking for reviews of Ultra Mobile (considering it for my daughter), thoughts on handsets, and help deciding between Truphone and P-Tel for myself.

I am considering Ultra Mobile for my teenaged daughter, who sends 1000 texts a month and uses about 400 minutes of voice. Though she only used about 300 MB of data last month, I think the number of texts she sends puts her in the unlimited range. The best deal seems to be Ultra Mobile's unlimited talk, text, and 1 GB of LTE data for $228 for 12 months (that works out to $19/month). But if the service isn't reliable and the customer service is poor, then maybe I'd be better off with P-tel's $30/month plan, rather than being locked in for a year. T-Mobile has good coverage in our area, and my daughter already has an unlocked GSM phone.

For myself, I plan to go with a true paygo system and use VOIP (Local Phone) via a soft phone on my handset. If I can convince DH to put in a landline, we'll probably go with Local Phone for that service too. I do a fair bit of texting, but mostly with my husband and daughter. I can offload a lot of that to wi-fi with Hangouts (my husband's preferred) and maybe Kik or Nimbuzz with my daughter (who is using a Windows phone at the moment). A few other people text me on occasion, but that doesn't represent a large part of my texting.

So, my questions are about handsets and paygo services. For paygo, I'm considering either TruPhone or P-tel.  If I primarily limit my outgoing calls to voip when I'm near wifi (most of the time), then maybe TruPhone is a better deal. I can pay the $.09/minute for the occasional call over the cellular networks (and not abuse their services). Data is slightly less expensive with TruPhone than with P-tel, but texts are quite a bit more. Though I don't need to send very many over cellular. I know that P-tel is very well reviewed with great customer service. But I believe that TruPhone might allow some roaming, plus I do occasionally travel internationally (to Russia), so am leaning toward the latter.

My biggest question is probably about the hardware. I'm currently using my husband's discarded Moto G. It has the advantage of easy Google Voice. If I understand correctly, I think that using Hangouts for all of SMS means that SMS goes through data, is that right? And DH is being a pain about loading another app on his phone for sending texts. The phone is already paid for, so that seems the most frugal thing to do. Although my daughter might prefer Android to Windows and I could give it to her.

My other thoughts are to get a phone with a keyboard: perhaps the Blackberry Q10 (reasonably inexpensive--especially used, apparently uses less data than Android), and still getting support. I've also wondered about a Nokia Asha or a Nokia e71.

With the Nokia Asha, is it possible to use VOIP? Is it "baked" into the OS, as it apparently is for Symbian? If not, what soft phones are available to use with it? I've also heard that GPS navigation is available with an Asha. How does that work? I like the possibility of getting a dual sim phone with the Asha. When I travel, I usually buy a local sim card. Data in Russia is super cheap--1 GB for $5 (and this was before the ruble crashed).

I like the Nokia e71's a lot. But it is a legacy phone that is no longer updated. I'm not technically very savvy. Even though DH is, he's not entirely supportive of my decision. In fact, he wants me to get an iPhone (I can get an excellent deal through work, $200 for the 6s, then a $35/mo contract for 2 years. For an iPhone, that's very good), and told me that at the first complaint about my new frugal system, he's buying me an iPhone.

Which of the four phones would you recommend? Keep going with the Android--and avoid buying another phone altogether. A Blackberry? An Asha? Or an E 71?

Maybe I'm straining at gnats here.

Thanks for any advice you can give me.

Symbian intrigues me, too
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on October 10, 2015, 08:19:36 PM
Shalom aleichem, Jerebo! Are you the same person who sent me a couple messages through the Technical Meshugana contact form a couple days ago? If so, I did respond to you Friday.

I wouldn't really recommend Ultra Mobile if you're going slightly off the beaten path of providers. In the scenario put forth, H2O Wireless' newer easyGO (https://easygo.h2owirelessnow.com/) brand has a $20/month "unlimited" talk and text plan with 100MB of data, and their $10/1GB data packages roll over between billing cycles until it's used. Plus, you'd get AT&T coverage instead of T-Mobile - not that it sounds like that's a huge benefit in your area. Kind of a win-win in this situation for easyGO over Ultra, though, and the rough aggregate price difference would work out to only be around an extra $2.00-2.50 a month... and you still wouldn't have to deal with a year lock-in.

If you're who I think you are, factoring some of the numbers you gave me through the website plus this, if you're looking at three mobile lines in total? Maybe look into Ting GSM and Consumer Cellular as well instead of targeting cheap unlimited plans. Normally I don't recommend Ting or CC unless it's a multi-family situation, but it doesn't hurt to compare rates if you're shopping anyway and seeing if pooling resources might work for the better.

Regarding Truphone, yes, they roam on both AT&T and T-Mobile. Consumer Cellular does similarly. As far as international roaming, there's also KnowRoaming which is a SIM sticker overlay, effectively turning your phone into a dual-SIM device that you can switch between.

Regarding Hangouts, yes, texting through Hangouts uses data.

I'm growing cooler to the older Nokia Symbian handsets these days (both S40 and S60) due to some of the older handsets lack of modern SSL support post-POODLE. We had to retire my wife's E63 because of this. VoIP is really only something that was integrated into the S60 OS. As Asha was an S40 platform, there's no VoIP support for the handsets. The oldest S60 handset that still works with current SSL standards is the E72. On the S40 end, I'm not sure where the line was, but the C3-00 can still do SSL. Either way, the OS isn't aging gracefully post-support drop in a world of broken encryption standards. Towards that point, I'd recommend the Q10 and BBOS10 over any Nokia Symbian handsets... and though BBOS10 does handle Android apps, it doesn't handle Google+ apps gracefully and without significant effort. I certainly wouldn't recommend the E71 at this point as you'll be froze out of any and all secure internet communications.

Bottom line, though, I always recommend reusing and wearing out technology that you already own instead of buying something else. If you've got a Moto G, use it.

Hope this helps, and try not to swallow any camels while you're straining. :)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: jerebo on October 10, 2015, 10:58:09 PM
Thank you, Daley, for that detailed response, especially since I just now found your previous response to me in which you gave me some of the same info :)

Thanks for the heads up on the Easy Go plan; it looks like a great deal! Their paygo rates are pretty good, too. That's about the cheapest I've seen for paygo data (excepting Russia!) I've looked into Consumer Cellular (and Ting). Consumer Cellular looks like a great deal, except the website seems to force me to buy one of their phones. Is that a requirement for their service? Can I get their service somewhere else? It looks like DD and I could share a plan for a total of $50 a month--giving her all the voice and text she needs. Ting might be an option, too, especially since they do GSM as well as Sprint.

I really think I can off load most of my texting to Google Hangouts with my husband and to Kik with my daughter. I bet I average 20 texts a month with other people--more some months than others. So, a paygo plan might yet work for me.

Know Roaming looks really cool and seems like it would great for short-term travel. Sometimes we travel for 2 months at a time (I take students on study abroad and we have relatives in Germany), so getting a local sim card works out much cheaper for those circumstances.

Thank you for the advice on the handsets. It's definitely not very Mustachian of me to want to get a new handset instead of using up what I have. I just really like physical keyboards.

Of course, there are bigger things to take care of than my cell phone package. Like trying to convince DH to give up cable. We went years with only a digital antennae and Netflix. But then Google Fiber came in with FREE internet. And now we not only have cable, we have the extra sports package. And he's convinced he can't live without it! I'm catching up on the thread about how to convert your spouse to a Mustachian.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: TomTX on October 11, 2015, 06:40:24 AM
Well, I need a new phone anyway and I have sent in a request for a Google Fi invite. $20/month for unlimited talk and text, direct LTE access to both Tmobile and Sprint networks, data is pay-as-you-go on cellular, free (as it should be) on Wifi.

I previously had Wifi calling on Tmobile, but it was always a pain in the ass. Dropped calls, not switching over, having to manually turn off Wifi when there was an issue. I'm sick of poor connectivity. None of the providers has a good cell signal in my house, or my office. I have strong Wifi at both. I'm also sick of the shitty/late Android updates via Samsung/Tmobile.

Notionally, Fi is supposed to seamlessly transition between Tmobile, Sprint and Wifi, automatically using the best connection. There are a million tested-good Wifi hotspots included, and the service is still in beta test. There are reports of roaming on both Verizon and ATT.

One drawback: You have to use one of 3 phones: the currently available Nexus 6, or the just-launched-shipping-soon Nexus 5x or 6p. They appear to all connect to all common US network flavors, and they are all updated/updating to Android 6/Marshmallow. I expect updates to continue to be swift, as these are Google's inhouse phones.

Somewhat spendy? Yeah. Less expensive than the typical "flagship" phone, but fairly spendy. $350, $379 and $449 respectively (with upgrades available beyond that.)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: alsoknownasDean on October 11, 2015, 07:40:54 AM
Daley,  do you know much about the Burner app? It seems like I could use that to get a US number while over there :)

Getting a US number via Skype would cost me a further $3 on top of my outstanding credit.

Burner is only a free service long enough to try it out, it'd cost you $2USD to have it last the full 14 days, and it'd still only give you 20 minutes of talk time. Combined with the one shot freebie credit (at least on iOS), you're only looking at 21 days and 25 minutes of talk time for that two bucks. If you're using it on Android, it gets a bit more expensive as the trial is only good for 24 hours and the "mini" package is only good for seven days.

If you don't mind the datamining, maybe give TextNow a look. That'll give you a US phone number with "unlimited" "free" calls and texts. Of the lot of "free" VoIP number apps, it's one of the more robust and has one of the least skin crawling privacy policies.

I'll have a look at TextNow, but I'm prepared to pay a couple of bucks if need be. It's certainly more elegant than buying a $3 T-Mobile PAYG SIM and popping it in my iPhone like I was considering. :)

However, it'll really only be for the odd incoming call. Any outgoing calls will be made with my Australian SIM. I'll be changing to Vodafone for the cheap roaming. Bonus is that the first month is half price.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on October 11, 2015, 09:17:02 AM
Thank you, Daley, for that detailed response, especially since I just now found your previous response to me in which you gave me some of the same info :)

Not a problem. Regarding the new questions:

Consumer Cellular lets you BYOD and gives away free SIM cards (https://www.consumercellular.com/Info/PhoneDetails/436) to boot.

Longer trips, native SIM cards usually work out cheapest. That said, there's nothing stopping you from combining a Truphone SIM with a KnowRoaming sticker and having the best and cheapest of both international roaming providers. Germany is one of the Truphone countries, if I remember right. :)

Regarding Ting, they do offer both T-Mobile and Sprint coverage, but not at the same time on the phones. It's an either-or dependent upon whether the phone is a GSM handset or a Sprint-badged CDMA one.

I don't blame you on the physical keyboard preference, I'm exactly the same way... however, it's not so strong that I'd spend money on one if I already had a fully functioning slab phone.

Regarding the sports issue, if I may briefly tap into the secondary message you sent me... Ken Raggio is a Oneness Pentecostal, and though I have a couple philosophical bones to pick with the man and the movement (let's be honest, matters of faith and agreement on the more trivial stuff can be difficult at times, especially between brothers and sisters in the faith inclined toward the more scholarly pursuits - and I'm not exactly mainstream myself with my own more Messianic Jewish/Netzari positions on the faith in general), Ken's rather hard words on the subject of organized sports (http://kenraggio.blogspot.com/2012/02/sports-versus-christianity.html) are not exactly disagreeable... in fact, one might say his words quite literally hit the mark regarding modern sports fandom missing the mark (http://biblehub.com/greek/266.htm). I'm not saying you should have your husband read it himself, but perhaps take the lessons away and learn how to present the incompatibilities in love as they present themselves in your own walks in a way that he would understand and not just shut out when heard. Mustachianism is fine as a philosophy, but the thing to remember for you guys is the faith first and foremost, and how the core values of mustachianism when applied rationally dovetails into the values of both Christianity and Torah.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on October 11, 2015, 09:23:43 AM
I previously had Wifi calling on Tmobile, but it was always a pain in the ass. Dropped calls, not switching over, having to manually turn off Wifi when there was an issue. I'm sick of poor connectivity. None of the providers has a good cell signal in my house, or my office. I have strong Wifi at both. I'm also sick of the shitty/late Android updates via Samsung/Tmobile.

Notionally, Fi is supposed to seamlessly transition between Tmobile, Sprint and Wifi, automatically using the best connection. There are a million tested-good Wifi hotspots included, and the service is still in beta test.

The thing to remember is that both T-Mobile and Google Fi are using UMA for that GSM/WiFi call handoff. Perhaps you were having problems with the implementation and hardware while on T-Mobile, but the technology allowing that supposedly seamless switch is going to be identical. If you still have problems with it after the switch to Fi, I'd potentially look into your router as a possible failure point as well.



I'll have a look at TextNow, but I'm prepared to pay a couple of bucks if need be. It's certainly more elegant than buying a $3 T-Mobile PAYG SIM and popping it in my iPhone like I was considering. :)

However, it'll really only be for the odd incoming call. Any outgoing calls will be made with my Australian SIM. I'll be changing to Vodafone for the cheap roaming. Bonus is that the first month is half price.

Excellent. Let me know what you decide on, feel free to report back, and have a safe and fun trip!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: alsoknownasDean on October 12, 2015, 05:09:08 AM
I'll have a look at TextNow, but I'm prepared to pay a couple of bucks if need be. It's certainly more elegant than buying a $3 T-Mobile PAYG SIM and popping it in my iPhone like I was considering. :)

However, it'll really only be for the odd incoming call. Any outgoing calls will be made with my Australian SIM. I'll be changing to Vodafone for the cheap roaming. Bonus is that the first month is half price.

Excellent. Let me know what you decide on, feel free to report back, and have a safe and fun trip!

There's a bit of a spanner thrown in the works. Seems all of my porting phones and applying for new credit cards lately hasn't helped my credit, as I was declined by Vodafone (even though I had no issues signing up with them in May). Damn. Optus roaming is more expensive, so I'm not bothering with that.

I've been eyeing MVNOs in your guide and elsewhere (hell I even looked at the America Movil ones you've said to avoid), and it seems that if I want a couple of gigabytes, I'd be paying $50+ a month (except maybe with Cricket). As I'll be using OTT apps for messaging and can set up my SIP number to call back home, it probably doesn't matter if I don't have a lot of calls.

With a lot of those MVNOs, I'd probably have trouble getting a SIM if I can't pick it up at a store at the airport or a nearby convenience store too.

However, none of the carriers with PAYG plans seem to have add-on data packs...except for T-Mobile. They've got their $3 a month prepaid plan with 30min/30 texts and a 7 day data pass is $10 a week for 1GB. Added bonus is I could probably pick up a SIM at the airport or a store anywhere. Even if the coverage is a bit shit outside of cities (especially as my phone works on 1900MHz 3G only, not the kooky 1700 they also use), it might be worthwhile if I can keep my data usage under 1GB a week. Free wifi's fairly widespread there, no?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on October 12, 2015, 08:46:09 AM
However, none of the carriers with PAYG plans seem to have add-on data packs...except for T-Mobile. They've got their $3 a month prepaid plan with 30min/30 texts and a 7 day data pass is $10 a week for 1GB. Added bonus is I could probably pick up a SIM at the airport or a store anywhere. Even if the coverage is a bit shit outside of cities (especially as my phone works on 1900MHz 3G only, not the kooky 1700 they also use), it might be worthwhile if I can keep my data usage under 1GB a week. Free wifi's fairly widespread there, no?

Sorry to hear about the spanner, mate.

Looks like at this late stage, it's now T-Mobile prepaid as your easiest option. T-Mobile's been re-farming a lot of their services across their spectrum recently, and one of the things they've done is migrated HSPA+ from the 1700MHz AWS bands over to the 1900MHz PCS bands in most of their markets now. That might help. Also, data's not a big add-on here, unfortunately. Everyone wants to mine for big bucks on data, even on the MVNO end, since it's so blasted expensive.

WiFi is reasonably available in commercial areas, but be selective about what traffic you pass on those networks, and I'd recommend you stay away from private open hotspots. Use common sense and be security minded.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: jerebo on October 12, 2015, 03:32:32 PM
I'm just learning this software, so forgive me if I do weird stuff with the quotes!

Quote
Consumer Cellular lets you BYOD and gives away free SIM cards to boot.

Ooh, that link seems to take me to some page that I wasn't accessing earlier. With some nice texting/data only plans (if I've read it right.) It's too bad that so many places won't let you buy data without the phone service, too.

Code: [Select]
Bottom line, though, I always recommend reusing and wearing out technology that you already own instead of buying something else. If you've got a Moto G, use it.
I'm fixin' to do just that. Though I have noticed my cell phone "leaking data." I happened to be sitting in a meeting the other day with no wifi. In two long hours without going on to the Internet or using any cellular services, my phone used 2 MB!  At $0.05 to $0.10 a MB, that kind of usage will cost me a lot. I turned off background syncing on most apps, except for SMS services and think that the data leakage has slowed. And at work I just turned off the mobile data entirely. I've read about Juice Defender and other apps. Is there on app that will reliably turn off mobile data when the phone is on wifi? I've read that some Androids, in particular, will continue using data from the cellular towers even when connected to wi fi.

Code: [Select]
Regarding the sports issue, if I may briefly tap into the secondary message you sent me... Ken Raggio is a Oneness Pentecostal, and though I have a couple philosophical bones to pick with the man and the movement (let's be honest, matters of faith and agreement on the more trivial stuff can be difficult at times, especially between brothers and sisters in the faith inclined toward the more scholarly pursuits - and I'm not exactly mainstream myself with my own more Messianic Jewish/Netzari positions on the faith in general), Ken's rather hard words on the subject of organized sports are not exactly disagreeable... in fact, one might say his words quite literally hit the mark regarding modern sports fandom missing the mark. I'm not saying you should have your husband read it himself, but perhaps take the lessons away and learn how to present the incompatibilities in love as they present themselves in your own walks in a way that he would understand and not just shut out when heard.
You've given me a lot to think about. I've already had pangs of conscience over my love of college football due to the brain trauma question. I do admit that football, in particular, feels a bit like the gladiators in the coliseum!

I've got lots to consider in terms of possible cell plans. I've looked at Liberty Wireless and their ten dollar deal for unlimited texts and 100 minutes of voice sounds good. But then I worry that I might have a month where I need more than 100 minutes--if something were to happen to my aging parents, for instance. And there's no data. So maybe I'd be better off with Airvoice's $10 plan; then I can accrue minutes in case I need them, and make use of cheaper data to send SMS. Or the new EasyGo paygo plan looks pretty compelling, too. Voice and texts are more expensive than P-tel, but the data is so inexpensive.

And I'm trying to choose a VOIP plan. Decisions, decisions. And in the end, the price difference is largely negligible. Maybe that's why it's so hard to choose?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on October 21, 2015, 10:17:30 AM
I'm fixin' to do just that. Though I have noticed my cell phone "leaking data." I happened to be sitting in a meeting the other day with no wifi. In two long hours without going on to the Internet or using any cellular services, my phone used 2 MB!  At $0.05 to $0.10 a MB, that kind of usage will cost me a lot. I turned off background syncing on most apps, except for SMS services and think that the data leakage has slowed. And at work I just turned off the mobile data entirely. I've read about Juice Defender and other apps. Is there on app that will reliably turn off mobile data when the phone is on wifi? I've read that some Androids, in particular, will continue using data from the cellular towers even when connected to wi fi.

Android has a built in data monitor now, start there first. Here's a couple (http://www.howtogeek.com/140261/how-to-minimize-your-android-data-usage-and-avoid-overage-charges/?PageSpeed=noscript) guides (http://blog.knowroaming.com/make-data-roaming/) on tweaking and minimizing data usage. Ignore the KnowRoaming advertising and context on the second one, it's still relevant for tighter data management.

You've given me a lot to think about. I've already had pangs of conscience over my love of college football due to the brain trauma question. I do admit that football, in particular, feels a bit like the gladiators in the coliseum!

Football and a bucket of hot wings does feel a bit bread-and-circus-y in this country at times.

I've got lots to consider in terms of possible cell plans. I've looked at Liberty Wireless and their ten dollar deal for unlimited texts and 100 minutes of voice sounds good. But then I worry that I might have a month where I need more than 100 minutes--if something were to happen to my aging parents, for instance. And there's no data. So maybe I'd be better off with Airvoice's $10 plan; then I can accrue minutes in case I need them, and make use of cheaper data to send SMS. Or the new EasyGo paygo plan looks pretty compelling, too. Voice and texts are more expensive than P-tel, but the data is so inexpensive.

The key is focusing on what's most important to you in your communications device and not being afraid to pay for what you need.

And I'm trying to choose a VOIP plan. Decisions, decisions. And in the end, the price difference is largely negligible. Maybe that's why it's so hard to choose?

Choose what works best for you. Some have features that others don't (FAX, voicemail-to-text, anonymous call block, whitelists/blacklists, call forwarding, SMS gateway, IVR menus, etc.). Some require more technical skill to set up than others. Go with what serves you best.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: geekette on October 21, 2015, 10:27:54 AM
Short question - is there a way to make cell phone calls answerable on house wiring?

Long version - we have VoIPo, and are up for renewal soon.  We don't use it much, but it seems like when we have a need, it often needs a reboot, or, like Monday when I was trying to arrange plans with a bunch of people, it was mostly out altogether (per chat with VoIPo, after we'd rebooted everything from the wall out twice).

We dislike long calls on the cell, so we keep the landline for long calls like family and those interminable customer "service" calls. 
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on October 21, 2015, 10:41:55 AM
Short question - is there a way to make cell phone calls answerable on house wiring?

Long version - we have VoIPo, and are up for renewal soon.  We don't use it much, but it seems like when we have a need, it often needs a reboot, or, like Monday when I was trying to arrange plans with a bunch of people, it was mostly out altogether (per chat with VoIPo, after we'd rebooted everything from the wall out twice).

We dislike long calls on the cell, so we keep the landline for long calls like family and those interminable customer "service" calls.

Sorry to hear you're having problems with VOIPo. It sounds like the ATA might be going a little sour on you. Could be either the power supply or the capacitors in the ATA itself.

Regarding your question, however... the key phrase to hit Amazon with is "bluetooth to landline (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?field-keywords=bluetooth+to+landline)." There's a whole mess of options from simple bridges to wireless phone systems with it built-in.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: alsoknownasDean on October 21, 2015, 09:32:50 PM
However, none of the carriers with PAYG plans seem to have add-on data packs...except for T-Mobile. They've got their $3 a month prepaid plan with 30min/30 texts and a 7 day data pass is $10 a week for 1GB. Added bonus is I could probably pick up a SIM at the airport or a store anywhere. Even if the coverage is a bit shit outside of cities (especially as my phone works on 1900MHz 3G only, not the kooky 1700 they also use), it might be worthwhile if I can keep my data usage under 1GB a week. Free wifi's fairly widespread there, no?

Sorry to hear about the spanner, mate.

Looks like at this late stage, it's now T-Mobile prepaid as your easiest option. T-Mobile's been re-farming a lot of their services across their spectrum recently, and one of the things they've done is migrated HSPA+ from the 1700MHz AWS bands over to the 1900MHz PCS bands in most of their markets now. That might help. Also, data's not a big add-on here, unfortunately. Everyone wants to mine for big bucks on data, even on the MVNO end, since it's so blasted expensive.

WiFi is reasonably available in commercial areas, but be selective about what traffic you pass on those networks, and I'd recommend you stay away from private open hotspots. Use common sense and be security minded.
I know you're going to be disappointed with me on this one Daley.

I arrived at the airport a couple of days ago, couldn't find an AT&T or T-Mobile store. Later that day I saw a shop near the airport selling SIM cards,  and the person at the store said that most were $15-25 for the card alone,  plus the plan,  except for Simplemobile.

I bought one of the SIMs for them,  and then checked their website and it has 'Tracfone' at the bottom. Yep, America Movil, I know you're not a fan. It works OK,  but I can't find a usage tracker app. Oh well, no big deal, I'm only here for a couple of weeks.

I tend to get fairly consistent 3G, but it drops a bit indoors.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Travis on November 12, 2015, 02:06:43 AM
I started making WiFi calls using Hangouts, but I haven't been able to turn on my caller ID.  My phone shows up as a blocked number to the people I'm trying to call.  The service says to click a couple buttons and it'll text me a code, but the code has never shown up.  The Google forums are crickets on the subject. Anyone had this situation?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on November 12, 2015, 07:49:06 AM
I started making WiFi calls using Hangouts, but I haven't been able to turn on my caller ID.
....
Anyone had this situation?

Question: Do you have a Google Voice phone number associated with your Hangouts account?

From Hangouts Help (https://support.google.com/hangouts/answer/3187125?hl=en&ref_topic=3187124):
Quote
Caller ID for calls placed in Hangouts

When you make a call in Hangouts, the Caller ID will show the number as "unknown," and you can't receive phone calls back to your number.

But if you make a call through Hangouts with a Google Voice account, your Google Voice number will display on the Caller ID.

The long-short of it? You either need to grab a Google Voice phone number or port a number into Google Voice to get any outbound calls through Hangouts to display anything but "unknown number"... unless you're using Sprint postpaid, then we're dealing with a whole other beast (https://support.google.com/voice/answer/115073?&ref_topic=1707989).

If you're just using Hangouts to save money and reduce mobile minutes while home, try going Localphone instead. They have US calling subscriptions (https://www.localphone.com/call/united_states) starting at 75¢/month for 250 minutes (4 hours 10 minutes), they have their own calling app (https://www.localphone.com/services/android) that doesn't require any configuration to use, and you can set your outbound Caller ID (https://www.localphone.com/help/incoming_numbers) to any phone number you can verify as having access to. Basically, it'll do everything it looks like you're wanting to do for a few pennies a month.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Travis on November 12, 2015, 08:32:05 AM
I started making WiFi calls using Hangouts, but I haven't been able to turn on my caller ID.
....
Anyone had this situation?

Question: Do you have a Google Voice phone number associated with your Hangouts account?

From Hangouts Help (https://support.google.com/hangouts/answer/3187125?hl=en&ref_topic=3187124):
Quote
Caller ID for calls placed in Hangouts

When you make a call in Hangouts, the Caller ID will show the number as "unknown," and you can't receive phone calls back to your number.

But if you make a call through Hangouts with a Google Voice account, your Google Voice number will display on the Caller ID.

The long-short of it? You either need to grab a Google Voice phone number or port a number into Google Voice to get any outbound calls through Hangouts to display anything but "unknown number"... unless you're using Sprint postpaid, then we're dealing with a whole other beast (https://support.google.com/voice/answer/115073?&ref_topic=1707989).

If you're just using Hangouts to save money and reduce mobile minutes while home, try going Localphone instead. They have US calling subscriptions (https://www.localphone.com/call/united_states) starting at 75¢/month for 250 minutes (4 hours 10 minutes), they have their own calling app (https://www.localphone.com/services/android) that doesn't require any configuration to use, and you can set your outbound Caller ID (https://www.localphone.com/help/incoming_numbers) to any phone number you can verify as having access to. Basically, it'll do everything it looks like you're wanting to do for a few pennies a month.

I've been doing it with my normal cell number.  Having a second phone number will probably confuse the people I'm calling just as much as being "unknown."  I'll take a look at Localphone.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: alsoknownasDean on November 18, 2015, 05:14:40 AM
However, none of the carriers with PAYG plans seem to have add-on data packs...except for T-Mobile. They've got their $3 a month prepaid plan with 30min/30 texts and a 7 day data pass is $10 a week for 1GB. Added bonus is I could probably pick up a SIM at the airport or a store anywhere. Even if the coverage is a bit shit outside of cities (especially as my phone works on 1900MHz 3G only, not the kooky 1700 they also use), it might be worthwhile if I can keep my data usage under 1GB a week. Free wifi's fairly widespread there, no?

Sorry to hear about the spanner, mate.

Looks like at this late stage, it's now T-Mobile prepaid as your easiest option. T-Mobile's been re-farming a lot of their services across their spectrum recently, and one of the things they've done is migrated HSPA+ from the 1700MHz AWS bands over to the 1900MHz PCS bands in most of their markets now. That might help. Also, data's not a big add-on here, unfortunately. Everyone wants to mine for big bucks on data, even on the MVNO end, since it's so blasted expensive.

WiFi is reasonably available in commercial areas, but be selective about what traffic you pass on those networks, and I'd recommend you stay away from private open hotspots. Use common sense and be security minded.
I know you're going to be disappointed with me on this one Daley.

I arrived at the airport a couple of days ago, couldn't find an AT&T or T-Mobile store. Later that day I saw a shop near the airport selling SIM cards,  and the person at the store said that most were $15-25 for the card alone,  plus the plan,  except for Simplemobile.

I bought one of the SIMs for them,  and then checked their website and it has 'Tracfone' at the bottom. Yep, America Movil, I know you're not a fan. It works OK,  but I can't find a usage tracker app. Oh well, no big deal, I'm only here for a couple of weeks.

I tend to get fairly consistent 3G, but it drops a bit indoors.

SimpleMobile worked OK for the trip, in many places along highways (Route 101, etc) where there was no T-Mobile coverage, it roamed on AT&T (slowly but it worked).

I think next time I'll aim for an AT&T MVNO (or roaming will be cheaper). Indoor coverage wasn't brilliant with there being no lower-frequency 3G, but it seemed to work fine in the cities.

I will say that 3G still works fine for most uses. I've been spoilt by consistent 4G LTE coverage nearly wherever I go in Australia, but as my phone doesn't support US LTE networks, I was on 3G for the entire trip, and the data was still perfectly usable (speeds were often similar to the ADSL I have back here in Aus).

I noticed one other thing. I took my iPad and my phone with me, but the iPad barely saw any use. Virtually all of my internet use was through my smartphone. Still I used about 2.8GB for the whole trip, including streaming.

I'll be heading back at some stage though, the PNW is very pretty in the fall. That and the craft brewery scene is amazing and I kinda wish I'd spent another day or two in Seattle, and that I was in the Yakima Valley around the hop harvest season instead of just after it had ended. Live and learn :)

I'm kinda debating about whether to change plans or providers or not though now I'm back in Australia. I'm currently with Optus, and get 8GB of data for $50 a month, but I could change to the new 3GB plan for $40 a month and my usage patterns would probably still fit. That or Amaysim with 5GB on the same network for $39.90.

Or Telstra's new prepaid offers, where I can get a certain amount of credit that can be used on the Google Play store each month as part of the recharge (so I can pay for Google Play Music with that instead of paying separately for a Spotify subscription). Although Optus now let me stream live cricket matches without it counting towards my quota. I'm a big cricket fan so that's a bonus.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: anneinpdx on November 19, 2015, 11:17:08 AM
So I've been a happy Ptel customer since April 2014, mostly using the $10 plan on an iPhone4 and more recently a FirePhone running Cyanogenmod.  A few months ago we dropped our home phone service as we just weren't using it so I upgraded to the $20 talk/text plan with 250MB data.  This has worked great and I have been using between 100-150MB of data each month.  A couple days ago I received a message that I had used up all my data for the month and I would have to call and add money.  This was weird because my phone's tracking system (which usually is within 5% of billed usage) shows 94MB used.  Also Ptel's website showed 75MB used.  The phone rep told me it would take 24 hours to update.  Well, it's 3 days later and their online account now shows 92MB use (right in line with my phone's data).  I have spoken to 3 reps who cannot explain this disparity to me but just keep saying it shows I used the data "on the backend".  I know it's not all that much money but this unexplained disparity and the lack of helpful response is really irritating me.  I could wait a week until my new month starts but I have missed some MMS messages.   Does anyone here have a possible explanation?  I have an Airvoice sim and I'm thinking of switching over since their coverage maps are a little better in my area.   
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on November 19, 2015, 12:10:48 PM
Does anyone here have a possible explanation?

Nope. That is peculiar, and I am sorry that you've run into support issues over it. I suspect the folks at customer support are equally flummoxed, but with my own experiences over the years, they usually can do something to tweak service on the accounting end to fix the situation if there's been a billing error. To that end, I'm a little surprised they're letting it ride without doing anything, but I'm also not sure they can easily fix this without completely resetting the data allotment and billing cycle, which might be why they haven't. I honestly don't know. A part of me is wondering if maybe it was a data usage glitch on the MMS end.

Maybe try to publicly (but politely) contact them through Twitter @ptelmobile or Facebook at /ptelmobile. Maybe explain it thusly:

I've been with you guys since April 2014, been happy, no problems. This month had my first billing error. I average 100-150MB a month. My phone says I used 94 out of 250MB this month, the account page says I used 92MB, but I got a message saying I used 250MB and still have a week left. Customer care is equally confused, and can't resolve it. I'd like to stay, but I'm losing messages and don't want to re-pay for service I already paid for, even if it is just $5. Is there anything that can be done?

Just remember: honey works better than vinegar with most customer support folks. Everyone yells and makes threats. Be neutral and make them want to help you out of kindness.

Beyond that, I'd give them at least one more month. If it's a screwball glitch, help 'em fix it so others don't get hit with it as well. If it becomes a trend that keeps happening, let me know and consider switching at that point. Just remember, Airvoice's $20 plan only provides 100MB, and only the first 50MB is unthrottled.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: anneinpdx on November 19, 2015, 02:35:06 PM
Thanks Daley.  I have a brother who worked in a phone center for years so I'm always as polite as possible :)  I also know the reps probably have time limits they are trying to meet and I got the feeling no one wanted to spend time trying to sort it out.   I may try the social media option.  I don't mind paying if it's my fault but since I'm pretty sure I didn't do any data hogging activity and my phone says I didn't, I was feeling a bit put out.    Partly I just wanted to put this out there in case others run into a similar problem.  I appreciate all your work here.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: adam on November 24, 2015, 10:44:04 AM
Will I have any problem swapping an airvoice sim into an iPhone 6 thats activated through Verizon? They have all the radios, right?

Getting a new work phone today. If I can get one of those dual sim adapters I can go back to carrying one mobile device with both my work and private numbers on it.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on November 24, 2015, 01:49:12 PM
Will I have any problem swapping an airvoice sim into an iPhone 6 thats activated through Verizon? They have all the radios, right?

It shouldn't be a problem.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: adam on November 24, 2015, 04:11:20 PM
Will I have any problem swapping an airvoice sim into an iPhone 6 thats activated through Verizon? They have all the radios, right?

It shouldn't be a problem.

Initial results are promising.  I was able to put my airvoice sim in the iphone and make calls and texts, but no data (as I hadn't set any of the APN stuff).

Only thing I'd be concerned about now is when I get the dual sim adapter, I wouldn't want to change the APN settings for my airvoice sim and have them overwrite or delete the Verizon settings.  Something tells me work wouldn't appreciate that.  Thoughts?

I know looking at the googles that the dual sim on the iPhone is going to be one at a time, so I'd have to manually switch between them vs having them both active at the same time like on my Asus Zenfone.  Hopefully that implies it will keep the settings different for each sim that it recognizes?  More research is required...
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: TheFirstMan on December 02, 2015, 07:38:55 PM
Do you have a recommendation of a reputable Ebay or Amazon shop that sells used, clean phones?

(I'm still deciding between Airvoice, Selectel, and TMobile.)

Thanks!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on December 02, 2015, 07:42:28 PM
Do you have a recommendation of a reputable Ebay or Amazon shop that sells used, clean phones?

Not off hand, to be honest. I typically just advise people to research the seller and read the feedback.

Mind if I ask why you're still deciding between three different networks and who your current provider is?

What about your existing phone, does it really need to be replaced?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: AshStash on December 05, 2015, 09:36:31 AM
I'm hoping to get some advice on my current MVNO/VOIP setup as I think it may be possible to further optimize it using Google Voice but there are some aspects of GV I'm not clear on and it may be possible for me to buy the services I need through other providers. I posted essentially the below on the GV forums but then realized this is really more of an MVNO/VOIP issue than a GV-specific issue. I'd also like to add that using The Superguide has both saved me a significant amount of money per year for the last two years and given me significantly more features, so a huge thanks to I. P. Daley for all the excellent info!!

My situation: I'm an American living in the UK. I visit the US for ~4-8 weeks a year, spread out over typically 3 trips/year. I have kept my US phone number (I'll call it phone # 1) active by various plans (first on an AT&T PAYG + feature phone, now on AirvoiceWireless PAYG +smartphone). I have a US Skype number (I'll call it phone # 2) as well, which is how my family and friends in the US call me. Right now, when I'm in the US I have an Airvoice SIM set to phone #1 in my old iphone 4s. I pay the $10/90 days activation for PAYG to keep phone #1 while I'm abroad and use this credit (with top ups) while in the US. In the US, I use a FreedomPop device to alleviate some of my Airvoice PAYG data use and to get data access on my UK phone (Whatsapp is huge among my UK friends but not so much with my US friends/family and I can only see my Whatsapp messages on my UK phone).  My issue is that I don't receive group texts from my friends, as Airvoice has an issue with MMS messages. This has been something that has become increasingly irritating over time and is the main issue I'm hoping to resolve.  I'd also like to drop my Skype # and have one single US phone number (phone #1) for American friends and family to use to reach me, wherever I am.

My current services:
1. Skype Number ($30/year, paid through Oct 2016, ideally I would like to stop using this number)
2. Skype Unlimited US& Canada ($2.99/month, renewable monthly. I am pretty sure I am going to cancel this after my visit to the US for the holidays because of #3).
3. 60 free World minutes on Skype (Free with my MS Office student license which was a 4 year subscription expiring in 2017)
4. FreedomPop device with 500 MB free 4G data for US use (ETA: I'm considering using the $3.99/month for 500 3G/4G mins to push all of my data use onto the FreedomPop instead of using AirVoice)
5. Airvoice Wireless ($10 4x per year to maintain number, I use whatever credit remains when in the US and top up in $10 increments)
6. When home in the UK I use Giffgaff (O2 MVNO)

My usage in the US: I seem to use between 500 MB-700 GB between the FreedomPop and Airvoice data. Closer to the 500 GB end but due to lack of 4G Freedompop coverage in certain areas, some of this data use has to be on Airvoice under my current set up. I try to make as many calls as possible over Skype to avoid paying Airvoice's $.10/min rate. I estimate for sending and receiving calls, between Airvoice and Skype I use 150 minutes/3 week trip. All but one of my friends and 3 members of my family have iPhones so between iMessage and Google Hangouts, most of my messaging is covered and I probably send ~40 SMS messages/3 week trip. The real issue is that I don't receive  group texts involving these 4 non-iPhone people but I'd really like to get the MMS messages, so my total message usage would be higher by an unknown amount if I actually received these texts.

My question: can I port my Airvoice number (phone #1) to Google Voice and use that via the Voice app/Hangouts on iOS on my UK iPhone 6 to make/receive calls, texts, and MMS messages over wifi/data in the US? When I'm in the US, my plan would be to keep cell data turned off on my UK phone to avoid charges and use my FreedomPop as a wifi network when I'm away from home. I'm a little confused because the guidance I have read so far suggests I would still need to maintain a US cell phone plan/active US sim card (creating US phone #3) to send/receive calls and messages via GV on the US number I really want to use, phone #1. I don't understand why I'd need to still have a US phone plan if Google Voice can work over wifi/data via the iOS Voice and Hangout apps. What am I missing? Is GV even a way/the best way to go to get what I want (maintain current US services, keep my preferred US phone (phone #1), use only my iPhone 6 and possibly a Freedompop or similar, and add in the ability to send and receive MMS messages). I'd like to only use 1 handset in the US and sell my old iPhone 4s but if I have to keep both handsets to make this work, that's ok.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Bruised_Pepper on December 05, 2015, 06:16:54 PM
Just heard the other day that California is introducing a tax (surcharge) on pre-paid mobile consumers, starting January 2016.  It's known as the MTS (Mobile Telephony Service) Surcharge, and there's some information about it here:

https://www.boe.ca.gov/industry/prepaid_mts_surcharge.html

From what I can tell (definitely not an expert, and I just heard about this recently), it sounds like the charge applies to anyone who buys pre-paid mobile service who lives in California or has a California phone number.  It also sounds like this charge has been around for a while, but it used to be paid by the service providers, not directly by the consumer.  Rates by city/county are here:

https://www.boe.ca.gov/app/mts_rates.aspx

Just wanted to point this out in case anyone hadn't heard.  I'd be a little mad about it, but I'm on Airvoice's $10 plan, so even though my city is charging >15%, it should still be less than $2/month for me.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: TomTX on December 05, 2015, 07:42:41 PM
I previously had Wifi calling on Tmobile, but it was always a pain in the ass. Dropped calls, not switching over, having to manually turn off Wifi when there was an issue. I'm sick of poor connectivity. None of the providers has a good cell signal in my house, or my office. I have strong Wifi at both. I'm also sick of the shitty/late Android updates via Samsung/Tmobile.

Notionally, Fi is supposed to seamlessly transition between Tmobile, Sprint and Wifi, automatically using the best connection. There are a million tested-good Wifi hotspots included, and the service is still in beta test.

The thing to remember is that both T-Mobile and Google Fi are using UMA for that GSM/WiFi call handoff. Perhaps you were having problems with the implementation and hardware while on T-Mobile, but the technology allowing that supposedly seamless switch is going to be identical. If you still have problems with it after the switch to Fi, I'd potentially look into your router as a possible failure point as well.

Calling has been cleaner on Fi, even the pure WiFi connection is better - some of that may be the phone, but I used a T-Mobile sim on that phone for a few weeks before going Fi. Much easier for me to get LTE service out in the world too - I'm guessing the areas I found weak on T-Mobile have the holes plugged by Sprint (such as my office, on one of my projects, etc)

Only real problem has been sending/receiving MMS on cellular - works great on WiFi, often problematic on LTE (instant fail on send or attempt to download.)  I'm seeing reference online that there may be an authentication script issue with Fi on Sprint for MMS. After 35-40 minutes troubleshooting with Fi customer service it was supposedly sent for escalation (this was Thursday) but I haven't heard back.  Sending SMS from the exact same location/same time is no problem.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on December 06, 2015, 08:00:37 AM
Just heard the other day that California is introducing a tax (surcharge) on pre-paid mobile consumers, starting January 2016.

More info here, courtesy of Dennis Bournique:
http://www.prepaidphonenews.com/2015/12/californias-new-tax-on-prepaid-airtime.html (http://www.prepaidphonenews.com/2015/12/californias-new-tax-on-prepaid-airtime.html)

Quote
Although I'm sure this post will get lots of comments blaming the new tax on greedy bureaucrats, the real culprits are greedy mobile operators and their influence on legislators. The taxes that make up the new MTS Surcharge are not new, they have been around for years but until now they were collected directly from the mobile operators as business taxes. The operator's CTIA trade and lobbying body sponsored and pushed AB-1717, the bill that authorized moving the taxes from the operators to end users. The change means a massive windfall for the operators at the expensive of consumers. It would be nice if the operators passed at least some of that savings on to customers but I'd be surprised it that happens.

It also sounds like this charge has been around for a while, but it used to be paid by the service providers, not directly by the consumer.

Correct. You can definitely thank the 800lb gorillas in the mobile space for this one, the big five and Slim's outfit to start with (http://www.ctia.org/about-us/current-members). It's effectively a rate hike without appearing to raise prices... like America Movil did with Page Plus after taking it over by shifting telecom taxes to an additional fee on top of the minutes charge, only now it's law that it has to be done that way in Cali. Yet another reason to support smaller MVNOs instead of bellying up to brands like Cricket Wireless or TracFone/StraightTalk/etc.



Calling has been cleaner on Fi, even the pure WiFi connection is better - some of that may be the phone, but I used a T-Mobile sim on that phone for a few weeks before going Fi. Much easier for me to get LTE service out in the world too - I'm guessing the areas I found weak on T-Mobile have the holes plugged by Sprint (such as my office, on one of my projects, etc)

Good to hear. Hopefully the MMS issue will get sorted, but it is yet another "beta" product from Google.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on December 06, 2015, 09:47:24 AM
My situation: I'm an American living in the UK. I visit the US for ~4-8 weeks a year, spread out over typically 3 trips/year. I have kept my US phone number (I'll call it phone # 1) active by various plans (first on an AT&T PAYG + feature phone, now on AirvoiceWireless PAYG +smartphone). I have a US Skype number (I'll call it phone # 2) as well, which is how my family and friends in the US call me. Right now, when I'm in the US I have an Airvoice SIM set to phone #1 in my old iphone 4s. I pay the $10/90 days activation for PAYG to keep phone #1 while I'm abroad and use this credit (with top ups) while in the US. In the US, I use a FreedomPop device to alleviate some of my Airvoice PAYG data use and to get data access on my UK phone (Whatsapp is huge among my UK friends but not so much with my US friends/family and I can only see my Whatsapp messages on my UK phone).  My issue is that I don't receive group texts from my friends, as Airvoice has an issue with MMS messages. This has been something that has become increasingly irritating over time and is the main issue I'm hoping to resolve.  I'd also like to drop my Skype # and have one single US phone number (phone #1) for American friends and family to use to reach me, wherever I am.

Okeydokey. This is a fun one, and I'm not sure that my advice is going to save you a great deal over what you're spending currently, but I know it's going to drastically simplify your life and you won't have to involve the sometimes hot mess that is Google Voice in the proceedings.

Truphone SIM (http://www.truphone.com/uk/solutions/#pre-pay). Prices are about comparable (if not better) to GiffGaff PAYGO, excuse their 20MB for 20p a day offer as incoming calls and texts are free, and outgoing is all 6p per minute/SMS/MB. The exact same rates will apply for you roaming in the United States. You also get the advantage of attaching an additional US phone number to your account for £5/month so people can either call or text you from either your UK or US number simultaneously. They also support number porting, and going this route would give you the added benefit of only needing the one phone no matter which side of the pond you're on, and you always being reachable by a local number no matter where you are without getting VoIP apps or additional numbers involved.

You'll find yourself paying a bit more for mobile data, but you may also save some cash on mobile calling, voicemail access, MMS use, call forwarding, roaming, and international calling rates. It eliminates the need for Skype entirely. It's also free per text and minute in and about a penny a minute/SMS cheaper than Airvoice without the monthly $1 maintenance fee eating away your balance with the added benefit of still having access to the number while in the UK. Granted, the £5 month number cost eats into your savings from eliminating Skype and the Airvoice service fee, but we'll get to that in a moment. It still beats trying to maintain a separate mobile account in another country and either swapping SIMs or phones when you get there.

That said, if you do want to still keep leveraging VoIP for cheaper calls over your FreedomPop device or your home internet connection or using your free incoming minutes, just completely ditch Skype and look into Localphone (https://www.localphone.com/) instead. They have apps for both iOS and Android that can use a local outbound number, WiFi or 3G data for outbound calling, they offer callback (https://www.localphone.com/services/callback) service, you can set outbound caller ID to any of your mobile numbers, and their pay as you go per minute rates to the US and UK landlines (https://www.localphone.com/prices?ccy=GBP#country,in) are 0.4p/minute, with UK mobile rates at 1.5p, and cheaper per minute monthly bundle rates as well. You can also find various calling card auto-dialer apps for iPhone and Android that do generic callback support, such as Calling Card Pal (http://callingcardpal.com/) (which doesn't require an account with them to use). Even doubled-up and using the PAYGO rates terminating to your UK mobile number (instead of, say, that £5/month US number), using callback to place outbound mobile calls would only run you 1.9p/minute, 0.8p/minute otherwise. That is, if you want to add the complexity of an additional dialer that can interfere with potentially dialing 911/112 and another company poking around your phone.

Backing up a tiny bit and of speaking of FreedomPop, I'm not sure if you're aware, but their WiMax devices no longer work. Hopefully you have a 4G LTE capable device. The changes to calling methodology might help reduce data usage as well, as you don't necessarily have to use data to place and receive cheaper calls while in the US.

This route should be a bit easier as you have fewer moving parts, fewer businesses and accounts, but even more mobile flexibility and roaming than you're used to. Easier to keep up on billing, too. Hope this helps get you to where you want to be!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: AshStash on December 06, 2015, 11:33:23 AM
Thanks! Truphone is incredibly tempting due to the sheer simplicity of it but I think it would cost me quite a bit more than I pay now in the UK due to data charges. I typically use Giffgaff's £10 goodybag (as they call them) which comes with far more mins and texts than I've ever used in my life and 1 GB of 4G data, no throttling.  I typically use around 700 GB/month but if I anticipate a lighter use month, I drop down to the £5 or £7.50 goodybag. When I'm in the US, I don't buy a new goodybag until I'm back in the UK.

The truphone idea did get me thinking laterally about 2 SIMs in 1 phone. Knowing the iphone only has one SIM slot, I googled to see if there is another solution and it looks like I can pick up a multi-SIM adapter for the iphone for around £20 letting me use the Airvoice and Giffgaff sims in the same phone, which will be more than paid for by the proceeds of selling my now-superfluous iPhone 4s (going for ~£60-90 on ebay). I need to read some reviews about how wells these adapters work in practice but in theory this could solve my two phone issue and free up some cash for the 'stash.

I didn't know about the WiMax issue with FreedomPop but I've emailed them about my device and if it no longer can receive 4G, I've asked for a free swap (not sure they'll do it, in my experience their customer service is mediocre at best). Thanks for letting me know!

Thank you for saving me from complicating things with Google Voice (although if it would let me get group texts in the US via Hangouts, I'd still be a little tempted) and thank you for writing and maintaining the Guide, which has let me hang on to my preferred US phone number and have (almost) full and frankly gluttonous use of a smartphone during US visits for $71/year (calculated from all of my Airvoice top ups in the last 27 months). From 2011-2013, I was paying $120/year to AT&T to use a feature phone (not including some instances of paying Skype wifi rates for airport wifi because I didn't have mobile data). The Guide (and some UK friends) also convinced me to ditch my major UK carrier for an MVNO here, which has saved me about £180 and significantly improved my user experience (O2 billing and customer service is really dreadful).
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on December 06, 2015, 01:39:16 PM
Thanks! Truphone is incredibly tempting due to the sheer simplicity of it but I think it would cost me quite a bit more than I pay now in the UK due to data charges. I typically use Giffgaff's £10 goodybag (as they call them) which comes with far more mins and texts than I've ever used in my life and 1 GB of 4G data, no throttling.  I typically use around 700 GB/month but if I anticipate a lighter use month, I drop down to the £5 or £7.50 goodybag. When I'm in the US, I don't buy a new goodybag until I'm back in the UK.

I think you could probably go on a data diet (http://www.techmeshugana.com/2013/12/what-is-mobile-media-costing-you/) and offset that as even 700MB is a lot of mobile data, especially if you have a home connection. If you can strip your mobile data usage to under 100MB a month, that'd go a long way all on its own. Just remember, connect to your home WiFi as often as possible, and take advantage of your phone's storage capabilities. If you're using a lot of data for cheaper VoIP calling, remember, callback uses zero data.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: AshStash on December 06, 2015, 02:38:32 PM
700 MB is definitely a lot of data but is typical for months when I'm traveling within the UK and have less wifi access. Last month I used 211.73 MB and that's fairly typical of months when I'm just going home-office. I could certainly refresh my news and social media apps less while I'm off wifi, though. The biggest factor that will affect my use going forward is the fact that I've just finished a PhD and am now job hunting, so I have no idea where my next job will be so I don't know if my phone will spend its days on wifi or not. I will probably revisit my whole phone service setup once I have a new job and a hopefully Mustachian commute. Maybe I will get lucky and get a job with a corporate phone that I can use for all of my data needs :) (this is what I did at my pre-PhD job, with the company's blessing, and it was great)

I will keep an eye on my data usage and calculate what my Truphone costs would be over the next few months and see if a switch is worth it. The simplicity of one sim to rule them all is very appealing.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on December 07, 2015, 06:08:22 AM
Got a chuckle out of this...

(http://i.imgur.com/v6jM2oD.png)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on December 07, 2015, 08:01:42 AM
Congratulations Paul, you've just hijacked the thread.

This is no longer a discussion about communications and cell phones, but puppies.

(https://images.duckduckgo.com/iu/?u=http%3A%2F%2Fmedia-cache-ec0.pinimg.com%2F736x%2F81%2Fdc%2F23%2F81dc231e05ce217c3fb7f8a07da418fb.jpg&f=1)

That is all.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on December 07, 2015, 10:28:48 AM
Alright, less puppies, more typing. How is RingPlus so cheap?!

I see their sugar plan at $13 + tax for unlimited talk/text and 1GB of 4G.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on December 07, 2015, 11:54:56 AM
Alright, less puppies, more typing. How is RingPlus so cheap?!

I see their sugar plan at $13 + tax for unlimited talk/text and 1GB of 4G.

Datamining and captive advertising. The ringback tone with outbound calls are replaced with advertisements, for one. That's why they're not in the guide and only recommended as an alternative for Republic Wireless-level cheapskates.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: geekette on December 14, 2015, 11:44:18 AM
Along with iOS 9.2, Apple is trying to push new Carrier settings. Multiple times a day. The only options are now and later. As far as I can tell, they're not for Airvoice, and will likely break my data connection (if history is any guide).

I don't know the MVNO forums well at all, but Google hasn't helped me here - I've seen nothing on this, just how a previous pushed carrier update messed things up for Airvoice before.

So I've just been declining, but is there a way to say "go away for good"?  Should I accept and then go to that unlockit.co.nz site and hope for the best?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: adam on December 15, 2015, 12:07:43 PM
Any additional feedback on Google Project Fi?  I like the idea of getting refunded for unused data, but I don't like the idea of buying a new phone after dropping $299 on one 6 months ago.

Got the invite today. I had already been considering dropping my Airvoice from the $50 plan back to the $30, but what I really would like is something in the 1.5GB range.

I meant to look at my usage history but apparently my Asus Zenfone 2 doesn't maintain prior cycles, which seems weird.  Not sure why I hadn't noticed that before.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: gimp on January 04, 2016, 06:11:12 PM
I wanted to post back with my results.

First, data. Good god were you right. I've used about 500mb cell data (4g) over the course of two-ish months, and less than 3 hours of talk time.

This included my usual road trip.

A 5 gig plan is massively overkill for me.

Next, provider. After much hemming and hawing, I got in on a family T-mobile plan with some friends. Total cost $30-35 a month. For that, I get _essentially_ unlimited data, talk, text, etc - some of those are in fact "unlimited" and others have caps far above what I actually use.

So how was the service in East Bumblefuck? Shockingly terrific. While I sometimes have little reception in the middle of silicon valley, I still got 4G in shockingly many places. Basically anywhere that had a town got me 3G or 4G for miles, including many national parks. I got some cell service (enough for emergencies) just about anywhere that people lived. True, I got no service in the middle of the desert, but neither did any other network.

And the phone? I got the 6S+, for $200 out of pocket with applecare+ after various discounts. I routinely get 3+ day battery life based on how I use it; even where it struggles for signal, still like two days. It works on pretty much all bands, so a simple sim card change would let me use a different network, in this country and others.

This is quite a bit cheaper than what we discussed above. It's way better than $50+ per month. And I hate Verizon. It's not as good as republic wireless's price, but way better than their service and speed.

tldriphone 6s+ on t-mobile family plan works fantastically well, even in bumfuck egypt.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on January 04, 2016, 07:09:44 PM
I wanted to post back with my results.

Good to hear! If you weren't roaming off T-Mobile any, your usage pattern might open up the P'tel $20 unlimited talk and text with 250MB plan. It also means that AT&T coverage is probably plenty decent, too, as there's very few places that T-Mobile services that AT&T doesn't. That also opens up H2O Wireless' easyGO $20 unlimited talk and text with 100MB of data and $10/GB data add-ons that roll-over. At the rate you're going, that $10 for 1GB of data would last a good six months. There's also Puretalk USA which has either their Simple 250 plan or their 160 minute rollover family plan for $10/month plus 400MB of add-on data for $9.95. None of the three are a huge discount over what you're currently paying at around the $20/month price point, but it brings you just that much closer.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: gimp on January 04, 2016, 07:12:34 PM
I was definitely roaming off T-mobile a bit. I was using AT&T data some of the time, and I was definitely on cell networks for some random bit players (didn't use them, but they were the bumfuck nowhere but some people live here types of networks, which means they're my emergency backup.)

Thanks for the advice. I will look into it, but the last few bucks of savings might not be worth the hassle or potential downsides. I will check though!

I will say that $30-35 a month is a pretty reasonable cost, nothing remotely like other peoples' $100 a month, but there is always room for improvement.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: alsoknownasDean on January 05, 2016, 06:09:15 AM
Alright, I've decided that I need a good arse-kicking and a change of habits (that time of year, yeah I know).

I'm sick of Facebook and I'm on my smartphone too damn much. Time to shift to a dumbphone for a little while to kick the habit. :)

There lies the issue, I don't have a dumbphone lying around, and neither do most of my family members. The only spare dumbphone I know of is one my grandparents have spare (they'd likely let me borrow it if I asked), and it's locked to a different carrier to what I'm currently using (and it doesn't support my current carrier's 3G bands).

I've checked Gumtree (and even Freecycle), and there's not a lot of dumbphones for sale nearby, in fact, many of them are advertised for a higher price than what I can get a new phone (http://www.officeworks.com.au/shop/officeworks/p/optus-zte-f286-pre-paid-mobile-phone-op3000451) for.

What should I do? Changing carriers isn't difficult, but I'd want to change back when I go back to my smartphone.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on January 05, 2016, 06:39:49 AM
Just remove the timesucking apps from your smartphone.

After removing Facebook and the banking apps from mine, the compulsive checking went to near-zero. I still use it everyday for podcasts and as a kodi remote, but no more mindless tapping about.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: alsoknownasDean on January 05, 2016, 06:47:40 AM
Just remove the timesucking apps from your smartphone.

After removing Facebook and the banking apps from mine, the compulsive checking went to near-zero. I still use it everyday for podcasts and as a kodi remote, but no more mindless tapping about.

I removed the Facebook app months ago, and use the mobile website instead.

Still no good. The issue is I keep on compulsively checking it, along with other sites. Honestly the issue is probably more 'compulsively checking shit online' than anything else.
Title: Saving money AND scaring salespeople :)
Post by: babysteps on January 13, 2016, 01:37:35 PM
Funny aside...Thanks to IP Daley, our small business and personal outlays for phone/internet/cell/cable have gone from $495/mo to $112.60.  (Now $30 each for Airvoice, and $52.60 for internet at the office, 2 voipo phone lines and 1 nextiva fax number).

We just had a Verizon business team cold call us at the office, and when they found out we were paying $50-something/month, they were visibly impressed and basically backed slowly out the door...

Market data aside: not sure if this is true in all markets, but the cold callers claimed that Verizon business grade internet (dedicated pipe) plus 3 copper phone lines would run about $160/mo, vs. Time Warner internet (shared pipe, guaranteed uptime) & 3 voip lines is $300-plus.  A big part of our savings was switching to residential grade internet - we do very little streaming of anything, so email and remote file access work just fine with a smaller shared pipe.  Have so far had one outage over 30 minutes in 16 months.  The cable company thinks this is being used by the apartment upstairs (they "don't" provide residential grade service to business addresses...) - conveniently we own the whole building, and the installing technician really didn't care (we were very clear with him).
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: BarkyardBQ on January 20, 2016, 05:16:32 PM
Does PureTalk support Verizon phones?

We're currently using PagePlus, with a iPhone 4 & 5.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on January 20, 2016, 05:19:24 PM
Does PureTalk support Verizon phones?

LTE Verizon phones that can do 3G GSM, yes. It'll be AT&T tower service.

If you want to stay on the Verizon network and support a smaller MVNO, though, you'll need to go Selectel.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: BarkyardBQ on January 20, 2016, 05:32:05 PM
Does PureTalk support Verizon phones?

LTE Verizon phones that can do 3G GSM, yes. It'll be AT&T tower service.

If you want to stay on the Verizon network and support a smaller MVNO, though, you'll need to go Selectel.

Thanks!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on January 20, 2016, 05:34:10 PM
ATTENTION P'TEL/GIV CUSTOMERS!

I just found out and got confirmation myself. At least we have a heads up.

After fifteen years, P'tel and Giv Mobile is closing shop. End date is January 31st, last day to port your numbers out is January 26th. More info here (http://www.prepaidphonenews.com/2016/01/ptel-and-giv-mobile-reportedly-shutting.html).

This is a sad day to see one of the best MVNOs of 15 years shut down like this. It's also probably the first of many smaller shop closures as a consequence of the major carriers undercutting their own wholesale service with brands like Cricket Wireless, MetroPCS, users of America Movil brands, and all the short sighted people who want more data and cheaper service than smaller bills and higher quality customer service.

Recommended escape plan for most is going to be Airvoice Wireless (https://www.airvoicewireless.com/), Puretalk USA (https://www.puretalkusa.com/), Truphone (https://www.truphone.com/us/), H2O Wireless (https://www.h2owirelessnow.com/)/easyGO (https://easygo.h2owirelessnow.com/), Consumer Cellular (https://www.consumercellular.com/) and Ting (https://ting.com/) depending on your usage levels.

Of that list, only Consumer Cellular, Ting and Truphone are really large enough to weather longer term. As it is, the wife and I will probably be going to Puretalk USA, trying to support the smaller shops for as long as possible.

Prepare to port out now if you want to keep your number. They have switched all account numbers to your phone number and the PIN to 0000.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on January 21, 2016, 07:52:09 AM
Reposting from another thread regarding the fate of P'tel:

Wow.  What happened?  Did they just become insolvent?

Don't know for certain, but when an MVNO closes shop, it's usually due to finances. P'tel had survived for a decade and a half in an industry of thin margins, but this past year was the first time they had to genuinely compete against the major carriers undercutting them.

Unfortunately, MVNOs in this country aren't like the ones in most other countries where there's government regulation and a mandate for equal wholesale network access to enable competition. In this country, it's not too much different in that the MVNOs are buying wholesale airtime from the major carriers, except there's nothing stopping the major carriers from undercutting the wholesale pricing with their own product. That's exactly what's started happening with the major carriers to reclaim customers who'd defected to cheaper prepaid MVNOs in this country over the past five years. Of course, the options being offered by the major carriers are still overpriced, but they've lured people away in droves with promises of "cheaper" data and "unlimited" talk and text versus their own postpaid plans using stealth brands like MetroPCS (owned by T-Mobile), Cricket Wireless (owned by AT&T), Boost Mobile (owned by Sprint), etc., using huge ad campaigns, massive boilerplate loaded with gotchas, even crappier customer service, hidden fees, cute gimmicks, funny math, and new ways to bring back the hidden mandatory contract through subsidized phone sales and minimum service times before unlocking handsets.... and the people slurped it up in droves. Even a fairly significant number of people on these very forums openly boasted about how they didn't give a crap, they just wanted more for less, even after I warned them of the longer term game plan with these boutique corporate owned MVNOs. Nobody cared and I even got ridiculed for saying so on a couple occasions.

Telecom regulation in this country is so lax and screwed up, that it took overpriced wholesale sellers repackaging overpriced airtime into smaller package plans over a decade and a half to break the price dam stranglehold of postpaid pricing in this country and force the carriers to be more competitive. Now the carriers are fighting back to eliminate this competition so they can raise prices back up.

Now the chickens are coming home to roost because of consumer sukka tendencies in this country and even in these forums, and one of the oldest and most financially stable pioneer MVNOs in this country, one of the MVNOs that helped BUILD this prepaid market and save people genuine money over the postpaid alternatives without sacrificing quality customer service and support after fifteen years is having to shut their doors. This is the first casualty in this new prepaid mobile market without regulation and required competition. We're losing what little genuine competition that was left in the mobile market now, and without a miracle will probably be soon left with nothing more than Carlos Slim's monopolistic empire America Movil, and their MVNO brands here in the states (Tracfone, NET10, Page Plus, SIMple Mobile, Straight Talk, Total Wireless), the big four carriers pretending to be other independent carriers (Cricket, MetroPCS, GoSmart Mobile, Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and their in-house prepaid brands), and hopefully the likes of Consumer Cellular and Ting.

At this point, I'm not holding much long term hope for many on the recommended list in the guide anymore. For those staying with them to support the smaller shops through the end, prepare in advance with an exit strategy. Stay on top of closure reports over at Prepaid Phone News (http://www.prepaidphonenews.com/), and remember that the good MVNOs usually wind up giving between 7-14 days notice before closing, which is better than no notice as a lot of the bad MVNOs have done over the years.

As the casualties mount up in the months ahead, and the last of the good independent competition dies off, expect to see prices creep back up again and current offerings either getting more expensive or new offerings with less replacing what's available at the same price. These price changes will start with the major carrier owned prepaid rebrands.

Consider this a warning to everyone here. Stop chasing after excessive data access with slightly cheaper prepaid plans, that's how these independent shops are being undercut and killed off, as well as how the major carriers are tightening the financial noose around your own neck. Start pushing for stronger regulation and proper wholesale access for competition in the mobile industry and stop directly financially supporting the big four now if you want to keep mobile service in this country affordable. As it stands, our future is starting to look a lot like Canada's mobile landscape... and that 'aint good.



Any chance of them getting acquired by a bigger MVNO?

Nope. Even if they did, about the only company who does acquire MVNO brands here is Carlos. I'd rather see P'tel shut its doors than be taken over by them and turned into Yet Another Zombie Tracfone brand.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on January 22, 2016, 08:27:40 AM
ATTENTION P'TEL/GIV CUSTOMERS!

UPDATE: To help people secure SIM cards faster than shipping for people wanting to port out of P'tel before the crush, the following options are available for people not choosing America Movil/Cricket/MetroPCS/AT&T/T-Mobile:

Consumer Cellular SIM cards are available at most Sears (http://www.sears.com/consumer-cellular-all-in-one-sim-card/p-00350755000P) locations.
H2O Wireless SIM cards are available at most Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile (http://www.bestbuy.com/site/h2o-dual-sim-card-yellow/7324099.p) locations.
Airvoice Wireless can activate new, unactivated AT&T SIM cards, which can be obtained from any location that sells AT&T phone service.
Puretalk USA SIM cards are available at select K-Mart (http://www.kmart.com/puretalk-sim-card-starter-kit/p-018W007520199001P) and Sears (http://www.sears.com/puretalk-sim-card-starter-kit/p-00352035000P) locations in addition to phones at both Sears (http://www.sears.com/search=pure%20talk%20usa) and K-Mart (http://www.kmart.com/search=pure%20talk%20usa).
Ting GSM SIM cards are starting to become available at select Staples and Kroger (http://www.fiercewireless.com/story/mvno-ting-adds-fewer-subs-q3-points-continued-pain-sprint-mvno-rule-changes/2015-11-06) locations (not listed online yet, call or visit stores directly).
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on January 22, 2016, 10:57:05 AM
ATTENTION P'TEL/GIV CUSTOMERS!

Some of you may know already (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welcome-to-the-forum/heads-up-ptel-is-ending-their-service/), and some of you this news might not apply to you currently, but it still might apply to someone you know. I recommended P'tel to a lot of people over the years, and the current news is sad and a little unexpected, but the news needs to be spread as P'tel is swamped as it is. The more who know and can pass on the info to others, the better, and the info needs to be consolidated down into a single location.

On January 20th, P'tel announced to their dealers and began the process of informing their customers that after fifteen years of business, P'tel and Giv Mobile will be shutting down on January 31 and that January 26th should be the safe guaranteed number port-out date (http://www.prepaidphonenews.com/2016/01/ptel-and-giv-mobile-reportedly-shutting.html). It's short notice, it's unexpected notice given there were no early warning signs, but it's notice all the same. I'm trying to help get people out as best as possible given I helped get them in, and for what it's worth my own family is in process of dealing with this first hand and porting out as well.

For anyone who has P'tel/Giv and are looking to switch to one of the other carriers from the communications guide (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/communications-tech-son-of-the-superguide!/) and are wanting to keep your number, it is important to port out sooner than later as P'tel is running on a skeleton crew currently. This means obtaining SIM cards locally as opposed to getting them shipped. Fortunately, I can provide the most useful information to help most people port out now. Here's the pertinent details...

Treat January 26th as your safe number port out deadline, so the sooner you port, the better.

Account information:

Your current P'tel account number is your ten digit phone number (ex: 8185551212)
The PIN associated with your account will be 0000

You can obtain SIM cards for the following carriers from the guide at these locations:

Consumer Cellular (https://www.consumercellular.com/) SIM cards are available at most Sears (http://www.sears.com/consumer-cellular-all-in-one-sim-card/p-00350755000P) locations.

H2O Wireless (https://www.h2owirelessnow.com/) SIM cards are available at most Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile (http://www.bestbuy.com/site/h2o-dual-sim-card-yellow/7324099.p) locations.

Airvoice Wireless (https://www.airvoicewireless.com/) can activate new, unactivated AT&T SIM cards in a pinch (though they prefer not to), which can be obtained from any location that sells AT&T phone service.

Puretalk USA (https://www.puretalkusa.com/) SIM cards are available at select K-Mart (http://www.kmart.com/puretalk-sim-card-starter-kit/p-018W007520199001P) and Sears (http://www.sears.com/puretalk-sim-card-starter-kit/p-00352035000P) locations in addition to phones at both Sears (http://www.sears.com/search=pure%20talk%20usa) and K-Mart (http://www.kmart.com/search=pure%20talk%20usa).

Ting GSM (https://ting.com/) SIM cards are starting to become available at select Staples and Kroger (http://www.fiercewireless.com/story/mvno-ting-adds-fewer-subs-q3-points-continued-pain-sprint-mvno-rule-changes/2015-11-06) locations (not listed online yet, call or visit stores directly).

SIM cards for major carriers not listed in the guide such as Tracfone, NET10, StraightTalk, Cricket, MetroPCS, etc., can be found at nearly any brick and mortar store that carries cellphones. Tracfone, NET10 and StraightTalk historically have a higher reported failure rate with number porting (both in and out) than most other carriers. This isn't to say it can't be done, but there may be a higher risk of number loss if your number is really important to you. This is reported only for the sake of general awareness.

It's sad news, and not a good sign long term for the independent MVNO industry when one of the longest surviving brands shuts its doors. If you remain with the smaller independent carriers, be alert, pay attention to MVNO industry news (http://www.prepaidphonenews.com/), and keep an escape plan with SIM card handy. Unfortunately, without wholesale wireless regulation, the major carriers are now undercutting their own wholesale customers to increase profits and bring back lost postpaid customers with in-house prepaid services offered through older purchased network brands such as Cricket Wireless (owned by AT&T) and MetroPCS (owned by T-Mobile). This strategy is working. That means there might be more surprises in the future from other long time and seemingly stable independent MVNOs, and as the network operators gain back direct billing control over customers, price increases might not be far behind.

Be well, all of you. May the ports that need to be done go smoothly for one and all.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: GodlessCommie on January 25, 2016, 03:57:03 PM
I.P. Daley suggested TextNow as a better company with a "seamless switch to WiFi" model, and just before Christmas I pulled the plug. By that time me and my two boys were on Republic's 2nd gen 500MB plan, using a bit over 100MB a month and getting regular rebates. My wife was still with an outrageous AT&T iPhone plan. She is not a heavy caller or mobile data user, but we live in a black hole, WiFi calling has been a saving grace for us, and I am too lazy to replicate mechanics of routing through WiFi myself. So it was essentially between Google Fi, Republic, and TextNow.

Google Fi dropped first - phones were too expensive.

Despite the bad rep it gets here, we were actually pretty happy with Republic, especially after they came up with rebates. But $20 for an unlocked Moto E with stock firmware through TextNow was enough of an incentive to go with it.

Set up was surprisingly NOT straightforward. Phone got stuck on one of the provisioning steps, and no information was available online. But then came Customer Support, and it was like a breath of fresh air. Not only was the guy helpful and knowledgeable, he sounded like someone you know helping you with staff he likes. No corporate BS, like a friend helping a friend. Dealt with my problem in 15 minutes.

It was smooth sailing since then. The only annoyance my DW reports is that it takes five rings on the caller's side for her phone to start ringing. 
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on January 25, 2016, 09:54:31 PM
It was smooth sailing since then. The only annoyance my DW reports is that it takes five rings on the caller's side for her phone to start ringing.

Glad to hear TextNow treated you well and got everything set up properly. Provisioning new handsets on CDMA networks can be a bit of a PITA sometimes. especially if you've never done it before. It's good to see and hear that even with my cheap slumming provider advice, it's still a notch above most of the alternatives. :)

Regarding the ringing issue, it's usually something that happens on the WiFi end of VoIP, and happens with Google Voice, Republic, Ring Plus, and others, though not consistently and can vary from provider to provider depending on the sensitivity and overall VoIP service settings. It's usually tied to SIP/RTP keep-alive issues with firewalls on the home network, and using a wireless device exacerbates it. Now, if it's doing this while on the Sprint mobile network as well... never mind. Just might be quirky. Call back and see if they have any ideas on how to reduce the lag in ringback time before the calls finally ring through on your end.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: captainawesome on January 26, 2016, 10:33:05 AM
We used GivMobile for a long time before moving to back to ATT coverage. It's hard to compete when the major companies, like T-mobile, offer all kinds of "benefits" with their post paid plans (10gb per line, after which is throttled; free music streaming, free video streaming) The math to me didnt add up when T-mobile said that 2 lines, each with 10 gb of data (and throttled there after) would be $100, making with taxes and fees somewhere around $110 on a given month. When 1 gb of data usually goes for $10, and service at a minimum for phone/messages is $20, the major carriers are certainly willing to undercut themselves to attract customers and cut out the competition.  And when 90% of the population knows of 4 carriers, they tend to go with those. Then the next in line are the ones who advertise (cricket, metro, straight talk). 

I'm not glad Ptel closed its doors, but I am glad I switched well before this, would hate to have to do that dance in a hurry.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on January 26, 2016, 12:47:15 PM
We used GivMobile for a long time before moving to back to ATT coverage. It's hard to compete when the major companies, like T-mobile, offer all kinds of "benefits" with their post paid plans (10gb per line, after which is throttled; free music streaming, free video streaming) The math to me didnt add up when T-mobile said that 2 lines, each with 10 gb of data (and throttled there after) would be $100, making with taxes and fees somewhere around $110 on a given month. When 1 gb of data usually goes for $10, and service at a minimum for phone/messages is $20, the major carriers are certainly willing to undercut themselves to attract customers and cut out the competition.  And when 90% of the population knows of 4 carriers, they tend to go with those. Then the next in line are the ones who advertise (cricket, metro, straight talk).

That's part of the problem, the hideous markup that the carriers pawn off on both the general public and their wholesalers versus actual internal costs. Mobile network capacity is finite, and it costs a fair bit more per byte than wired networks due to spectrum limitations, but it's nowhere near the costs they pass along to all their customers, despite the tax incentives and subsidies from the government and the taxpayers over the decades these network operators have received for promises of larger infrastructure, cheaper prices, and greater competition on top of their profits. They're also gaming statistical odds to increase profit margins further. Most people who sign up for these ridiculous unlimited with data plans don't use a fraction of what's actually offered. At least back in 2014, the average mobile user in this country clocked every month between 400-1300 minutes, 700-3400 SMS text messages, and around 2.5GB of total data with less than 900MB actually billed on the mobile network as opposed to general WiFi usage. Minute and text usage has been decreasing a lot here lately, too, as data-based app alternatives such as WhatsApp have risen in popularity.

Carriers didn't start "lowering" their prices until they started hemorrhaging customers (despite most of them still turning profits) flocking to cheaper prepaid wholesale MVNO options offered by businesses who were actually offering cheaper and better service despite being nothing more than middle-men a couple years back... but even since then, it's mostly been a shell game of overkill package selling and handset financing to hide the price increases after "ending" phone subsidies. Also, Cricket and MetroPCS aren't actual MVNOs, as they're the exact same major carriers using a different brand with disgruntled customers which appears to be what was once an old regional competitor. Customer service gets further gutted in overall satisfaction and quality in addition to tacking on additional hidden service fees, playing the same underused usage odds games with the "unlimited" service plans, and saving even more money by eliminating most partner roaming agreements on these products while they advertise the living daylights out of these alternate brands to bring the more financially exhausted and soured customers back in under direct billing to increase profit margins further with the additional simultaneous benefit of eliminating their own wholesale competition without actually shutting down wholesale access by undercutting their own rates short term as you observed.

The only exception to this of the three carriers you specifically name-checked is StraightTalk, owned by Tracfone, which is a subsidy of America Movil, one of the two monolithic, monopolistic mega-telecoms in Latin America (America Movil and Telmex) that are both owned by the second richest man in the world and have kept firm control over prices south of the Rio Grande for decades. They just oversell and play the odds game themselves and are large enough to negotiate lower wholesale prices. This is a telecom that mega-telecoms in our own country aspire to be if only not for the blasted Federal Trade Commission interfering with their visions of world domination... but don't worry, they're working on that!

Yes, I'm a bit jaded about the overall situation of our telecom industry in this country. It happens the more you learn.

I'm not glad Ptel closed its doors, but I am glad I switched well before this, would hate to have to do that dance in a hurry.

Yup, but by the same token, our own migration though stressful feeling at first, has been pretty leisurely all things considered. We're officially with Ting as of this morning ourselves. Thank the good L-rd for that.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Neighbor Don on January 26, 2016, 01:38:43 PM
A very big THANK YOU Daley for the notice regarding P'tel. My wife and I looked at some options to keep costs low and went with H2O Wireless. We picked up the sim cards from Best Buy for $2.99 each(not every store has them on stock). We are officially ported over and using their(AT&T) network. We received more consistent coverage/access at our house on the T-Mobile network so we're not happy about that change but we still have our Google Voice number for wifi calls and texts so shouldn't be many growing pains. On the positive side we will no longer be without cell access when visiting our families in Iowa since AT&T covers that area whereas T-Mobile did not.

If anyone has any questions about porting their number to H2O Wireless feel free to message me and I'll help as much as I can.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: dramaman on January 26, 2016, 01:44:56 PM
A very big THANK YOU Daley for the notice regarding P'tel. My wife and I looked at some options to keep costs low and went with H2O Wireless. We picked up the sim cards from Best Buy for $2.99 each(not every store has them on stock). We are officially ported over and using their(AT&T) network. We received more consistent coverage/access at our house on the T-Mobile network so we're not happy about that change but we still have our Google Voice number for wifi calls and texts so shouldn't be many growing pains. On the positive side we will no longer be without cell access when visiting our families in Iowa since AT&T covers that area whereas T-Mobile did not.

If anyone has any questions about porting their number to H2O Wireless feel free to message me and I'll help as much as I can.

What was the $2.99 H2O sim package like? The only H2O sims that I could find at our Best Buy yesterday were $9.99 smart sim 3-in-1 sim card starter kit.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on January 26, 2016, 01:51:30 PM
What was the $2.99 H2O sim package like? The only H2O sims that I could find at our Best Buy yesterday were $9.99 smart sim 3-in-1 sim card starter kit.

It's H2O's older mini/micro dual SIM card (http://www.bestbuy.com/site/h2o-dual-sim-card-yellow/7324099.p), and it's $3 because it's on clearance. Other than not being pre-punched for the 4FF nano size and the silk-screened decorations and packaging being a bit different, it's effectively the same thing.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: livingthedream on January 30, 2016, 12:00:22 PM
Big thanks to I.P. Daley for the heads up on Ptel. I switched my phone and my parents to Ting. The number porting went smoothly. Not sure how long I will still after the $75 service credit runs out but I learned my lesson and got a 1 cent shipped from Amazon H2O SIM card as a backup.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Done by Forty on February 05, 2016, 10:43:10 AM
IP Daley Airvoice Question:

Our friend has been on Airvoice for a while, is an iPhone user, but has not been able to get texts from non-iPhone users. She just got a "new to her" iPhone 5, but is still having the same problem.

We pointed her to the MMS and internet instructions on Airvoice's website, but it notes this is only for iOS 7.0 and earlier (link below)...but she's on a more recent version of iOS so they're hesitant to just start manually entering the APN settings. Any risk there? Or should they just go for it?

https://www.airvoicewireless.com/SupportIphone.aspx

I've also been kicking around a workaround that just uses Google Voice for texting, but that would be a last resort.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on February 05, 2016, 11:11:52 AM
IP Daley Airvoice Question

I've covered this several times in various threads over the years, but this is the most complete explanation I've done:

I remember you saying even the H20 Sim needs to have an 'unlocked' phone for it to work? Or was that only for the data to work?

Data APNs are typically locked down in software on most all handsets (including AT&T) when the handset's hardware SIM card reader is also carrier locked. This way, even if you switch to an AT&T MVNO with an AT&T postpaid locked handset, it prevents the user from gaining mobile data access from a cheaper provider on their own network without paying off the phone, completing your contract, and kissing Ma Vader's rings before going on your merry way. This is also how they keep you from buying a cheaper subsidized handset from say AT&T's prepaid GoPhone and Cricket divisions and taking it to another, cheaper AT&T MVNO if you want/need data access or MMS support without first keeping it active on a GoPhone/Cricket account for 12 months to recoup the subsidy before allowing you the freedom to leave through carrier unlocking. It works this way on the T-Mobile end as well as other GSM providers around the world who practice carrier locking, too.

The thing is, most MVNO SIM cards are typically recognized by the handsets as SIM cards from their parent network on the hardware level. Airvoice and H2O SIM cards are recognized as AT&T, P'tel and Ting as T-Mobile, etc. Because of this, it'll let you make and receive calls and SMS messages even with a carrier locked handset using an active SIM card from an MVNO on the same network as the phone is locked to, but APNs for mobile data and MMS cannot be changed on the software end due to the carrier locking. Due to this nature of the GSM hardware, they may not be able to prevent the phone calls and SMS messages on these locked handsets with other MVNO's SIM cards on their network from working short of blacklisting the phone's IMEI (which they will do), but they can still cripple it by completely blocking data access and configuration.

(Fun Fact: You can actually use an unused AT&T SIM card to activate service with most AT&T MVNOs such as Airvoice Wireless.)

This is where it's gotten messy for iPhones. With T-Mobile network SIM cards, if the handset is carrier unlocked, the APN settings are accessible for manual configuration and there's no data configuration trauma with any T-Mobile or T-Mo MVNO. With AT&T network SIM cards even in an unlocked handset, however, the APN settings remain hidden away and inaccessible... and it's been this way and only gotten worse since iOS7. Clearly, this creates a problem. Unless your AT&T MVNO is on Apple's officially blessed provider list (Consumer Cellular, Cricket, GoPhone, StraightTalk) which auto-configures the APNs for you based on the carrier detected in software, any other AT&T MVNO SIM will effectively set these phones to AT&T postpaid APNs by default upon insertion due to their lack of official auto-configuration support from Apple.

Unfortunately, because you also have no way of manually configuring the APNs for your AT&T MVNO (Airvoice, H2O Wireless, Puretalk USA, Red Pocket, etc.) due to this setting lock-out "auto-configure" feature, you still have data configuration issues even after carrier unlocking. This is where needing to use unlockit.co.nz just to set your data APN now comes into play. To make matters worse, the MMS settings for these non-blessed AT&T MVNOs typically can't be configured most of the time now as well even using unlockit without jailbreaking. It's a hot mess, and it's why I typically don't recommend iPhone users who need MMS support to use any AT&T MVNOs from the guide anymore except for Consumer Cellular.

Make sense?

tl;dr: MMS doesn't work with Airvoice on iPhone/iOS 7+. Blame Apple and AT&T. SMS should still work universally, however.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Done by Forty on February 05, 2016, 11:53:45 AM
Thanks, IP Daley. I'm not sure what to tell her other than, "maybe try a different AT&T MNVO". I was on PTel but obviously that ship has sailed (and now I'm on Airvoice as well).

Since she has data working, but can't get SMS texts from Android users, it sounds like a good next step might be to try the instructions on Airvoices' website for MMS (?).  I have our old PTtel SIM cards, if those will suffice for the "T Mobile" SIM portion of the instructions.

I'm a bit lost why MMS settings might be what she needs, but I remember you typing something about MMS and SMS being related on iPhones due to the way they send texts.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on February 05, 2016, 01:39:33 PM
I'm a bit lost why MMS settings might be what she needs, but I remember you typing something about MMS and SMS being related on iPhones due to the way they send texts.

It's two-fold, and may partially have something to do with message length and how it's handled by the Android handsets. Anything over the 160 character limit can be sent as an MMS depending on settings. Also, iMessage doesn't use SMS or MMS between iPhones, it uses data. Following the MMS instructions simply aren't going to work anymore for more current iOS builds unless you jailbreak first.

All this said, I do have a question as to which plan they're on or started with? It's possible that if they started out on any sort of PAYGO plan, SMS might have been disabled. Maybe contact support and ask if SMS/MMS is enabled on the account? Worth a shot.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Done by Forty on February 05, 2016, 03:11:42 PM
I know they've been on the $30 plan for a while. Anyway we can certainly call and make sure that SMS/MMS are turned on.

Let's say they are currently turned on, and data is working, but SMS from Android isn't coming through.

What should they do to try to troubleshoot? I'm interpreting your last post to mean they should not try to follow the MMS steps on the Airvoice website, since the phone is running a newer version of iOS than 7.0.

Is there even a next step?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on February 05, 2016, 03:41:14 PM
Is there even a next step?

Not much can be troubleshot on their end, and there really isn't much of a next step for them, no. They can toggle iMessage off and on with the phone for giggles, but I doubt it'll do anything. Maybe they can even try leaving it off and have a known good sender send another message to see if it comes through or not. Odds are though, I'm not expecting things to change. Also, the MMS instructions won't work on newer iOS builds, period.

Without knowing far more about the circumstances and the hardware used across the board and which users aren't going through, I would first guess that the problem is on the originator's end, not the receiver's. You only said she couldn't receive, which indicates she can send and they receive just fine.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: geekette on February 05, 2016, 04:18:45 PM
IP Daley Airvoice Question:

Our friend has been on Airvoice for a while, is an iPhone user, but has not been able to get texts from non-iPhone users. She just got a "new to her" iPhone 5, but is still having the same problem.

We pointed her to the MMS and internet instructions on Airvoice's website, but it notes this is only for iOS 7.0 and earlier (link below)...but she's on a more recent version of iOS so they're hesitant to just start manually entering the APN settings. Any risk there? Or should they just go for it?

https://www.airvoicewireless.com/SupportIphone.aspx

I've also been kicking around a workaround that just uses Google Voice for texting, but that would be a last resort.

iPhone on Airvoice user here - I haven't been able to get MMS since I upgraded my phone (don't care, so I haven't attempted to fix it) but I do get SMS from non-iPhone users, on the rare occasion someone not on an iPhone texts me (sadly, half the time they're spam, which I immediately block). 

I went to www.unlockit.co.nz on the phone's browser and changed the APN from there.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: mkowske on February 06, 2016, 11:42:25 PM
Thank you Mr. Daley for the wonderful guide you wrote. I've read it through a few times now and I'm still struggling with all the options and technical setup requirements. I'm hoping you or other forum members can help direct me to what my family needs.

1) My work pays for my cell phone so I'm out of the equation

2) My wife and daughter are currently on a shared family plan with US Cellular for ~$85/month. This is some kind of promotion and will go up in price when they renew in May of this year. I want us off of the contract plans and leased phones.

3) Average use for them both combined per month is about 1600 minutes, 750 texts, 3.2 GB data. We will be going on a "data diet"... some of this is due to my wife's business though so we do require a decent amount of mobile data.

4) Also important is good coverage and call reliability.

5) Current phones they have are a Samsung Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5c. Will we be able to use these with a prepaid plan? I understand they need to be "unlocked" somehow after our contract. Obviously using our existing handsets would be a big plus.

6) My thought was simply by utilizing a prepaid plan + wifi calling when at home we can save a chunk of money, but how to accomplish this while keeping her existing phone # is challenging to me.  I've gotten this far... please correct me or advise:

Sign up for a prepaid cell service (I'm considering Ting) -- transfer old cell # over
Sign up for a GV or VoIP number service.
Setup call forwarding with Ting to forward calls to the VoIP # -- she will be able to receive calls to her old cell # over the VoIP network
  -- when not on wifi ... how to decide/direct whether calls use my Ting minutes or data over VoIP? Will everything be over data at this point or can I receive a normal cell phone call?
Outgoing calls: use the SIP dialer and setup VoIP to use my old phone # as outgoing caller ID?
  -- again, are you able to switch between using minutes and data with this setup when not on wifi?

I'm confused with above. What I want is to use wifi for everything when possible and use the mobile network when not available. Need to keep the existing phone number and would like it to be easy. I know this sounds like Google Fi but would like to BYOD. Help appreciated, thanks!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on February 07, 2016, 09:55:46 AM
I'm hoping you or other forum members can help direct me to what my family needs.

1) Okeydokey.

2) Hooboy, US Cellular! *sigh* This'll be fun.

You'll begin to understand why I typed this as you continue on.

3) Does your wife's business involve moving around large gobs of data or being away from WiFi most of the time? If no to both points, I'm setting a goal bar for her at around 250-750MB.

4) So, what's your ZIP code? (You can PM me that for privacy reasons, if you prefer.) Are you by chance with USCC because they have the best coverage for your region? If USCC is the alpha dog in your region and there isn't good coverage from the big four (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint), we may already be hitting a bit of a wall if data access is a necessity. These sorts of areas are rare, but not impossible... so it's probably best to set expectations early on a possible SOL situation if I don't know where you live.

Regarding network coverage if you want to do the research yourself, check crowd-sourced maps with Root Metrics (http://webcoveragemap.rootmetrics.com/us), OpenSignal (http://opensignal.com/), Sensorly (http://www.sensorly.com/map#|coverage), DeadCellZones.com (http://www.deadcellzones.com/), and CellReception.com (http://www.cellreception.com/coverage/) for overall reported coverage in your area in addition to the official network coverage maps. All maps and statistics lie, but you can make a good guess between them and the official coverage maps when combined with cell tower placement.

5) Only one of these phones might be able to go elsewhere without any problems, the iPhone. Here's the USCC device unlocking policy (http://www.uscellular.com/site/legal/mobile-wireless-device-unlocking.html). You'll note, they claim the 5c is already carrier unlocked and that they can also carrier unlock the S4, but headline that list with the following statement:
Quote
It is important for consumers to know that an unlocked device is not an assurance that such device will;
  • operate on any other carrier's network due to technical differences between carriers networks (for example, U.S. Cellular operates a CDMA network while some carriers operate GSM networks which are incompatible)
  • or, if it does operate on another network, perform all of the functions that it performed on the U.S. Cellular network
  • be accepted by any carrier for use on their network even if the device is compatible with that network to some degree.

An unofficial FAQ from a third party USCC support forum (http://teamuscellular.com/Forum/topic/3547-us-cellular-service-faq/) has the following to say on carrier unlocking these particular USCC handsets:
Quote from: iRub1Out
Can I carrier "unlock" my U.S. Cellular phone?

Yes, but it depends on how you define "unlock", for instance CDMA only phones are locked with a simple 6 digit code of all zeros that will allow you to reprogram or "flash" it to another CDMA network.

If you have a non-iPhone 4G LTE device released before April 2015, it can only be unlocked to work with other CDMA/LTE networks, it will NOT work with GSM/W-CDMA(UMTS)/HSPA+ networks. Most Samsung and LG 4G LTE smartphones released on USCC will work with T-Mobile, but only with LTE. You must also be in a VoLTE enabled area and have a VoLTE capable device to make calls with a unlocked USCC device.
....
Why can't I use GSM on my non-iPhone 4G LTE USCC device?

Non-iPhone 4G LTE devices released before April 2015 are not certified by the FCC to operate on GSM, thus federal regulations require non-certified bands to be permanently disabled. Most USCC devices such as the S4 and Mega don't even have GSM hardware, it's been completely stripped off the phone. You may be able to activate your unlocked USCC device on a GSM network that supports VoLTE, but this is not guaranteed.
....
I have an iPhone from U.S. Cellular, does it come pre-unlocked like the Verizon model?

Partially, all iPhones from U.S. Cellular are already unlocked for use outside with GSM networks outside of the United States, but are locked to U.S. Cellular within in the United States and must be unlocked in order to activate on another network within the United States.
....
How do I use my U.S. Cellular iPhone with another network in the United States?

You will either need to call customer service or visit a U.S. Cellular store to have your iPhone unlocked, the rep will fill out a work-order request with the iPhone's IMEI number and will send it off to be unlocked. This process takes around a day to complete.

So, technically no to the S4 for GSM service, even though technically the hardware specs say it should be able to; and yes to the 5c for GSM service, but you still have to actually carrier unlock despite what USCC's official carrier unlock FAQ says. Theoretically you might be able to take them to activate on a Sprint or (more likely) Verizon MVNO (that is, assuming either network has sufficient native coverage for your area), but it's a bit of a hot mess and I can't promise squat. YMMV. I'm still going to encourage you to contact these CDMA LTE MVNOs (Ting CDMA [Sprint + Verizon/USCC voice/SMS roaming], Selectel [Verizon + Sprint/USCC voice/SMS roaming]) to double check and confirm the ability to activate (or not) after carrier unlocking (which you can only do after you complete the contract later this year) before ditching the S4, however.

Like I said, it's a bit of a hot mess. It may look feasibly great on paper and you want it to work, but it's mostly a trainwreck waiting to happen.

6) This is a bit more involved, and you're getting close on understanding, but not entirely. There's a couple methods that can be used, but I would, under general principle, leave Google Voice out - especially if you need reliability on contacting due to business needs. Especially in the case of business needs, PAY FOR WHAT YOU NEED.

If you need reliable hybrid UMA/GAN calling support (which is all GoogleFi is, but only with expensive Nexus branded flagship Android handsets using a T-Mobile primary network with Sprint LTE roaming), use and pay for a carrier and phone that properly offers it. Republic unfortunately isn't that solution. However, Ting GSM and T-Mobile do offer these services with select handsets (https://help.ting.com/hc/en-us/articles/205421918-FAQ-Wi-Fi-Calling-on-GSM-Devices) including certain Android, Blackberry and Windows Mobile phones, but not with an iPhone. It's also important to note that using WiFi with UMA/GAN calling will still count and be billed as used minutes with the carrier. It's not like data as you're still using their network to connect calls and texts.

One thing to remember is that call forwarding from the carrier to a VoIP number is still going to cost you incoming minutes with the mobile carrier plus the additional incoming minute cost (if any) of the VoIP provider. It doesn't matter if you're using it to give you coverage in an area where mobile service is usually spotty by using WiFi fallback to call out and receive. It's just how it works.

If you're doing it just to save money but need to keep reliability, the only place you'll be able to easily cut costs doing your own hybrid VoIP setup are mostly through outbound calling with a VoIP provider that permits you to set and change outbound Caller ID (LocalPhone, VOIP.ms, CallCentric) and use it over WiFi and maybe 4G data (depending on data versus minute costs 1MB = 2 minutes of talk time roughly - don't forget to also include the cost per minute of the outbound VoIP call). I know others here have done VoIP calling over 3G networks, but I don't recommend it due to the much higher latency which can impact call quality and clarity.

Now, if you're going to ignore all this advice and still want to plow ahead with as cheap of service as possible doing a hybrid setup like Republic does, port your number to Google Voice and use this cheapskate guide I wrote up (http://www.techmeshugana.com/2014/07/trulocalphone-magic/), but I don't recommend using it for some of the same reasons I don't recommend Republic.

Again, if you need proper UMA/GAN WiFi calling support, get a supported handset and either go Ting GSM or T-Mobile. If you're just trying to keep costs low without impacting reliability, either use a home VoIP phone or only rely on VoIP with CallerID set to your mobile number for outbound calls if you're near a WiFi connection. If you're just being cheap, knock yourself out with the afore linked TruLocalPhone Magic post for cheapskates using Google Voice for your primary number combined with Truphone SIM and staying glued to WiFi, but of your existing handsets, it'll really only work with the iPhone for reasons covered in point five.

Hope this helps clear up a few points. Get back with me on a location and I'll help if need be, and if you have any other questions, don't hesitate to ask.

Edit: Forgot to embed a link to the Team US Cellular FAQ up above. Sorry about that.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: mkowske on February 07, 2016, 11:02:08 AM
Wow thanks for all the detail. Okay, so let me clarify a few points.

We have coverage here from other networks... Verizon, AT&T, etc. So we don't need to stay in the USCC network.

My wife is a realtor and is often in the car when she needs to access the internet so yes we do need a fair amount of mobile data, but it's hard for me to say how much is for business and how much is our daughter looking at youtube videos. I'm hoping to get it down significantly but don't know how much at this point.

So, sounds like we can keep the iPhone and MAYBE the S4 if we go with a CDMA MVNO, but likely not. So this will mean a new phone purchase.

The idea of using wifi calling was to save cost only... not to be able to make calls where there is no cell signal. I now understand that it still uses minutes, so there really isn't any cost savings... only for outbound calls where you can utilize a custom caller ID with your VoIP provider. So now it is a matter of determining what % of our calls are outbound and on a reliable wifi network? If I can estimate this I can calculate the VoIP per minute charge and see if it would save enough to warrant this setup. We COULD save on incoming calls too if we gave out our VoIP number, but for business reasons we need to keep the number the same. I think I understand that right.

So the options I'm considering now are

1) The above mentioned setup: Ting w/ a reliable VoIP provider and utilize wifi @ home whenever possible for outbound calls. We could utilize the iPhone but would need something to replace the S4 (probably).

2) #1 but without the VoIP if I determine there would be little to no cost savings by doing this.

3) Stay with USCC?? I hate the contracts but am wondering if there are some scenarios where this will be the better deal.  I had thought we were on some promo pricing but I just priced out a new plan on their website (2 lines, 6 GB data, Galaxy S5 + iPhone 6) and it's $80 / month with $99 to lease the iPhone, S5 is "free" -- if I assume $10 in taxes and accrue the $99 iPhone cost over 2 years: $95/month

Compare this with my best guess Ting option: 2 lines ($12) + 500-1000 minutes ($18, thinking we could transfer 500 of our monthly minutes to outbound wifi calls) + 100-1000 texts ($5) + 500-1000 MB data ($19 .. a major reduction in our data usage but maybe we can do it) = $54 + taxes = ~$64. VoIP costs look like they range from .01 to .02 per minute. I'll assume I go with CallCentric's 500 minute package which comes to  .0139 per minute, or 6.95 per month. So total is now $70.95. We'll also need a new phone and I haven't done a lot of looking here but just to replace the S4 with a refurbished one from Ting is $215. The S4 has actually been quite a trooper... lasting 3 years with a cracked screen and multiple drops into water, so we wouldn't mind getting this again.  But at that price doing the same accrual over 2 years brings the monthly bill to: $64 + $8.95 for the S4 purchase = $72.95. This doesn't include the possibility of the iPhone crapping out in the next 2 years either (it's already had the screen/touchscreen replaced twice... ).

As a comparison to that doing Ting w/o the VoIP option and 1500 minutes a month would be $71 + taxes + cost of phone = $89.95/month

To summarize:
1) Ting + VoIP = $72.95 / month
2) Ting w/o VoIP = $89.95 / month
3) USCC = $95 / month

Cost savings over 2 years choosing option #1 over #3: $529

So I guess I am saving some money each month but from the way I'm looking at it (and maybe I'm looking at it wrong), the cost savings are not dramatic. Your thoughts?

Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on February 07, 2016, 11:43:00 AM
So I guess I am saving some money each month but from the way I'm looking at it (and maybe I'm looking at it wrong), the cost savings are not dramatic. Your thoughts?

I covered a lot in the PM response to your region and the handsets, which really shapes things the most.

Quote
Bottom line in your situation? I'd go Consumer Cellular first, Selectel second - with Consumer Cellular being the option that needs the least amount of potential hardware replacement.

The question of whether you'll actually save a whole mess of money, however...

Consumer Cellular would probably target you around $50-70/month + taxes if you got data usage down under 1.5GB or less, and depending upon how much under the 1600 minutes using outbound VoIP calling on WiFi really knocked things down. It's technically a better deal than Ting for the quantities involved, and you'd want AT&T coverage with roaming anyway over either T-Mobile or Sprint coverage with roaming given your region and your wife's profession. Your region just needs partner roaming agreements when on any of the big four networks, especially if you travel any and need mobile data access. It'd also guarantee that you could keep at least one of the phones, something that going to Selectel wouldn't necessarily guarantee or afford, and you'd be in for around $50-60 anyway given the usage levels and the plans Selectel offers in the first place.

If you really want to try the VoIP outbound supplementation, I'd definitely recommend going LocalPhone. They have pre-configured smartphone apps, it's easy to set up (including changing outbound CallerID), the call quality is solid, and their monthly subscription prices are very reasonable (250 minutes for 75¢/month, 800 for $1.60, 5000 for $5).... though they do social network datamine if you choose to go that route.

Not drastic savings, but there's still the potential for savings... especially if you ignore the sunk cost of any replacement devices. As to whether it's worth it or not to switch? That's a math question you'll have to answer yourself. Just remember, carrier unlocked GSM handsets are far cheaper than CDMA, especially CDMA handsets that have to be purchased direct from the carrier.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: alsoknownasDean on February 08, 2016, 01:50:35 AM
I'm honestly surprised the CDMA networks still exist. They were shut down years ago here in Aus.

BTW, you can find out on the device as to how much data each device is using each month. It's fairly easy on Android as it's broken down by month (it's accessed under Settings - Mobile Data on my LG G3). iOS shows data usage from the last reset date. It may even be broken down by app (and mobile data can be toggled on/off for each particular app on iOS and I presume Android as well).

That at least will help you determine whether it's due to your daughter's phone on YouTube or your wife's work phone.

Note: The data meter on the device may differ or may lag from the carrier's data meter. My phone's showing 232MB used and my carrier's app is showing 209MB used. Some data use may not count, etc.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: mkowske on February 08, 2016, 05:20:58 AM
Thanks again, I.P. I think I will get a month of Localphone and install it on my wife's phone -- have her use it whenever possible and see how our minutes go down. This will give us a trial one to see if a) the tech works for us and b) how much we could save by going this route.

The coverage stuff is a bummer. Again, because of her business, she needs to be able to talk with clients when on the road and not have issues with reception or dropped calls. I am worried a switch to AT&T, or any other network, is an unknown and we may end up having to come crawling back to USCC.

Dean, thanks for the tips. I'll look more into that. I was also wondering if there is a good app recommended for data cap management?  I need something that will remind the family things like ... you're not on wifi, but there is wifi available (my wife often uses mobile hotspot, which turns off wifi and then does not prompt to turn it back on and she forgets about it), daily/weekly usage summaries sent to the user, warnings when reaching caps, resizing the huge camera phone pictures when sending texts, tec.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: mkowske on February 08, 2016, 04:43:24 PM

So, technically no to the S4 for GSM service, even though technically the hardware specs say it should be able to; and yes to the 5c for GSM service, but you still have to actually carrier unlock despite what USCC's official carrier unlock FAQ says. Theoretically you might be able to take them to activate on a Sprint or (more likely) Verizon MVNO (that is, assuming either network has sufficient native coverage for your area), but it's a bit of a hot mess and I can't promise squat. YMMV. I'm still going to encourage you to contact these CDMA LTE MVNOs (Ting CDMA [Sprint + Verizon/USCC voice/SMS roaming], Selectel [Verizon + Sprint/USCC voice/SMS roaming]) to double check and confirm the ability to activate (or not) after carrier unlocking (which you can only do after you complete the contract later this year) before ditching the S4, however.

When you say Verizon/USCC and Sprint/USCC -- is that "US Ceulllar = USCC" ? Does this mean that with those providers we would still be using the USCC network? That would eliminate the big unknown of how our service would be, since we already know USCC is good. Or am I misunderstanding?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on February 08, 2016, 09:00:44 PM

So, technically no to the S4 for GSM service, even though technically the hardware specs say it should be able to; and yes to the 5c for GSM service, but you still have to actually carrier unlock despite what USCC's official carrier unlock FAQ says. Theoretically you might be able to take them to activate on a Sprint or (more likely) Verizon MVNO (that is, assuming either network has sufficient native coverage for your area), but it's a bit of a hot mess and I can't promise squat. YMMV. I'm still going to encourage you to contact these CDMA LTE MVNOs (Ting CDMA [Sprint + Verizon/USCC voice/SMS roaming], Selectel [Verizon + Sprint/USCC voice/SMS roaming]) to double check and confirm the ability to activate (or not) after carrier unlocking (which you can only do after you complete the contract later this year) before ditching the S4, however.

When you say Verizon/USCC and Sprint/USCC -- is that "US Ceulllar = USCC" ? Does this mean that with those providers we would still be using the USCC network? That would eliminate the big unknown of how our service would be, since we already know USCC is good. Or am I misunderstanding?

Let me clarify: Ting CDMA's primary network is Sprint with roaming on Verizon and US Cellular; Selectel's primary network is Verizon with roaming on Sprint and US Cellular. Neither MVNO permits data access when roaming on non-native towers. Make sense?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: mkowske on February 10, 2016, 07:00:09 AM
Let me clarify: Ting CDMA's primary network is Sprint with roaming on Verizon and US Cellular; Selectel's primary network is Verizon with roaming on Sprint and US Cellular. Neither MVNO permits data access when roaming on non-native towers. Make sense?

That makes sense yes. I managed to unlock the old XT907 I got and ordered a SIM card from CC to try it out. I'm going to test reception/availability first before making a decision. Your advice has been a great help! I'm glad you have a donate button on your page.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on February 10, 2016, 08:40:56 AM
I managed to unlock the old XT907 I got and ordered a SIM card from CC to try it out. I'm going to test reception/availability first before making a decision. Your advice has been a great help! I'm glad you have a donate button on your page.

Glad to hear, and happy to be of service. *tips hat* Thank you.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: mkowske on February 17, 2016, 12:20:02 PM
Just wanted to update on my progress. Went with Consumer Cellular, which while not as good as USC as far as signal goes it seems to be good enough so far.

Tried to hook up Localphone for outgoing calls while on wifi but after days of working with their tech support it is still shaky call quality (sporadic one way audio and echos). So I am now trying out VOIP.ms which seems great from the start, unfortunately not as inexpensive though. We're doing this as a trial month to see how many minutes we can off load to VOIP before making the switch off of US Cellular.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: TheFirstMan on February 18, 2016, 03:14:47 PM
Do you have a recommendation of a reputable Ebay or Amazon shop that sells used, clean phones?

(I'm still deciding between Airvoice, Selectel, and TMobile.)

Thanks!

I got some old iPhones from friends and put them on Selectel ($10 for 100 min or 200 texts, good for 120 days). Cheap, easy, convenient!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Acg on February 23, 2016, 05:25:03 PM
I'm looking to move to an AT&T MNVO that can support iPhones.  I noticed that Cricket Wireless wasn't mentioned in IP Daley's superguide and I was wondering why?  Is it the fact that they seem to be driving the smaller guys out of the market or is there more to it?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on February 23, 2016, 08:56:47 PM
I'm looking to move to an AT&T MNVO that can support iPhones.  I noticed that Cricket Wireless wasn't mentioned in IP Daley's superguide and I was wondering why?  Is it the fact that they seem to be driving the smaller guys out of the market or is there more to it?

Owned by AT&T, customer service is mediocre at best, draconian terms of service, and AT&T is undercutting their own wholesale customers on data costs partly in a move to reduce the competition in the very same prepaid market that they had been hemorrhaging customers to. Embrace, extend, extinguish. Given the guide is driven by a value system that embraces quality over quantity and rewarding responsible companies that don't abuse their end users, and the core philosophy of the guide is supposed to be in sync with the core values of MMM's philosophy of striving to make the world a better place, you can probably figure out why I wouldn't recommend Cricket.

As for AT&T MVNOs in the guide that do support the iPhone properly, Consumer Cellular does.

Puretalk USA has also recently taken to advertising and selling the 6s, so one would hope that they're now on the Apple blessed list as well and the MMS situation taken care of, but I have no confirmation one way or the other.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: geekette on February 24, 2016, 01:22:09 PM
Trying to refill a phone with Airvoice and getting a 404 error at airvoicewireless.com. 

I hope this is a glitch and not an omen.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on February 24, 2016, 01:42:30 PM
Trying to refill a phone with Airvoice and getting a 404 error at airvoicewireless.com. 

I hope this is a glitch and not an omen.

Pretty sure it's just a glitch. The entire site is down currently, but I called in and got through to support in under 90 seconds. Asked about the website, she responded, "I noticed that happens sometimes when they're updating the site, give it another 20 minutes or so and they should have it fixed."

Definitely no stress in her voice, and she was friendly about it. Here's to it being just a glitch.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: mkowske on February 29, 2016, 10:05:29 AM
Tried to hook up Localphone for outgoing calls while on wifi but after days of working with their tech support it is still shaky call quality (sporadic one way audio and echos). So I am now trying out VOIP.ms which seems great from the start, unfortunately not as inexpensive though. We're doing this as a trial month to see how many minutes we can off load to VOIP before making the switch off of US Cellular.

I spoke too soon. Am having a terrible time trying to get VoIP working. I'm experiencing great calls at first, but after a few minutes the person on the other end of the line complains I am breaking up and it is choppy. I've spent a lot of time with the Voip.ms staff trying to figure out the problem and gotten nowhere. We've tried different codecs, router settings, etc -- it's a shame we have this blazingly fast cable internet connection that can't for some reason support a simple voice telephone call. I've talked with my ISP and we've done speed tests and it all looks fine. I'm at a loss with what to do now. I don't know if this solution will work for us and that is a shame.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on February 29, 2016, 10:16:55 AM
That's odd. I'm routinely on 60-90+ minute phone calls for work and it crapped on me exactly once in dozens and dozens of calls.

Maybe your cell phone (or ATA)'s voip implementation is shaky. I would try it with another device.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: dramaman on February 29, 2016, 10:21:39 AM
Tried to hook up Localphone for outgoing calls while on wifi but after days of working with their tech support it is still shaky call quality (sporadic one way audio and echos). So I am now trying out VOIP.ms which seems great from the start, unfortunately not as inexpensive though. We're doing this as a trial month to see how many minutes we can off load to VOIP before making the switch off of US Cellular.

I spoke too soon. Am having a terrible time trying to get VoIP working. I'm experiencing great calls at first, but after a few minutes the person on the other end of the line complains I am breaking up and it is choppy. I've spent a lot of time with the Voip.ms staff trying to figure out the problem and gotten nowhere. We've tried different codecs, router settings, etc -- it's a shame we have this blazingly fast cable internet connection that can't for some reason support a simple voice telephone call. I've talked with my ISP and we've done speed tests and it all looks fine. I'm at a loss with what to do now. I don't know if this solution will work for us and that is a shame.

I've had very reliable service for the last 18 months using Anveo VOIP provider with a grandstream sip to analog adapter device that hooks up to our analog wired land-line phones.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007EYY3XU?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_detailpage_o09_s00
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on February 29, 2016, 10:11:37 PM
I'm at a loss with what to do now. I don't know if this solution will work for us and that is a shame.

You've had bad call quality with two VoIP providers now, and I suspect technically two different SIPphone apps. This leaves the modem and/or router, the WiFi network, and the phone hardware.

I doubt it's the phone, call it a hunch. You can check anyway by using another phone and another supported SIPphone app.

Might be the WiFi network and excessive channel interference, but the only way to really tell is to do a wireless survey. I'm not going to cover how to do that because it's easier to just link you to a tutorial (http://www.techrepublic.com/article/learn-to-do-a-wireless-lan-site-survey-with-this-tutorial/).

Odds are, it's probably some combo of network router with QoS issues and WiFi interference issue. Best way to test is to try and use it on another network and/or on another device on your current network to see if the problem follows. Do basic troubleshooting steps by eliminating each factor. You could always try using the VoIP service over an LTE data connection as the latency should be reasonably good enough. Odds are, it'll work fine. (For the record, most VoIP calls average about 0.5MB per minute). If you tried using it on multiple WiFi networks, you'd likely find varying call quality and some that perform better than what you have at home. VoIP works best, honestly, on a wired network connection - which is why I advocate bringing back the "home" phone in the guide. I suspect it's most likely something with your home network specifically, but I doubt using WiFi is helping the situation much.

If you're using VDSL (AT&T Uverse) or any modem/router combo provided by the ISP and the ISP offers digital home phone service, frequently they set their hardware up to either completely block third party VoIP entirely with their default settings or significantly degrade service quality. There's ways around this, but it requires research if it is this cause, and it varies from provider to provider and device to device. If you own all your hardware and the modem is separate from the router, and the router is supported and easily flash-able to DD-WRT, Tomato, or OpenWRT, frequently the default firmware on these routers just upright stinks for data management and the aftermarket will work much better overall, especially for VoIP call quality...

Just some thoughts if the hard-wired internet connection (via ethernet or WiFi) is actually showing as good enough for VoIP service with speed tests (http://myspeed.visualware.com/index.php).
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: TheDude on March 03, 2016, 10:02:17 AM
I prefer to buy a local sim (you need an unlocked phone) when I get to my location. I use website for my research its seems to pretty comprehensive.

http://prepaid-data-sim-card.wikia.com/wiki/Italy
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on March 03, 2016, 01:37:13 PM
What's our cheapest option?

Okay, first, I should probably clarify a few things for you.

1) The International Calling packages for Page Plus are not for international roaming with your handset, they're for calling phones in other countries. There is no international roaming option with Page Plus.

2) Give you're on Page Plus' "The 12" plan, that means you're most likely using bog standard CDMA phones without LTE support. No LTE, no SIM card, no SIM card, absolutely no chance of international GSM frequency support. On the off-chance you have LTE handsets that were hacked to work with Page Plus and qualify for "The 12" before the introduction of Verizon LTE support on Page Plus, whether or not there's also international GSM band support, the changes necessary to make that happen? You won't be able to reactivate those handsets on the same plan with Page Plus to make the changes necessary to make it work again due to policy changes. About the only phone this wouldn't apply to is the Verizon iPhone 4s as it's a CDMA phone with GSM support.

3) You're going to need a phone with at least GSM support with at minimum the four major bands (850/900/1800/1900MHz) to go globetrekking, whether you use local providers or or international roaming SIM cards like KnowRoaming (https://www.knowroaming.com/) or Truphone SIM (https://www.truphone.com/us/consumer/sim/). Check out what Dude linked as well as the prices with the two I've mentioned, but remember that you're likely going to have to get a carrier unlocked GSM phone specifically for any of these solutions to work due to your current phones being Verizon CDMA.

For between $15-20, maybe consider the Blu Tank II or Z3 off Amazon. They'll be no-frills, 2G, quad band GSM handsets that should work in Italy and on T-Mobile here in the US (dual SIM, too, not that you'll need it)... and they'll be cheap, but built a smidge better than most of the burner phone crap that's new at this price point and sold in airport duty free shops. If you want more out of the phones, then we'll talk more later... but those should work for what you're needing on the handset end. 3G feature phone handsets will only get more expensive, and we enter into the used market to keep 'em cheap and/or needing to look at options that needs to ensure carrier unlocking has (or can) be done.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: alsoknownasDean on March 06, 2016, 04:22:12 AM
For between $15-20, maybe consider the Blu Tank II or Z3 off Amazon. They'll be no-frills, 2G, quad band GSM handsets that should work in Italy and on T-Mobile here in the US (dual SIM, too, not that you'll need it)... and they'll be cheap, but built a smidge better than most of the burner phone crap that's new at this price point and sold in airport duty free shops. If you want more out of the phones, then we'll talk more later... but those should work for what you're needing on the handset end. 3G feature phone handsets will only get more expensive, and we enter into the used market to keep 'em cheap and/or needing to look at options that needs to ensure carrier unlocking has (or can) be done.

Daley, I'm just wondering here, is it really worth buying a new 2G handset, considering carriers around the world (at least in some countries) are starting to shut down their 2G networks (or any network expansion is to their 3G/4G networks)?

Sure, if you're buying used, then maybe it's not so bad to buy a 2G handset, but if you're buying new, a 3G handset offers better future proofing. Just my opinion though :)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: TRBeck on March 22, 2016, 01:13:01 PM
I've been with Airvoice for the past two years, the $10/mo. plan. I have an iPhone 4 from...before, and it's no longer usable. I'm in the market for something that will suit my usage patterns as affordably as possible. I don't do data, although I wouldn't mind occasionally doing so. I haven't since late 2013 so it's not an ingrained habit and I don't want it to become one. I send maybe 40-45 texts a month and have 2-3 longer phone conversations (an hour plus) with family each month, usually from home so I have options there. Very little other usage and no desire to go much beyond this. If it helps, I can tell you that I always roll a balance over and currently have something like $40 in my account. I don't do much on my phone, in other words, although I was a data user prior to discovering the MMM forum. I have broken a few phones, but this iPhone has been sturdy enough for me despite being in a cheap protective case for about 2 years (Otter Box before that).

So, am I looking for a feature phone, an inexpensive smart phone? What are my options? I would prefer to stay with Airvoice as the AT&T network is good here and I have been happy with the service and cost.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on March 22, 2016, 01:44:23 PM
So, am I looking for a feature phone, an inexpensive smart phone? What are my options?

Well, that's a little difficult to answer quite yet without first knowing the answer to the following:

I don't do data, although I wouldn't mind occasionally doing so.

Define the sort of data usage you speak of. MMS? Email? Web browsing? Something else?

There's a lot of lower-end smartyphones, new and used, but they're not as robust as I'd like for recommendation sake. If a feature phone can easily handle the sort of data you're after, it'd probably be the better option for the money for overall durability, portability and battery life. As for reasonably durable and cheap smartphones, the Nokia/Microsoft Lumia series isn't too shabby, durability wise. There's also older, used Samsung Galaxy Active handsets, though I'd avoid the S3. It really just comes down to what you're wanting your tool to do specifically beyond call and text.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: TRBeck on March 22, 2016, 01:51:36 PM
I don't stream anything through my phone and never have. I would be interested in occasional access to maps and the random ability to browse the web might occasionally come in handy. I like being able to jump on my phone occasionally to look up some information or read.

I do have a side business for which browser and e-mail would be useful occasionally. Have never been a social media user but I am told that Twitter would help me with this side gig. Maybe.

So, I guess light usage of browser/email, mostly consisting of text.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on March 22, 2016, 01:58:14 PM
Sticking with a smartphone might be your best course of action, then.

If you're comfortable with the platform, again, the Nokia/Microsoft Lumias such as the 635 and 640 aren't too expensive (especially used). If you'd rather go Android, scrounge around for a ruggedized Samsung Galaxy Active.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: TRBeck on March 22, 2016, 02:18:03 PM
Gotcha. Thank you. Your recommendations have been very helpful to me. I wish I'd listened about Republic before my wife signed up last year, though...

I'll look at the Lumias. I have a cut-down SIM card in my iPhone. Will I be able to simply move that over to the Lumia?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on March 22, 2016, 03:14:51 PM
Glad to help, as always.

Will I be able to simply move that over to the Lumia?

I believe both the Lumia 635 and 640 are both 3FF micro-SIM, same as the iPhone 4. You should be able to just move it across.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: ragesinggoddess on March 27, 2016, 04:48:43 PM
My husband just talked me into a new contract with AT&T which is costing me $45/mo. I really want to get out of it before the return period is over but I'm overwhelmed by the options.

I use my cell phone mainly for texting, but also like to use data for GPS or looking up info (usually recipes) while I'm out. I probably talk on the phone about 20 minutes a week. Realistically I would be okay with a flip phone, especially since I have a tablet with data (too late to get out of that one), but sometimes I don't want to carry something that bulky. So I guess I'm looking for an okay smart phone. I'm in 01060 if that matters. Any ideas for me?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on March 27, 2016, 09:13:42 PM
Any ideas for me?

Yup, see the exchange with TRBeck immediately above your post.

There's a lot of lower-end smartyphones, new and used, but they're not as robust as I'd like for recommendation sake. If a feature phone can easily handle the sort of data you're after, it'd probably be the better option for the money for overall durability, portability and battery life. As for reasonably durable and cheap smartphones, the Nokia/Microsoft Lumia series isn't too shabby, durability wise. There's also older, used Samsung Galaxy Active handsets, though I'd avoid the S3. It really just comes down to what you're wanting your tool to do specifically beyond call and text.

I will also point out that you don't need data for GPS if you pre-load your maps (if your preferred navigation app supports it) or if you use an offline GPS app such as Sygic.

As for plans without knowing your text usage, probably the Airvoice $20 "unlimited" talk and text plan with 100MB of data. Recipes are text, and text doesn't use much data... just be sure to disable image loading while on mobile data in your web browser to keep usage low. Airvoice uses AT&T's network, so if AT&T works in your area, there's your best course of action.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: ZiziPB on March 30, 2016, 07:51:00 AM
I am sick of paying crazy money to Verizon and I think the time has finally come to do something about it.  Currently paying $125 to Verizon for 2 lines.  The phones are iPhone 4s (long out of contract and unlocked by Verizon) and iPhone 6 (came unlocked; still paying for it but I can simply buy it out).  My DD has the iPhone 6 but she is abroad most of the year and uses it there with local SIM-only service.  When she comes home she pops in the Verizon SIM card.  I am a super low user (this month, with 3 days left, I have used 7 minutes, 40 texts and 0.052 GB of data).  When my DD is home (generally 2-3 months out of the year) she uses the plan much more but we've never exceeded our 4GB combined data allowance.

I'd like to keep our existing phones if possible but switch to some kind of pay-as-you go service.  Coverage is generally good in our area (central CT).

I would appreciate any help and suggestions.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on March 30, 2016, 10:15:07 AM
I would appreciate any help and suggestions.

Before we start, there's three things that need to be addressed that will shape the advice given and the amount of savings possible. Additionally, without knowing semi-solid usage levels of your daughter, it makes things a bit more challenging - especially on the data end. Never exceeding 4GB when you personally appear to use on average around 50MB. Anyway, our problems:

1) Your daughter's line. There's no way to preserve this number on a truly prepaid MVNO given the inactive periods. If you go prepaid, she's going to have to need to activate a new account and get a new number every time she's stateside unless she parks her number on Google Voice or something and just validates/forwards to the new numbers every time she comes over. Personally, I wouldn't recommend porting the number over to Google Voice for a myriad of privacy and reliability reasons, but your and her mileage may vary. Now, this isn't to say that you couldn't preserve the number and the current style setup under a postpaid MVNO such as Consumer Cellular or Ting... but that's pretty much the extent of your choices, Consumer Cellular or Ting, and the potential savings will be considerably hampered. Ting may have two networks creating the illusion of three choices, but we'll get to that point momentarily.

2) The phones. The good news is, in addition to taking the current handsets to a Verizon MVNO (which isn't a viable option if you go postpaid, and even if you go prepaid, there are far cheaper options not on Verizon), the phones will technically work on an AT&T or T-Mobile MVNO as well. This excludes Sprint (and by extension Ting CDMA) as the phones won't activate on Sprint, but this is no big loss as Sprint's New England coverage is worse than T-Mobile's, though T-Mobile really needs at least partner roaming to get decent coverage, which means most prepaid T-Mobile MVNOs are also out for the area. AT&T's coverage is probably the closest you'll see to current Verizon native coverage in the area. If PAYGO or prepaid becomes an option, AT&T's rates to their wholesalers aren't too shabby. Not as good as T-Mobile (at least for data), but way better than Verizon. Unfortunately, most AT&T MVNOs don't play nice with iPhones no matter how carrier unlocked they are unless they're on the officially blessed Apple supported list as you won't be able to access mobile data without it. The exception is Consumer Cellular, as they are on the blessed list. This problem doesn't exist with T-Mobile MVNOs... currently. Another thing to consider is that with the Verizon iPhones, taking them to a T-Mobile MVNO means potentially worse indoor phone reception than what you're used to either with Verizon or could potentially have with AT&T, and it'll be due to a combo of antenna design on the device and the fact that T-Mobile does voice calls on the 1900MHz bands instead of 850MHz, which has less building penetration.

3) Accurate usage numbers for your daughter. I've got a vague baseline for yourself, and it's a prime candidate for a couple PAYGO options if we can go prepaid. Hers, on the other hand, between number preservation and unknown usage levels likely needing postpaid? That's going spike costs considerably, despite still saving overall against what you're currently paying.

If I was just addressing you and your line individually, I'd probably recommend Airvoice's $10/month 250 minute plan. The usage level you quoted would put you in at about $5 (or half) of the usage per month, with the other half rolling over to future months with higher usage, and it's always good to have an overage cushion both within the month for average usage and for rare unusual heavy usage spikes. The next cheapest decent AT&T MVNO would be H2O Wireless and their prepaid option, but your usage level with them would run you over $7.50/month. You're nearly splitting hairs and definitely getting less for the money spent, though, when you factor cushion and overages. Regarding your daughter, if she parked her number with Google Voice, could go for H2O's $40/month "unlimited" talk and text plan with 1GB of high speed data and 128kbps throttled data after exceeding that limit plus the cost of a new SIM card every time she came over to activate. Unfortunately, we're talking about iPhones, which means neither option can really work for either of you... but, this is a potential lowest-end usage cost for you - around $200-240 a year. I'm showing you these numbers to help frame the idea of an Apple tax, and to also highlight the cost of just preserving your daughter's phone number.

This brings us back to either Consumer Cellular (AT&T plus roaming) or Ting GSM (T-Mobile plus roaming), both postpaid options. Your baseline usage plus your daughter's idle line most months will look like this:

Consumer Cellular - $27.50/month plus tax for two lines, 10 minutes of talk time billed at 25¢/minute, and the 150MB/1500SMS package. You could get that down to $25/month if you could get your data usage consistently under 30MB.

Ting GSM - $21.00/month plus tax for two lines and the small package for talk, text and data, giving you up to 100 minutes, 100 SMS messages and 100MB of data.

However, increased usage months will look like this under the worst case usage scenario:

Consumer Cellular - $100/month plus tax for two lines, unlimited talk, unlimited text, and 4GB of data. There of course would be the potential to get things lower, the lower the minute and data usage. For example, 3500 minutes and 3GB of data with unlimited texting drops that bill to $80 plus tax, and it'd be $60 plus tax for 1500 minutes and 1.5GB of data with unlimited texting.

Ting GSM - $87/month plus tax (plus overages if needed) for two lines, up to 2100 minutes plus 1.9¢/minute over, 4800 SMS messages plus 0.25¢ over, and 2GB of data plus 1.5¢/MB over. The next lowest level across the board would be $57 for 1000 minutes, 2000 text messages and 1GB of data. If you needed say 4000 minutes and 4GB of data, then Ting would run you $153.10.

You can see how Consumer Cellular is the better deal on heavier usage months, even when cost points mostly line up, and that they also offer higher minute and data packages as well as unlimited service tiers on texting and minutes. However, that savings can quickly be offset by the additional costs on the lower end. Worst case? Consumer Cellular would run you around $475.00-547.50 a year plus taxes. Ting would run you $384-648+ a year in addition to taxes depending on usage levels, and that's what makes Ting such a pricing wildcard without knowing what your daughter's usage levels are. It also means sacrificing better regional coverage and taking a gamble on worse voice calls, making it a higher gamble but with the opportunity of slightly better savings. Either option still beats the pants off of Verizon, though. And both would work with your existing iPhones.

So that brings us to my recommendation, either Consumer Cellular or Ting GSM for the easy solution, and I'll let you run the numbers to see which one is the better and decide if T-Mobile plus roaming is a usable possibility. I'm certain you also now see the Apple tax I was referring to, effectively doubling the cost you could pay just to get data support for iOS and solid network coverage - not to mention the increase in cost keeping a second line active on the account. I don't point these costs out to shame or discourage, just to point them out so you know what you're effectively paying for. As I've said time and again, don't be afraid to pay for what you need.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: ZiziPB on March 30, 2016, 11:02:20 AM
IP Daley, you are the best!

I pulled up the historical usage data for last year when she was home during the summer and for the holidays, and it looks like when we are both using the service we average right under 1.5 GB for data per month.  Mine is always under 0.1 GB.  Hers seems to be around 1.2-1.4 GB.  Average minutes for the 2 of us appear to be under 150 and texts under 100.   Looking at some historical data, I am always under 100 minutes, and generally around 50 or texts.

She likes her phone number (it's an easy number with the original central CT area code, so she would not be too crazy about getting a new one).

I don't need both us to be on the same network or plan.  I'm even thinking about leaving her on Verizon and just getting myself off.  As to quality of coverage in our area, I used to have a work-issued Blackberry on T-Mobile and had no problems with coverage around here.

ETA: I am definitely not married to my phone, but it works fine so I thought I could keep on using it.  But I would be just as happy with any other phone.  She likes the iPhone because it plays nicely with her other Apple toys, so I'm inclined to let her keep hers.  She will done with her masters program in June of next year, so after that she is both back home permanently and also on her own as far as the phone is concerned :-)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on March 30, 2016, 11:42:30 AM
I pulled up the historical usage data for last year when she was home during the summer and for the holidays, and it looks like when we are both using the service we average right under 1.5 GB for data per month.  Mine is always under 0.1 GB.  Hers seems to be around 1.2-1.4 GB.  Average minutes for the 2 of us appear to be under 150 and texts under 100.   Looking at some historical data, I am always under 100 minutes, and generally around 50 or texts.

Well, at those rates, going postpaid to keep both phones going would range between $21-55/month+tax on Ting GSM and $30-45/month+tax on Consumer Cellular without modifying any usage on either end, with annual costs averaging between $320-354 with Ting and $390-405 on Consumer Cellular. Given you've had successful coverage with T-Mobile postpaid in the past, Ting GSM sounds like a reasonably safe bet given you'll get the same coverage, excuse roaming data. Knowing these numbers will help determine if buying out the remaining Verizon contract on the iPhone will be worth it.

I would recommend wearing the phone out instead of just replacing it, because if you factor sunk cost of replacement equipment, it tends to kill the savings frequently over making do with something that already works for as long as possible. Given you're looking at only 15 more months before any major changes, that's $1875-ish with Verizon (assuming you both stayed put), versus $400-443-ish with Ting if you carried both over. No Verizon contract for a single phone, even a top of the line iPhone 6 with 23 remaining months of contract, is going to come anywhere near wiping out that roughly $1400 in savings. Definitely a cash positive move. Buy out the contract, port the numbers to Ting, and give your daughter the new SIM card next time she's over. This way you can keep what you have, save a wad of cash, keep your daughter's number and service available at a more reasonable price until she's ready to take her account over, and by then the iPhone 4s will probably be placed EOL due to a lack of idiotic biometrics and stop receiving security updates anyway which will give you a somewhat more valid reason to replace it - which will open up a few more, cheaper, and better options for yourself with Airvoice (or possibly elsewhere) next June.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: ZiziPB on March 30, 2016, 11:54:59 AM
Thank you very much!  This is very helpful.  After re-reading your message very carefully I reached the same conclusion.  Ting GSM with existing phones makes the most sense.  Now I need to figure out how to execute the switch with minimal interruptions :-)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on March 30, 2016, 12:06:33 PM
Thank you very much!  This is very helpful.  After re-reading your message very carefully I reached the same conclusion.  Ting GSM with existing phones makes the most sense.  Now I need to figure out how to execute the switch with minimal interruptions :-)

Well, Ting's support team is pretty solid, so they can easily walk you through what you need to do. Number porting time should go pretty quick going mobile to mobile carrier. That only leaves paying the final Verizon bill, phone reconfiguration, and sticking in the SIM cards on both ends. Depending on how soon your daughter will be back, it might be easier to get the account with Ting set up first, get both SIM cards activated and working, and then mail out her new SIM card so she has it available next time she's home.

As for Ting specifically, check your PMs.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: ZiziPB on March 30, 2016, 12:19:39 PM
Thank you again.  I am going to get this done in the next couple of days and am very excited about paying my last ever Verizon bill!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on March 30, 2016, 12:27:27 PM
Thank you again.

*doffs hat* Glad to be of service, as always.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: babysteps on April 09, 2016, 02:24:01 PM
...
3) You're going to need a phone with at least GSM support with at minimum the four major bands (850/900/1800/1900MHz) to go globetrekking, whether you use local providers or or international roaming SIM cards like KnowRoaming (https://www.knowroaming.com/) or Truphone SIM (https://www.truphone.com/us/consumer/sim/). Check out what Dude linked as well as the prices with the two I've mentioned, but remember that you're likely going to have to get a carrier unlocked GSM phone specifically for any of these solutions to work due to your current phones being Verizon CDMA.
...

So we have been traveling enough internationally (another 4 trips this year, at least) that we are going to try the knowroaming sticker approach - we won't use any roaming data (wifi can handle any email and map stuff), but the ability to use a phone for voice calls will be quite helpful (we're on Airvoice, so no international roaming offered at all).  Will report back after next two trips, likely sometime in July.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on April 12, 2016, 07:35:23 PM
I am considering shelling out the $20 for the knowroaming sticker for summer travel, but the lack of SMS forwarding is kind of a doozie. I guess it beats not being reachable at all. Not that I particularly need or want to be reached.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on April 12, 2016, 09:24:30 PM
I am considering shelling out the $20 for the knowroaming sticker for summer travel, but the lack of SMS forwarding is kind of a doozie. I guess it beats not being reachable at all. Not that I particularly need or want to be reached.

Understandable, but unavoidable, and it's certainly not KnowRoaming's fault. Theoretically, the GSM standard has the potential capability to enable SMS forwarding through established GSM codes (and has so since SMS went live in 1992), but I don't know of a single GSM network on the entire planet that's actually enabled that feature in the past quarter century of live service - and I suspect it's due to the technical differences between direct, switched call routing through the PSTN network versus indirect SMS routing through the GSM network (SMS messages are similar to Net Send in nature, but with a routing server in between). Given the fact that SMS was a protocol designed to only work inside the CCSS7/GSM network to begin with...

You know just as well as I do, just because the codes exist in a framework to do something doesn't mean that it's actually been done, and that usually happens because it's too much of a hacky kludge to do it in the first place. The GSM networks have just never been set up to handle SMS forwarding. Some days I feel like we were lucky to even get inter-network SMPP communication in the first place.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: dlawson on April 22, 2016, 02:56:48 PM
Daley, are you familiar with RingPlus? This article (http://www.retire29.com/the-954-a-month-iphone-plan/) makes it sound like a great option, but I don't know how serious some of the downsides are (new? bad customer support?).

And while we're at it, my wife and I are both on Verizon with a pair of Gen5 iPhones (5s and 5c). Between the two of us we probably top out at 3 Gb of data per month. We're thinking of selling both phones and buying Sprint equivalents since the RingPlus deal is so attractive (less than $30/mo for two people, even better if we can quickly and effectively decrease our data usage). I've looked into Selectel to save ourselves the hassle of selling and buying phones in order to switch carrier networks, but I can't find any info about adding data to a Selectel value plan (15 Mb not enough until we acquire more frugality muscles).

Any thoughts on switching phones to use RingPlus vs. trying a Verizon MVNO option like Selectel?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on April 22, 2016, 03:21:08 PM
IP Daley, are you familiar with RingPlus?

Aye. I'm not overly fond of the service and they'll never go in the guide, but they're my go-to now for deflating Republic Wireless customers bragging about their service costs and recommend it to people convinced they want to go the Sprint-based non-UMA hybrid calling route. BYOSD, integrated open standards VoIP calling options, dirt cheap. Of course, they datamine, and call quality can be dodgy at times, but that's about it. They've been around for a while now. "Eh" about sums 'em up.

And while we're at it, my wife and I are both on Verizon with a pair of Gen5 iPhones (5s and 5c).
[snip]
Any thoughts on switching phones to use RingPlus vs. trying a Verizon MVNO option like Selectel?

You clearly don't realize this, but you're holding magical golden tickets. I'm no iPhone fan, but for handset portability away from Verizon, you have two of the easiest to take out of Verizon LTE handsets that Big Red sells... and they're already carrier unlocked! You can take those phones not only to any Verizon MVNO you like, but also any T-Mobile MVNO you like and any AT&T MVNO that Apple has blessed as being supported, and if you don't mind losing MMS/iMessage support, even the AT&T MVNO options open up full and wide.

Not that I don't like Selectel. They're the only Verizon MVNO that I feel comfortable recommending.

Anyway, as for data usage, that's where everyone nails you. There's no reason why you can't go on a data diet (http://www.techmeshugana.com/2013/12/what-is-mobile-media-costing-you/), do some app and system specific data access tweaking, and get those numbers significantly lower. If it's GPS eating data, use an offline GPS client or pre-load maps. If it's streaming media, just pre-load some music on your phone instead or restrict yourself to WiFi. If you're streaming video, read a book instead. Do that, and there's no reason you can't theoretically get that down to around $30/month-ish for the two of you using Ting or Consumer Cellular.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: dlawson on April 22, 2016, 04:26:13 PM
Thanks so much for the reply!

You clearly don't realize this, but you're holding magical golden tickets. I'm no iPhone fan, but for handset portability away from Verizon, you have two of the easiest to take out of Verizon LTE handsets that Big Red sells... and they're already carrier unlocked! You can take those phones not only to any Verizon MVNO you like, but also any T-Mobile MVNO you like and any AT&T MVNO that Apple has blessed as being supported, and if you don't mind losing MMS/iMessage support, even the AT&T MVNO options open up full and wide.

Good to know! But wait, I've been under the impression that CDMA phones don't function on GSM networks, so, if we decide to keep the phones we have already, I would have discounted anything outside of Verizon MVNOs. Is that not the case? Is P'tel suddenly a good option for us?

do some app and system specific data access tweaking

...you know, I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that I didn't know you could restrict data access to individual apps until I read this line for the second time. I just dug around in my iPhone settings and, well, look at that!

Our big hurdle so far has been that we use data unthinkingly and habitually. We've been trying to find a way to automate smaller monthly data usage, as decision fatigue (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decision_fatigue) is a big deal and I find it nearly impossible to break habits without some kind of external restriction as a catalyst. Turning off data entirely and seeing what happened was the nuclear option (we hadn't quite worked up the courage yet). Switching off access to our multimedia-heavy data-hog apps instead is the perfect middle solution, so thank you very much for that!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on April 22, 2016, 05:15:53 PM
Good to know! But wait, I've been under the impression that CDMA phones don't function on GSM networks, so, if we decide to keep the phones we have already, I would have discounted anything outside of Verizon MVNOs. Is that not the case? Is P'tel suddenly a good option for us?

You are correct-ish. Verizon is a CDMA network, just as Sprint and US Cellular are. However, Verizon, Sprint and US Cellular use LTE for their 4G high speed data and voice networks. LTE is a GSM technology, and requires a SIM card. This is why modern LTE capable Verizon, Sprint and US Cellular handsets come with SIM cards, but they all fall back to the CDMA network if LTE isn't available. Further, part of the 700MHz C Block spectrum deal that Verizon bought for their LTE service requires that their phones be sold carrier unlocked. Sprint and US Cellular still carrier locks their handsets, but they've both gotten better about unlocking the SIM slots now after contract terms are met. This means that although you can't activate Sprint handsets on Verizon and Verizon handsets on Sprint (or US Cellular, etc.), all LTE capable iPhones and most LTE Android handsets on all three CDMA networks when carrier unlocked (so long as there's hardware band support and no software crippling) can now be taken to AT&T or T-Mobile.

Apple doesn't like making more hardware variants than necessary, which is why their antennas and reception aren't great... but that means for you that LTE Verizon iPhones are near effortless magic tickets out to pretty well... any other carrier.

Yes, it can be confusing sometimes. I won't even get into the whole GSM band divergence between T-Mobile and AT&T and LTE on all the major carriers. It's just... bonkers.

Switching off access to our multimedia-heavy data-hog apps instead is the perfect middle solution, so thank you very much for that!

Glad to help!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: dlawson on April 22, 2016, 05:31:47 PM
Awesome. One last question, hopefully:

This means that although you can't activate Sprint handsets on Verizon and Verizon handsets on Sprint (or US Cellular, etc.)

Does this not apply to Sprint MVNOs (since you mentioned Ting earlier)?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on April 22, 2016, 06:17:30 PM
Does this not apply to Sprint MVNOs (since you mentioned Ting earlier)?

Only Sprint handsets can be activated on Sprint MVNOs. Only Verizon handsets can be activated on Verizon MVNOs. This is where the CDMA rules go back into relevance.

As for Ting? Ting is a dual network MVNO. They offer Sprint handset activation on the Sprint CDMA network and any GSM compatible handset activation on the T-Mobile GSM network.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on April 22, 2016, 06:23:10 PM
Is P'tel suddenly a good option for us?

By the way, I forgot to answer this one earlier. Sorry about that.

Sadly, P'tel closed their doors after 15 years of service at the end of January this year. They're no longer an option. I'm not crazy about Ultra Mobile (they kind of fall into the same territory as H2O Wireless for me), but they're about the only decent T-Mobile option left for those needing "unlimited" calling packages. The only other T-Mo MVNOs I'll recommend are Ting and Liberty Wireless currently.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on April 30, 2016, 11:40:58 PM
It's no secret that there's no love lost between myself and Carlos Slim's MVNOs. That said, it has not been a good quarter for America Movil in general (http://www.americamovil.com/amx/en/cm/reports/Q/1Q16.pdf), but far more troubling is their US numbers:

Quote
We ended March with 25.2 million clients in the U.S. following net disconnections of 458 thousand subs in the quarter, most of them under the TracFone, a voice only brand, and SafeLink brand. As regards the latter, we must de-enroll subscribers that did not confirm continued eligibility as of December 31st.

The quarter’s revenues of 1.8 billion dollars were down 3.3% compared to the prior year as a result of a 22.0% decline in equipment revenues. Service revenues were slightly lower than last year, -0.5%, reflecting the loss of TracFone and SafeLink clients although ARPU was up 1.4% to 21 dollars per user.

EBITDA declined 24.2% from a year before to 162 million dollars. The EBITDA margin stood at 9.2% down from 11.8% in the year-earlier quarter. We have intensified marketing for our StraightTalk brand, which continues to show solid growth in what remains a very competitive environment.

Some of those losses are due to continued changes in the FCC's Lifeline program, but a lot of it is not. This is the second quarter in a row with net loss subscribers for the 800lb gorilla MVNO operator in the US, after having years of steady growth. This is not a good sign. If king gorilla is starting to hurt, I can only imagine how much harder it's getting for the other, smaller independents.

Without fair wholesale access and pricing, this prepaid data price war that AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint are doing through their respective Cricket, MetroPCS and Boost Mobile sub-brands are reducing competition and true market diversity. We lost P'tel at the end of January, and now even Tracfone is posting losses. It took the third party MVNO wholesalers in this country over 15 years to even pop these lower price mobile floodgates open. What is going to happen to prices when the core mobile network operators eventually put the wholesale companies that created and sustained service to this decades-neglected market segment out of business?

I'm again going to call for caution in the future. There's no telling what exactly is going to happen. If you're with one of the MVNOs that I've recommended, be alert, keep up with some industry (http://www.prepaidphonenews.com/) news (http://www.fiercewireless.com/), and have an escape plan in place if your phone number matters. Things are changing fast, and not for the better. That said, don't support unethical and anti-competitive businesses and their practices in your move to save money. We're facing this problem because there's insufficient wireless regulation, and people are easily swayed by advertising saturation and an insatiable appetite for quantity over quality. Do what you can to help sustain competition instead of eliminating it.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: alsoknownasDean on May 02, 2016, 03:04:23 AM
It's no secret that there's no love lost between myself and Carlos Slim's MVNOs. That said, it has not been a good quarter for America Movil in general (http://www.americamovil.com/amx/en/cm/reports/Q/1Q16.pdf), but far more troubling is their US numbers:

Quote
We ended March with 25.2 million clients in the U.S. following net disconnections of 458 thousand subs in the quarter, most of them under the TracFone, a voice only brand, and SafeLink brand. As regards the latter, we must de-enroll subscribers that did not confirm continued eligibility as of December 31st.

The quarter’s revenues of 1.8 billion dollars were down 3.3% compared to the prior year as a result of a 22.0% decline in equipment revenues. Service revenues were slightly lower than last year, -0.5%, reflecting the loss of TracFone and SafeLink clients although ARPU was up 1.4% to 21 dollars per user.

EBITDA declined 24.2% from a year before to 162 million dollars. The EBITDA margin stood at 9.2% down from 11.8% in the year-earlier quarter. We have intensified marketing for our StraightTalk brand, which continues to show solid growth in what remains a very competitive environment.

Some of those losses are due to continued changes in the FCC's Lifeline program, but a lot of it is not. This is the second quarter in a row with net loss subscribers for the 800lb gorilla MVNO operator in the US, after having years of steady growth. This is not a good sign. If king gorilla is starting to hurt, I can only imagine how much harder it's getting for the other, smaller independents.

Without fair wholesale access and pricing, this prepaid data price war that AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint are doing through their respective Cricket, MetroPCS and Boost Mobile sub-brands are reducing competition and true market diversity. We lost P'tel at the end of January, and now even Tracfone is posting losses. It took the third party MVNO wholesalers in this country over 15 years to even pop these lower price mobile floodgates open. What is going to happen to prices when the core mobile network operators eventually put the wholesale companies that created and sustained service to this decades-neglected market segment out of business?

I'm again going to call for caution in the future. There's no telling what exactly is going to happen. If you're with one of the MVNOs that I've recommended, be alert, keep up with some industry (http://www.prepaidphonenews.com/) news (http://www.fiercewireless.com/), and have an escape plan in place if your phone number matters. Things are changing fast, and not for the better. That said, don't support unethical and anti-competitive businesses and their practices in your move to save money. We're facing this problem because there's insufficient wireless regulation, and people are easily swayed by advertising saturation and an insatiable appetite for quantity over quality. Do what you can to help sustain competition instead of eliminating it.

Maybe there'll be MVNO consolidation as smaller players struggle to compete and economies of scale win out?

Even if the situation does pan out as you predict, the carriers will still compete with each other.

Here it seems that the smaller independent MVNOs are getting squeezed by the big carriers at the retail level rather than at the wholesale level. Many of the plans I've seen by the major MVNOs here (at least at the $30 and over price point) don't offer that much more for the money than the equivalent plan from the major carriers.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on May 02, 2016, 08:31:14 AM
Maybe there'll be MVNO consolidation as smaller players struggle to compete and economies of scale win out?

Even if the situation does pan out as you predict, the carriers will still compete with each other.

Here it seems that the smaller independent MVNOs are getting squeezed by the big carriers at the retail level rather than at the wholesale level. Many of the plans I've seen by the major MVNOs here (at least at the $30 and over price point) don't offer that much more for the money than the equivalent plan from the major carriers.

Consolidation? Doubtful. Not that I can't discount the possibility of a couple brands potentially being bought out... but those brands aren't likely to be bought out by other wholesale businesses, except maybe AM/Tracfone.

As for competition between the major carriers? Again, doubtful. If one didn't know any better, you'd swear there was pricing collusion in the industry with postpaid plans for the past decade plus up until these prepaid pricing wars. *cough* It's purely coincidence that every time there was a base package price increase or a service fee increase with one carrier, all the others increased similarly within a few weeks. Yup. Pure coincidence, because we know collusion is illegal, and these carriers are as honest as sunshine!

You're lucky, and the pricing shows that. The problem with the wholesale pricing squeeze is that you wind up with the wholesale MVNOs not getting effectively the same prices on data that the carriers are providing their own boutique brands. A great example is looking at the data offering differences between similarly priced plans between H2O Wireless (AT&T wholesaler) and Cricket (AT&T owned), and Ultra Mobile (T-Mobile Wholesaler) and MetroPCS (T-Mobile owned). Do that, and you'll quickly see the disparity. Yes, both wholesalers have cheaper price points for lower-end plans, but they simply can't compete on the data prices or blanket market saturation advertising. Consumers in this country love a good "deal", and by "deal", I mean consuming in corpulent excess and buying the biggest numbered thing they can afford - because more is more! Most people would rather spend $15 at an all-you-can-eat buffet than $7.50 for a reasonable meal at a restaurant that would equally fill them up... and the major carriers are exploiting that mindset with their in-house, prepaid boutique brands to bring prepaid customers back in-house with billing.

Of course, people don't remember back in the Aio Wireless (AT&T's original boutique brand) and early Cricket buyout/Aio rebrand to Cricket days (not even two years ago) when that $40 plan started out with only 100MB of data. That's a pretty realistic expectation of what AT&T thinks of their network and what people should be paying, and you can still see that mentality today with their GoPhone pricing. You know, just as an example. Since prepaid has no contracts or price/service guarantees...
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: prefixcactus on May 04, 2016, 06:22:32 PM
Regarding ISPs:
After my old laptop HDD went into a coma unexpectedly during a trip abroad and I barely managed to pull out my most important information before it went completely cold, I've developed an appreciation for backups, and in particular the remote sort. To that end I ganged up with my admin friend at the university and we brought an old server back to life, splitting the cost and using the friend's super admin powers to run it in the university racks for free. The project cost ended up mostly tied down in the 5TB HDDs at around $200 a pop (if I remember what the exchange rates back then were correctly).

 Bottom line is, I now have my own personal [half of a] backup server sitting in the uni's server room, which my laptop backs up its drive to, nightly. This could add up to hundreds of gigabytes of traffic a month, which is probably not very compatible with the current trend of providers having caps on the absolute amount of data transferred (I couldn't care less about the speed, though, since it's all automatically done at night while I'm asleep). As of right now, my family happens to live in a house on which a certain local provider has a monopoly, so we're stuck with a slightly overpriced but thankfully unlimited plan. I am planning on moving out in the foreseeable future, though, and would like some suggestions for a Mustachian solution to this.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on May 04, 2016, 08:16:42 PM
Bottom line is, I now have my own personal [half of a] backup server sitting in the uni's server room, which my laptop backs up its drive to, nightly. This could add up to hundreds of gigabytes of traffic a month, which is probably not very compatible with the current trend of providers having caps on the absolute amount of data transferred (I couldn't care less about the speed, though, since it's all automatically done at night while I'm asleep). As of right now, my family happens to live in a house on which a certain local provider has a monopoly, so we're stuck with a slightly overpriced but thankfully unlimited plan. I am planning on moving out in the foreseeable future, though, and would like some suggestions for a Mustachian solution to this.

If your friend's super admin powers are worth any true salt, they should have set you up to use incremental backups, which only requires backing up the file changes made since the last backup made. Say, once you make the first full backup of all your data at say, 10GB on a Sunday and use that 10GB of bandwidth (assuming zero compression), and the next day you change about 1.5MB worth of files, that data backup on Monday will only require 1.5MB of bandwidth at most (and that's assuming that the incremental backup isn't using compression, either). With data backups, it's good to have full backups on occasion, but to do it more than once a month is probably overkill for most people.

As for a "mustachian" solution, again... the magic of incremental backups. However, if you're seriously worried about using tons of data and you have regular physical access to the university network the server is hosted in and given you're talking a laptop? A combination of about 90% sneakernet and 10% internal university network data transfers on campus for your full backup runs would be the best way to do it without eating through data caps at home. Just be sure your backups are encrypted before doing this, and honestly I would hope they're already encrypted as-is given the location of this server.

All this said? Be selective about what you back up in the first place, and only back up what matters. Don't waste bandwidth and rackspace storage on the operating system, on applications (for example, your office suite or a Steam profile if you have one), or digital entertainment flotsam like music and videos, and/or just keep your duplicates of those entertainment files stored on an SD card or two on your phone or tablet (if you have either) or a USB drive instead. By eliminating backups of your software as well as MP3 and AVI files (for example), you're likely going to eliminate the need for about 95% of the storage space and bandwidth needed to back up your system by eliminating the common.

Lastly, remember this with data backups: If you only have one backup copy of a file you can't afford to lose, you don't have it backed up enough. Implement a second backup inside your house either attaching an external hard drive to your laptop or using a router with a USB 2.0/3.0 port that supports hard drives (or something along those lines), so you have two backups, one on-site and one off. I would also again hope that your friend's super admin powers at least set your backup server up using at minimum RAID 5, but more ideally RAID 10 to ensure data redundancy and preservation in the case of a drive failure. The real critical stuff that doesn't get changed/updated too often? Consider a USB thumb drive in a safe deposit box, too. Neither of these options will require any bandwidth to implement, but will give you far greater redundancy and the potential for far quicker recovery.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: prefixcactus on May 05, 2016, 06:33:46 AM
...use incremental backups...
We do use them, of course, otherwise it would've eaten up HDD space as well as provider caps. That, however, is sometimes still not enough to prevent rsync from transferring gigabytes of data because I moved something to another directory.

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f you're seriously worried about using tons of data and you have regular physical access to the university network the server is hosted in and given you're talking a laptop? A combination of about 90% sneakernet and 10% internal university network data transfers on campus for your full backup runs would be the best way to do it without eating through data caps at home.
That's basically what I did for the initial uploading, except that it was 100% university network, (Since I didn't have physical access to the racks back then. This was the critical part of my friend's admin powers, second only to the fact that he was able to acquire three half-dead servers for free to pull parts from).

But my concern is, once again, with what happens when I move out of my parents' home. That not only means I'll probably be stuck with a data-capping provider, but also that I'll be geographically far from the university.

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All this said? Be selective about what you back up in the first place, and only back up what matters. Don't waste bandwidth and rackspace storage on the operating system, on applications (for example, your office suite or a Steam profile if you have one), or digital entertainment flotsam like music and videos, and/or just keep your duplicates of those entertainment files stored on an SD card or two on your phone or tablet (if you have either) or a USB drive instead. By eliminating backups of your software as well as MP3 and AVI files (for example), you're likely going to eliminate the need for about 95% of the storage space and bandwidth needed to back up your system by eliminating the common.
Now this is a great proposition, except that:

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Lastly, remember this with data backups: If you only have one backup copy of a file you can't afford to lose, you don't have it backed up enough.
Yep, that is what hit me on that trip: I had an external HDD with me, but it died earlier on that same trip.

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The real critical stuff that doesn't get changed/updated too often?
I use an encrypted microSD card for that (although I probably should have two). Regarding your safe deposit box proposition: It does get changed/updated once in a while and going to the bank to rewrite it seems a pretty terrible thing to do. And then there's the fact that I'd also be paying a hefty rate to store under a gigabyte of data securely.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on May 05, 2016, 08:29:43 AM
That, however, is sometimes still not enough to prevent rsync from transferring gigabytes of data because I moved something to another directory.

Then don't do that.

If you feel like you need to relocate a directory for your own mental layout tracking, try using symlinks instead (I've got a sort of catch-all directory where my active and completed work projects are in various stages under sub-folders for each project, but I don't access any of my data directly through that directory - I only initially set it up there. As I work, I sort, organize, and access through symlinks in another directory.) View the file management of your home directory more like a database than a rigid hierarchy. Use symlinks with that hierarchy to better organize it for meatspace. Of course, you need to make sure your backup utility only copies the symlinks as symlinks, but that would do wonders on preventing that data thrashing you speak of.

That's basically what I did for the initial uploading, except that it was 100% university network

Sneakernet is physically walking your data to a location for data transfer. For the sake of clarity, when I say 90% sneakernet and 10% local network? It means physically taking the laptop to the university to use their LAN to upload. That is exactly what you did.

But my concern is, once again, with what happens when I move out of my parents' home. That not only means I'll probably be stuck with a data-capping provider, but also that I'll be geographically far from the university.

Do everything you can to optimize and reduce massive data changes and backups. There's plenty of good ideas here and in the last post to do just that. Use the right backup media for the right files.

  • I do backup my rootfs because it contains tons of custom configs and uses only 10G anyway (that includes all the programs as well, since half of those configs are for them and because separating them from the OS is a tricky proposition). Quickly getting a working computer with everything you need to do your [job/science/homework/whatever] is also a pretty important thing.
  • Having all the digital media "up there" is also one of the purposes of this thing. First, because it's nice to have access to your stuff when you're away (which includes those smartphone/tablets), and second, because losing the media collection hurts as well. I had to leave it all behind in favor of the more critical files and I'm still missing some of it. This might constitute a certain form of stuff-hoarding, though...
    Anyway, I'm not as crazy about it as with the rest, so it's just a mirror without any history or whatever.

Two things:

1) View it as hoarding with your entertainment media. I know you're mixing work and pleasure with your computer, but it's the work that's actually going to impact your life and hurt you if you experience data loss. This isn't to say that you don't have to back it up as well, but don't do remote backups and waste precious bandwidth by using the uni server to do so. Digital media entertainment is a form of hedonic adaptation, if you lose it, it only hurts if you're not flexible enough to derive enjoyment from other forms of media to fill the gap if you need that sort of thing. Losing commercial music and video files is a personal inconvenience, nothing more. Treat it as such.

2) This is the more important one. Custom config files? Just back those up manually. It's unlikely you tweak those configs on a regular basis as it's the sort of thing that's set-and-forget. That's the easiest.

However, if you're really wanting to back up your OS, again, don't do it to a remote server! The way you're talking at points, I highly suspect you're running some flavor of *nix on your laptop.

If that's the case, ask for help or learn how to spin custom install media so you can do a fresh install of your OS and all your apps with custom config files, and keep a USB drive around to reinstall with. I personally run Ubuntu at home, I stick with LTS releases, and I don't run stock config. However, I can do a fresh base install of the OS with all my apps and changes along with security updates and patches in under an hour with nothing more than the vanilla ISO, though I could modify the install media if I wanted. It doesn't even need to be a custom spun install disk, you can even do it with a simple bash script that has a few APT and CP lines to automate installing all your programs and customizing them with your tweaked config files that'd weigh in at just a few bytes. This is the power of not-Windows.

If you don't want to learn how to do that, or you're not running some *nix-based OS (or using OSX), learn to use Clonezilla instead to back up root and tuck away a couple copies of the backed-up OS partition wherever you need to. A core OS and steady/stable assortment of applications doesn't really change much except for system and app updates. What matters is that everything is there and functional with recovery, getting you working sooner than later. As such, one copy of the base OS configured to your workflow for the version you're running is all you need, doesn't need to be updated, and it's a backup that is relatively stable on media because you're not constantly accessing and rewriting it. Patching current is the easy part after restore. Let someone else store that data remotely, and don't waste time and bandwidth constantly remotely backing up that data yourself.

Regarding your safe deposit box proposition: It does get changed/updated once in a while and going to the bank to rewrite it seems a pretty terrible thing to do. And then there's the fact that I'd also be paying a hefty rate to store under a gigabyte of data securely.

Safe deposit boxes are for more than digital media. There will eventually be things in your life that you may find yourself needing a safe deposit box for. It's secure, off-site storage, and you store things worth the money spent to keep it safe there. If you don't ever see the value in a safe deposit box, there's still at least fire safes either in your house and/or at other people's (read family and trusted life-long friends) houses.



Most of your data usage in remote backups comes from common files, things that are easily replaceable. It's not that there's no reason to enable ways to expedite recovery of those common files, it's that you need to weigh the cost and importance of the various files you're backing up and use appropriate media to do each backup with. Remote storage is valuable, but not appropriate for backing everything but the kitchen sink up to on a daily basis.

Prioritize, and shape your backup plans accordingly.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: prefixcactus on May 05, 2016, 02:42:21 PM
Sneakernet is physically walking your data to a location for data transfer. For the sake of clarity, when I say 90% sneakernet and 10% local network? It means physically taking the laptop to the university to use their LAN to upload. That is exactly what you did.
Well, okay. (In my books, sneakernet constitutes not only bringing the data on a physical medium, but also plugging that medium directly into the target machine once you're there.)

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1) View it as hoarding with your entertainment media. I know you're mixing work and pleasure with your computer, but it's the work that's actually going to impact your life and hurt you if you experience data loss. This isn't to say that you don't have to back it up as well, but don't do remote backups and waste precious bandwidth by using the uni server to do so. Digital media entertainment is a form of hedonic adaptation, if you lose it, it only hurts if you're not flexible enough to derive enjoyment from other forms of media to fill the gap if you need that sort of thing. Losing commercial music and video files is a personal inconvenience, nothing more. Treat it as such.
Hrmph, okay. I'll have to work on that.

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2) This is the more important one. Custom config files? Just back those up manually. It's unlikely you tweak those configs on a regular basis as it's the sort of thing that's set-and-forget. That's the easiest.

However, if you're really wanting to back up your OS, again, don't do it to a remote server! The way you're talking at points, I highly suspect you're running some flavor of *nix on your laptop.

If that's the case, ask for help or learn how to spin custom install media so you can do a fresh install of your OS and all your apps with custom config files, and keep a USB drive around to reinstall with. I personally run Ubuntu at home, I stick with LTS releases, and I don't run stock config. However, I can do a fresh base install of the OS with all my apps and changes along with security updates and patches in under an hour with nothing more than the vanilla ISO, though I could modify the install media if I wanted. It doesn't even need to be a custom spun install disk, you can even do it with a simple bash script that has a few APT and CP lines to automate installing all your programs and customizing them with your tweaked config files that'd weigh in at just a few bytes. This is the power of not-Windows.
I am indeed running *nix (Debian sid to be precise), but as I said, keeping a full copy of my root filesystem is not a problem since it's a drop in the bucket anyway, in exchange for a guaranteed-working system in case of a drive failure.

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Safe deposit boxes are for more than digital media. There will eventually be things in your life that you may find yourself needing a safe deposit box for. It's secure, off-site storage, and you store things worth the money spent to keep it safe there. If you don't ever see the value in a safe deposit box, there's still at least fire safes either in your house and/or at other people's (read family and trusted life-long friends) houses.
That is more or less exactly my point. There may be things in my life that I'll find myself needing a safe deposit box for. When that day comes, putting a flash drive in as well will be a no-brainer. But right now, if it is the only thing I'd put in there, paying for the storage seems ridiculous. Paying for it on the assumption that one day I'll put something else in as well is no less ridiculous, as I could just as well not pay until that fateful day comes.


In any case, I see what you're getting at. Expend efforts&money according to how valuable the data in question are.
Thanks for the advice.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on May 05, 2016, 10:09:56 PM
Well, okay. (In my books, sneakernet constitutes not only bringing the data on a physical medium, but also plugging that medium directly into the target machine once you're there.)

Thus the percentages. Sneakernet under the discussed scenario only gets your data 90% of the way there. :)

I am indeed running *nix (Debian sid to be precise), but as I said, keeping a full copy of my root filesystem is not a problem since it's a drop in the bucket anyway, in exchange for a guaranteed-working system in case of a drive failure.

This statement raises my eyebrows a bit in its inconsistency. Work production laptop, concerns and precautions for catastrophic data loss, and you're running... Sid - Debian Unstable. *rubs eyes* I'm sure you certainly must have your reasons, but I've been at this for quite some time now and there's more than a little gray in my beard at this point, and I would never run Sid in a production environment. Sid can be fun, but what makes Sid fun (its bleeding edge packages) is what makes it wholly inappropriate for doing real work with it in a production environment. Work and production systems need stability. In the future, consider running Jesse/Stable if at all possible instead. Take it from an old fart, don't do critical work (or store critical files) under Sid.

But right now, if it is the only thing I'd put in there, paying for the storage seems ridiculous.

I suspect this might be a culture/region thing. I'm not sure if you listed your location as being in Moscow in your profile before I responded. Here in the States, the smallest safe deposit boxes at banks can be as cheap as $15-20 a year, not including insurance - which is optional. One of the key things with off-site backups is to protect against complete loss of data (including on-site backups) due to catastrophe. There's also in-home safe deposit boxes that are fire-rated, and many (again Stateside) can be as cheap as $30, and you don't have to keep it at your house/apartment/whatever. It's cheap insurance. Safe deposit boxes are good for property titles, licenses, medical records, tax records... basically all the stuff the government wants you to keep and who you can't trust to not potentially lose their copy of.

Look, I don't know what fire rated safes or bank safe deposit boxes run in your neck of the woods, but the point I was trying to make is that even with the cost - it's one of those things that most responsible adults wind up eventually needing some form of anyway. Because of that, it's easily possible to do off-site backups of important data that doesn't change frequently potentially for less money than the bandwidth might cost from an ISP that has data caps; and I'm pretty sure once you leave the nest, you're probably going to have at least a few documents worth protecting from fire and theft.

In any case, I see what you're getting at. Expend efforts&money according to how valuable the data in question are.
Thanks for the advice.

Glad you got it. Best of luck!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on May 11, 2016, 09:17:58 AM
Anyone using atlanta.voip.ms or the montreal server: you may want to check that you're still connectable. I had to reboot my ATA around 11am ET.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: missundecided on May 16, 2016, 05:52:00 PM
I tried using the search function but couldn't get any results to come up. So my apologies if I'm beating a dead horse and will delete accordingly. Has anyone heard of usmobile.com? From what I can tell, it operates like Ting in that it has buckets and uses GSM. When I do price comparison between Ting (my current operator) and US Mobile, US Mobile wins--but I don't want to base any decisions solely on the monetary difference.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on May 16, 2016, 06:17:02 PM
Has anyone heard of usmobile.com?

Familiar-ish with US Mobile. Owned by GSM Nation, reasonable terms of service, prices are about in line with what a T-Mo MVNO should be charging without network roaming, but don't know much about their customer support staff, and only been around for about a year and change - not that longevity is much of a safe harbor these days given what's going on in the industry. I'd recommend them over both People's Wireless or Lycamobile for a lower end (on price) T-Mo MVNO.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: mousebandit on May 18, 2016, 05:54:19 PM
Looking for some expert advice.  I'm a cell phone noob, who lives in rural area of sw Oregon.  U.S. Cellular is our carrier out here if you want service as far as the edges of service go.  Our home is just on the edge of service, meaning I can sometimes send and receive basic text messages, and on rare occasions see that I'm receiving a call.  I cannot however, actually connect any calls until I head back towards town a couple of miles.  Data sometimes works about 5 miles away, but not guaranteed until you get about 10 miles back in. 

My husband uses straight talk and he gets sketchy service about 5 miles out, then nothing, lol.

So, I spend 99% of my time. At home, and I only actually need true cell phone service in the event of genuine emergency while driving on main highway with my kids.  I don't need mobile data or GPS or anything.  I have satellite internet at the property.

So I am thinking I can get a RingPlus free plan, a cheap sprint compatible used phone, and just use it for wifi around the house if I want to walk around with a phone in my hand (or messaging, which I actually use a lot with my husband, and it's internet based).  When driving, if I truly needed to call, I could have the roaming activated and I could do a lot of emergency calls per month at $0.14/minute, before I outspend my current$45/mo no-contract plan with US Cellular. 

Am I analyzing this correctly?  Are there any sprint / us cell conflicts I'm not thinking of that will prevent this from working? 

Thank you! 
MouseBandit
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on May 18, 2016, 08:47:07 PM
Am I analyzing this correctly?

Eeehhhhh... ish?

A few points of consideration regarding your plan (if you weren't aware):

1) RingPlus Fluidcall only handles voice calling, you cannot do SMS messaging over WiFi with your RingPlus number.

2) SMS messaging on RingPlus is charged at your plan's normal rate for SMS messages whether you're on Sprint's network or roaming.

3) RingPlus appears to be using standard Sprint roaming partners, so yes, you should get Verizon and US Cellular roaming coverage.

4) Data roaming is 55¢/MB, so you'll want to ensure data roaming is absolutely turned off - even if you keep mobile data off most of the time, especially if regular roaming is on - which you'll need for SMS usage at home unless you drag in Google Voice as your primary number so you can text over WiFi.

5) The first of two very important facts. Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellites have some physical distance between you on earth, themselves, and their internet access back on earth. This is the Achilles Heel of VSAT internet access: LATENCY. Round-trip well exceeds 500ms, and frequently pushes 750ms or longer. That's one-half to three-quarters of a full second. It takes that long because a signal travels 90,000 miles or more round trip from you to a remote server and back, and though we've figured out how to get signals to reliably travel slower than C (the speed of light), making it go faster has been a bit more of a challenge and starts getting us into some fuzzy, heavy, quantum mechanical cromulentosity. This means, we're at the mercy of physics when it comes to latency with your internet access.

6) The second of two very important facts. Most consumer-grade VoIP services aren't particularly well suited to handle latency much beyond 150ms, otherwise it starts to fall apart. There are a few codecs optimized for satellite usage (iLBC for example), but VoIP over VSAT can be a very difficult and challenging thing to take on. (I know this from professional field experience.) Skype is about the only off-the-shelf VoIP solution that can tolerate the latency involved with VSAT network access, if you can call the result... tolerable. There's a lot of talking over one another and dropped bits of dialog. Exede or Hughesnet have workable phone systems, they cost money, but if I were you? I'd still choose their prepackaged solution over trying to leverage my decades of knowledge over trying to replicate it because reliability matters. Skype works as a quick and dirty solution for civilian emergency/first response work in disaster work, but it's not... reliable.

7) RingPlus' Fluidcall VoIP implementation only officially uses the PCMU G.711μ codec which is one of those sub-150ms only codecs, and there's no plan at this point for supporting iLBC. Google Voice/Hangouts is also unfortunately a bit less tolerant of latency than Skype is, as well.

The problem isn't really a Sprint-US Cellular conflict. It's a solid idea, but it won't work worth spit for phone service without lower latency internet, which you can't get where you are. You're going to need phone service designed specifically for MEO VSAT latency if you forego mobile voice coverage and want to go VoIP. It's that or a landline. This is truly a case of pay for what you need, because using the usual price saving hacks aren't gonna work in your situation.

Hope this helps, but sorry it's not good news.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: alsoknownasDean on May 19, 2016, 02:47:48 AM
Am I analyzing this correctly?

Eeehhhhh... ish?

A few points of consideration regarding your plan (if you weren't aware):

1) RingPlus Fluidcall only handles voice calling, you cannot do SMS messaging over WiFi with your RingPlus number.

2) SMS messaging on RingPlus is charged at your plan's normal rate for SMS messages whether you're on Sprint's network or roaming.

3) RingPlus appears to be using standard Sprint roaming partners, so yes, you should get Verizon and US Cellular roaming coverage.

4) Data roaming is 55¢/MB, so you'll want to ensure data roaming is absolutely turned off - even if you keep mobile data off most of the time, especially if regular roaming is on - which you'll need for SMS usage at home unless you drag in Google Voice as your primary number so you can text over WiFi.

5) The first of two very important facts. Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellites have some physical distance between you on earth, themselves, and their internet access back on earth. This is the Achilles Heel of VSAT internet access: LATENCY. Round-trip well exceeds 500ms, and frequently pushes 750ms or longer. That's one-half to three-quarters of a full second. It takes that long because a signal travels 90,000 miles or more round trip from you to a remote server and back, and though we've figured out how to get signals to reliably travel slower than C (the speed of light), making it go faster has been a bit more of a challenge and starts getting us into some fuzzy, heavy, quantum mechanical cromulentosity. This means, we're at the mercy of physics when it comes to latency with your internet access.

6) The second of two very important facts. Most consumer-grade VoIP services aren't particularly well suited to handle latency much beyond 150ms, otherwise it starts to fall apart. There are a few codecs optimized for satellite usage (iLBC for example), but VoIP over VSAT can be a very difficult and challenging thing to take on. (I know this from professional field experience.) Skype is about the only off-the-shelf VoIP solution that can tolerate the latency involved with VSAT network access, if you can call the result... tolerable. There's a lot of talking over one another and dropped bits of dialog. Exede or Hughesnet have workable phone systems, they cost money, but if I were you? I'd still choose their prepackaged solution over trying to leverage my decades of knowledge over trying to replicate it because reliability matters. Skype works as a quick and dirty solution for civilian emergency/first response work in disaster work, but it's not... reliable.

7) RingPlus' Fluidcall VoIP implementation only officially uses the PCMU G.711μ codec which is one of those sub-150ms only codecs, and there's no plan at this point for supporting iLBC. Google Voice/Hangouts is also unfortunately a bit less tolerant of latency than Skype is, as well.

The problem isn't really a Sprint-US Cellular conflict. It's a solid idea, but it won't work worth spit for phone service without lower latency internet, which you can't get where you are. You're going to need phone service designed specifically for MEO VSAT latency if you forego mobile voice coverage and want to go VoIP. It's that or a landline. This is truly a case of pay for what you need, because using the usual price saving hacks aren't gonna work in your situation.

Hope this helps, but sorry it's not good news.

Are carrier certified (legal) cellular repeaters available in the US? Of course that might require service with one of the big four carriers, so it's probably not the most frugal option.

Would another network work better than US Cellular? Is there Verizon or AT&T coverage there?

And yeah, it sounds like a landline might be the only viable option otherwise. I guess it's the price one has to pay for living in a rural area.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on May 19, 2016, 07:15:48 AM
Are carrier certified (legal) cellular repeaters available in the US? Of course that might require service with one of the big four carriers, so it's probably not the most frugal option.

The problem with boosters/amplifiers/repeaters is you still need a decent enough signal to work with in the first place in order to get any decent results. I'm not sure they'd have that, even with a good yagi antenna. This isn't to say it's not worth investigating, but it is a high price gamble if it doesn't work. One might also discover femtocells when exploring/researching these options, but they too require an internet connection with low latency to work.

Would another network work better than US Cellular? Is there Verizon or AT&T coverage there?

SW Oregon is just one of those places... on the I-5 corridor is fine, but the instant you start wandering off that path, it starts getting sketchy. From worst to best coverage for the region, it goes Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, US Cellular. I suspect the husband's StraightTalk phone is GSM/AT&T/T-Mo based, which gives you an idea of range (worse). US Cellular is literally the only mobile carrier to even build out into some of these rural areas, and in some of the more remote areas around Medford, US Cellular is about the only carrier for a couple hundred square miles in the region, so if USCC doesn't cover you, you literally don't have service. Going Sprint or Verizon MVNO with roaming (Ring Plus, Ting, Selectel), there's no advantage, both will give the same roaming results for MouseBandit given they all roam on USCC.

And yeah, it sounds like a landline might be the only viable option otherwise. I guess it's the price one has to pay for living in a rural area.

Landline (if it's even available) or high-latency tolerant VSAT phone service are likely about the only two PSTN networkable choices available for phone service. Remote rural locations can be great to live in until you want/need to communicate and interact with civilization, then you need to still be close enough to civilization to connect.

I'm seriously thinking I should recommend they invest in an amateur radio license, get some CB/FRS/GMRS/HF/UHF/VHF radio equipment as a fallback or failsafe for any domestic emergencies, and learn how to use it given how spotty even mobile voice coverage is.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: alsoknownasDean on May 19, 2016, 07:50:26 AM
The problem with boosters/amplifiers/repeaters is you still need a decent enough signal to work with in the first place in order to get any decent results. I'm not sure they'd have that, even with a good yagi antenna. This isn't to say it's not worth investigating, but it is a high price gamble if it doesn't work. One might also discover femtocells when exploring/researching these options, but they too require an internet connection with low latency to work.

Yeah, probably not much luck, although depending on topography, a yagi mounted on the roof might work. Some rural folks here do that for Internet access, with the antenna connected to a 3G/4G modem, and can get service from towers tens of kilometres away. IIRC the fixed wireless component of the NBN here is based on LTE as well.

SW Oregon is just one of those places... on the I-5 corridor is fine, but the instant you start wandering off that path, it starts getting sketchy. From worst to best coverage for the region, it goes Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, US Cellular. I suspect the husband's StraightTalk phone is GSM/AT&T/T-Mo based, which gives you an idea of range (worse). US Cellular is literally the only mobile carrier to even build out into some of these rural areas, and in some of the more remote areas around Medford, US Cellular is about the only carrier for a couple hundred square miles in the region, so if USCC doesn't cover you, you literally don't have service. Going Sprint or Verizon MVNO with roaming (Ring Plus, Ting, Selectel), there's no advantage, both will give the same roaming results for MouseBandit given they all roam on USCC.

Yeah I've driven through SW Oregon along US-101 (by the way, very scenic area), used a T-Mobile MVNO and it was roaming to AT&T in most towns, and nothing at all between the towns. :)

I didn't realise there were five US carriers, I thought there were just the four MNOs. :)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on May 19, 2016, 08:07:51 AM
Yeah, probably not much luck, although depending on topography, a yagi mounted on the roof might work. Some rural folks here do that for Internet access, with the antenna connected to a 3G/4G modem, and can get service from towers tens of kilometres away. IIRC the fixed wireless component of the NBN here is based on LTE as well.

Yeah, but isn't the Outback kind of a flat pancake of dust and plantlife that mostly doesn't grow past one's shins? ;)

Of course, without knowing specifics for MouseBandit, it's hard to know for certain - but that is part of the reason why Oregon coverage is so spotty in the first place. Between the terrain and the trees...

I didn't realise there were five US carriers, I thought there were just the four MNOs. :)

Yeah, there's technically five "national" carriers. US Cellular is actually smaller than Sprint in total geographic coverage, but USCC specialized in pushing CDMA coverage out into the sticks in a small handful of states where other carriers wouldn't waste their money. That's part of why USCC is so expensive, most of their nationwide coverage is basically due to Verizon partner roaming agreements; and given the roaming agreements are mutual, kind of makes USCC moot for 95% of their customer base. I doubt Softbank and Sprint would ever do it, but a Sprint/USCC merger would actually make some sense and improve native coverage for both networks as much as I hate reduced competition. Though to be honest? Neither Sprint or USCC is really competition at this point already.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on May 19, 2016, 08:49:13 AM
Unrelated news: Puppy Wireless has recently been acquired by Unified Signal, a backend, turnkey MVNO provider for all four major networks. Great news in that when Kitty had to get out, service is continuing uninterrupted for customers. Overall though, I've not been too overwhelmed by Unified's history of pricing or customer service in the past, but they're apparently trying to make a huge push into the MVNO market this year with direct sales and are looking to acquire more MVNO brands. They've also played host to a couple fly-by-night brands over the years, not that it's necessarily their fault they leased infrastructure out to flaky business owners.

Of course, the bad news is, Kitty Wireless got out of the MVNO game and sold Puppy Wireless. Puppy was already using Unified Signal on the back end for their Verizon offerings which is partly why the acquisition was smart for both parties. Continuation of service for customers (showing that Kitty didn't just vanish and leave the customers stranded), and a known (smaller niche) brand for Unified to use for direct sales since MyTime Wireless has been slow to gain traction. It's why I had recommended Puppy in the past, because I knew if times got hard, Kitty wouldn't just vanish overnight. But this also means that Puppy was no longer profitable, and Kitty had to get out of the game. I clearly can't speak with certainty, but one has to wonder if this might be counted as another casualty of the MVNO wholesale pricing issue and the major carriers undercutting on data prices internally.

We might see a bit more consolidation this year by Unified Signal buying up struggling MVNOs. It's not ideal, but it's better than losing competition, even if it means a more homogenized and less diverse pricing structure with these alternatives... and Unified Signal's still better to deal with than America Movil - though how much better? Only time will tell. Their doing direct sales to customers is still a fairly new thing, despite being an established wholesaler.

Strange times, these.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: mousebandit on May 19, 2016, 02:48:07 PM
Thank you for all the details!! 

So, the messaging app I use with my husband is Signal, and it's just an app, works over wifi.  It seems to run fine at the property as long as  the wifi is fired up. 

I do have a landline out here at the property, which is crucial because it works even when power is down (which is frequently), and am not looking to use the cell phone for any phone calls at all, certainly not at the property, just for the potential of a true emergency while driving on the highway with my kiddos, which would be the roaming voice minutes at $0.14/min.  I'd likely need to make 2 calls (husband and AAA, haha), and in all the years I've had a cell phone, I think I've only had 3 of those kind of true emergencies. 

We actually do have our ham radio licenses, but with the trees and mountains, we so far we have had a hard time getting line of sight to any repeater towers.  We intend to get our General licenses, and then try other bands, though.

Basically, I am ready to wean off the cell phone entirely as far as phone-calls go, and to limit it to wifi apps while in the house.  I am loving the idea of ditching the $45 plan I have, and yet retain my cell phone number (I can check voicemail with my landline), grab text messages when I go to town for supplies, and have the ability to call for help should it really be necessary while out on the road, and have my wifi apps when I'm in the house.

So, I am thinking that this could work. 

My next thing to test will be my old Samsung Galaxy US CELL phone, that I had unlocked or reprogrammed or something, to work with Spring network for Straight Talk.  I could never get it "reset" to work with US Cell after that, but now maybe it will parlay right over to RingPlus.  With a free service, and phone in hand, I see now reason to give it a try.  Then, if it works as I am hoping it will, pay the fee to port over my cell number. 

I will report the results of my testing!  I gotta find the old phone first, haha! 

MouseBandit
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on May 19, 2016, 03:20:10 PM
My next thing to test will be my old Samsung Galaxy US CELL phone, that I had unlocked or reprogrammed or something, to work with Spring network for Straight Talk.  I could never get it "reset" to work with US Cell after that, but now maybe it will parlay right over to RingPlus.  With a free service, and phone in hand, I see now reason to give it a try.  Then, if it works as I am hoping it will, pay the fee to port over my cell number.

Excellent to hear on everything else, and certainly clarifies a bit. Sounds like it'll be a good setup for you given the circumstances.

This said, I should point something out to you. Ring Plus (and any Sprint MVNO) who permits BYOD is going to limit to BYO(S)D. The ESN has to be in the approved Sprint database to register and work. Unfortunately, CDMA isn't like GSM in that so long as the IMEI isn't on the blacklist, sticking a card into it will make it work. CDMA handsets are restricted to activation on the network they come from. This means no USCC handset activations on Sprint or Verizon, no Sprint handset activations on USCC and Verizon, and no Verizon handset activations on Sprint and USCC. If you want to use Ring Plus, you're going to need a Sprint handset with a clean ESN for activation. Check Ebay, Craigslist, etc.

Given you have a land line, I might also suggest perhaps porting your cell number over to Google Voice instead of straight to Ring Plus. This way, you could have calls coming in on your "cell" number ring the house phone, and SMS messages and voicemail either accessible via Hangouts on the smartphone you're currently using for Signal or forwarded to your email address. You could forward/integrate the GV number to whatever new RingPlus number/cell as well if you wanted, but if it's emergency only, not much point. I don't recommend Google Voice to many, but it might be a good thing in your case.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: jerebo on May 24, 2016, 10:27:44 PM
Problems with Google voice over data/Zoiper soft phone.

Hello, all. Thanks to this thread and to I. P. Daley's excellent communications guide, I've trimmed my personal phone bill down from about $40.00 a month to less than $3.00. This includes the money I spend with voip.ms making phone calls over WiFi. I did this by going on a data diet. I'm using TruPhone, which is very good, though there are a few irritations.

However, I'm starting to have trouble with my set up. To save money on texts, I use Google Voice and Hangouts on my old Samsung Galaxy S3 (yes, I know it's old and not very durable, but this was an old cast off of my husband's). It's running Android Jelly Bean. These two apps are set up to use background data. This system worked well for a while--and still works on WiFi. But lately I've noticed that neither of these apps works without WiFi. Messages get queued and sent/delivered only when I'm on WiFi. Any suggestions as to how to fix this?

To save money on phone calls, I use VOIP when on WiFI. We still have no landline, but I've installed Zoiper on my phone. I have two accounts: Voip.ms and also Circlenet. I occasionally have registration problems with these services. I can generally live with that. A stranger problem that I've encountered recently is sometimes when I make phone calls over VOIP, I hear ringing--two or three times, and then nothing. The call doesn't connect. Does anyone have any suggestions?

I'm becoming frustrated enough to reconsider my super cheap plan, but know that I'll end up leaving money on the table.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on May 25, 2016, 09:34:00 AM
Problems with Google voice over data/Zoiper soft phone.

Welcome back, Jerebo!

If I recall, despite your pushing towards GV, I was originally talking such things as EasyGo Wireless, ting and consumer Cellular with you last year, so this setup kind of surprises me. I typically reserve suggesting these sorts of setups for the cheapskates who squeeze every dime instead of spending what's necessary, and I don't typically recommend such setups. GV can be unreliable, after all, and VoIP on smartphones on WiFi can sometimes be quirky and problematic for keeping sessions active without killing battery life, and you're seeing that now. But that's neither here nor there beyond stating the observation. You're set up this way using some of my past words for others, so I need to help you iron out some kinks.

Hello, all. Thanks to this thread and to I. P. Daley's excellent communications guide, I've trimmed my personal phone bill down from about $40.00 a month to less than $3.00. This includes the money I spend with voip.ms making phone calls over WiFi. I did this by going on a data diet. I'm using TruPhone, which is very good, though there are a few irritations.

However, I'm starting to have trouble with my set up. To save money on texts, I use Google Voice and Hangouts on my old Samsung Galaxy S3 (yes, I know it's old and not very durable, but this was an old cast off of my husband's). It's running Android Jelly Bean. These two apps are set up to use background data. This system worked well for a while--and still works on WiFi. But lately I've noticed that neither of these apps works without WiFi. Messages get queued and sent/delivered only when I'm on WiFi. Any suggestions as to how to fix this?

This sounds like a mobile data issue. Either the Hangouts app has been restricted to WiFi only, there's a misconfiguration on the data APN settings for Truphone with the phone, or mobile data access has been disabled on the phone.

To save money on phone calls, I use VOIP when on WiFI. We still have no landline, but I've installed Zoiper on my phone. I have two accounts: Voip.ms and also Circlenet. I occasionally have registration problems with these services. I can generally live with that. A stranger problem that I've encountered recently is sometimes when I make phone calls over VOIP, I hear ringing--two or three times, and then nothing. The call doesn't connect. Does anyone have any suggestions?

You probably don't need WiFi calling, except to save money, correct? I'm also left asking why do you have two VoIP accounts? Are you using your VoIP accounts for both incoming and outbound calls on WiFi?

If you don't have reception issues, just use inbound with Truphone. As for outbound? Let's streamline this, and go with the VoIP provider i had recommended in the post that most likely turned you on to the Truphone/GV setup. Localphone. Get rid of Zoiper, don't worry about VOIP.ms or CircleNet. Use Localphone's Android app for outbound calling, and set your caller ID on the account to your Google Voice number. That should square you, simplify the process, and hopefully resolve timeout issues. This said, even if you do need a generic Android VoIP app, I don't recommend Zoiper. If it must be free, CSipSimple, otherwise Counterpath's Bria is well worth the money.

I'm becoming frustrated enough to reconsider my super cheap plan, but know that I'll end up leaving money on the table.

Do reconsider it anyway, and don't be afraid to leave "money on the table" as you put it. Don't be afraid to pay for what you need, as that is the line between cheap and frugal. Money is only a tool, and fretting over every penny is a territory where it begins to take on something in your life that is more than just a tool, something more sinister... something more like idolatry. Pay for what you need. You begin to split hairs when you're getting under $10/month for mobile phone service, doubly so at $5, so don't be cheap. Be frugal.

Hope this helps.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: jerebo on May 25, 2016, 11:01:27 PM
Thank you for your response. I'll resist the temptation to post my lengthy justification for my decisions that apparently make me "the kind of cheapskate who squeezes every dime instead of spending what's necessary" and say only that I guess it's time to move on to something else.

I feel sufficiently chastened (even shamed) for my cheapskate ways. I'll find some other solution. I can get unlimited t&t on my corporate AT&T plan for less than the price of one individual on Ting, and only slightly more than Airvoice Wireless and PureTalk's cheapest offerings. No data, but... Good bye MVNOs. Good bye VoIP. Sionara paygo. Welcome back post-paid!



Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: alsoknownasDean on May 26, 2016, 02:46:07 AM
Thank you for your response. I'll resist the temptation to post my lengthy justification for my decisions that apparently make me "the kind of cheapskate who squeezes every dime instead of spending what's necessary" and say only that I guess it's time to move on to something else.

I feel sufficiently chastened (even shamed) for my cheapskate ways. I'll find some other solution. I can get unlimited t&t on my corporate AT&T plan for less than the price of one individual on Ting, and only slightly more than Airvoice Wireless and PureTalk's cheapest offerings. No data, but... Good bye MVNOs. Good bye VoIP. Sionara paygo. Welcome back post-paid!

That won't completely fix the Hangouts issue if you continue to use Hangouts for messaging. That's because some Hangouts messages actually go through your data (to other Google accounts). No data, no message :)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on May 26, 2016, 08:26:47 AM
Thank you for your response. I'll resist the temptation to post my lengthy justification for my decisions that apparently make me "the kind of cheapskate who squeezes every dime instead of spending what's necessary" and say only that I guess it's time to move on to something else.

I feel sufficiently chastened (even shamed) for my cheapskate ways. I'll find some other solution. I can get unlimited t&t on my corporate AT&T plan for less than the price of one individual on Ting, and only slightly more than Airvoice Wireless and PureTalk's cheapest offerings. No data, but... Good bye MVNOs. Good bye VoIP. Sionara paygo. Welcome back post-paid!

It was not my desire or intent to shame you, and I apologize sincerely for doing so given your reaction.

All this said, If AT&T postpaid works for you and the budget you need to provide the service necessary, go for it... but do keep in mind what Dean mentioned about Google Voice, Hangouts, and mobile data if you leave your number there.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Travis on July 04, 2016, 09:25:55 PM
I've been carrying around a Galaxy S3 for about 4 years now (bought it used off Ebay) and it's done pretty well for me.  It still works for the most part, but I've come across two recent trends that are making me think more about replacing it.  The first is that my wifi will simply turn off several times a day.  I'll be home and the wifi button on the phone will just go off and I have to get into the phone to reconnect. It's definitely the phone and not my router.  The second is I have two banking apps that are no longer supported on my phone.  I'm concerned that I've reached some kind of cut-off with my OS that apps will start dropping off.  If that's the case and I need to look at another phone, how "new" should I go?  I don't want a brand new phone, but I want to make sure I don't replace my S3 with an S4 and I'm in the same software/app situation in a year.  How new should I go and be secure in that my phone will stay supported for a few years?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on July 04, 2016, 10:52:46 PM
I'm concerned that I've reached some kind of cut-off with my OS that apps will start dropping off.  If that's the case and I need to look at another phone, how "new" should I go?

Sounds like you're in a good place with nothing to lose here. As much as there might be hardware issues, it might just be software issues with the phone needing a little love and a bit of an OS refresh.

If you're even remotely technically inclined (or know someone who is), it might be worth looking into CyanogenMod (https://wiki.cyanogenmod.org/). Depending on your specific model of S3 (https://wiki.cyanogenmod.org/w/Devices#vendor="Samsung";searchable="s iii";), there are several pre-built versions of CM12 and 13 available (equivalent to Android 5.x Lollipop and 6.x Marshmallow) that'll help fight off the planned obsolescence issue a bit longer, especially if it fixes your WiFi issue at the same time. The price is right (free), and it might help squeeze a bit more life out of that phone yet... heck, it might even run better than you're used to.

How new should I go and be secure in that my phone will stay supported for a few years?

The problem is as you're discovering is forced planned obsolescence from the manufacturers. The best way around this if you want to continue to sup from Google is to buy/use mainstream Android handsets that're supported by CyanogenMod and take the effort to do the firmware swap or spend the premium on a Nexus device and still have the forced obsolescence happen not quite as quickly and still be left resorting to CyanogenMod to squeak out a bit more time. This isn't to say that there aren't quite a number of great independently spun firmware replacements floating around places like XDA (http://forum.xda-developers.com/) for various model Android handsets both mainstream and offbeat, but for every good one out there, there's some serious crap and compromised options as well. It's just easier and you're guaranteed a cleaner, safer and better timely update supported Android build going mainstream CM. It's kinda hard to escape, and Apple is just as bad about it.

That said? If the banking apps you're after are available on Windows Phone (https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/search/apps?q=banking) (and honestly they're usually just an HTML5 webpage/app wrapper for the most part), and you really want to do all your banking from an insecure wireless device like a smartphone (I refuse to trade security for convenience, myself, YMMV), consider a used unlocked Lumia like the 640 (running between $50-70)... Microsoft is actively continuing to update the platform and develop WP10 despite the ballyhooed cries from the tech media about Windows Phone being dead, they're dirt cheap (partly because they sold for cheap and everyone thinks the platform is dead now), they're pretty robust, the OS is light and responsive, the UI is consistent and very usable, it's simple to migrate your user data from other phones to the thing, the "app gap" is nearly non-existent at this point, battery life is good, batteries are end-user replaceable, mobile data usage is low, and it's easy to purge the carrier bloatware from 'em.

I've been very slow and curmudgeonly about abandoning my older QWERTY handsets and less "advanced" phones like the Nokia C3 and the Blackberry 9900... I've been very vocal about my dislike of both iOS and Android, and I even mourned the Nokia buyout and death of Symbian OS at the hands of Microsoft. Now, I'm not saying Windows Phone is perfect (hardly), but from my broad experiences it delivers on what Nadella has been promising, which is a platform that stands out from the competition in a good way. It's the least terrible smartphone platform out there, IMHO, and I now carry a Lumia 435. I spent $20 on the thing, and outside of build quality (the plastic case and camera photo quality give away the fact that it's an entry level phone - but it still feels pretty solid and well built), it's literally been the nicest, fastest, and easiest smartphone I've had the misfortune of using or owning. Everything just works....

...and this endorsement comes from someone who has had a standing and public 15 year grudge against Microsoft as a *nix admin. I still won't run Windows 10 on my desktop, but I will use their phones. They're no nonsense, they play nice with everyone else's cloud services, I don't have to store my contacts on Microsoft's servers, and I can even sync my Lumia with Evolution on my Ubuntu desktop. It's a bit surreal both experiencing and sharing this, but it's true. Take that however you will.

It's hard to dodge the whole planned obsolescence, you are the product due to privacy concerns and big data, and pending SaaS financial milking that everyone is driving towards with these devices... but for the time, you could do much worse for a $50 smartphone.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on July 05, 2016, 03:07:17 PM
I.P. Daley peddling Microsoft wares... forget Brexit, NOW I have seen everything.

More seriously, they do make fine phones. My only pet peeve is the lack of real maps software.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on July 05, 2016, 04:00:40 PM
I.P. Daley peddling Microsoft wares... forget Brexit, NOW I have seen everything.

More seriously, they do make fine phones. My only pet peeve is the lack of real maps software.

I know, I know. It's a little nutsy-cuckoo. Pretty sure there's a reference to both Microsoft putting out a good smartphone and me doing this as being two of the early harbingers of the apocalypse.

I'm guessing Here Maps hasn't really done it for you? Since I don't do GPS, I haven't exactly explored it too deeply yet myself, but it at least looks pretty competent. Should probably run it through some paces, though.

Edit: Nevermind. I just found out Microsoft depreciated Here Maps for Win 10 at the end of June in favor of their new in-house branded map... which is either great or terrible depending on who you ask.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on July 07, 2016, 06:29:19 PM
I.P. Daley peddling Microsoft wares... forget Brexit, NOW I have seen everything.

More seriously, they do make fine phones. My only pet peeve is the lack of real maps software.

I know, I know. It's a little nutsy-cuckoo. Pretty sure there's a reference to both Microsoft putting out a good smartphone and me doing this as being two of the early harbingers of the apocalypse.

I'm guessing Here Maps hasn't really done it for you? Since I don't do GPS, I haven't exactly explored it too deeply yet myself, but it at least looks pretty competent. Should probably run it through some paces, though.

Edit: Nevermind. I just found out Microsoft depreciated Here Maps for Win 10 at the end of June in favor of their new in-house branded map... which is either great or terrible depending on who you ask.
Eh, the GPS bit is pretty good, but not as polished as Google's.

Her phone isn't upgradeable to WP10 anyway, it only has 512MB of RAM.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: earthshine on July 27, 2016, 07:25:53 AM
Does anyone know if there is a simple phone guide I can use? I am reading through threads but am experiencing information overload.

Looking for a replacement phone service for my Dad.

He uses ~150 min/month (page plus... super cheap) and would like to try adding data.

Currently have a brand new Verizon smart phone (LG Optimus Zone 3) and an unlocked AT&T smart phone (Lumia 640) sitting at home, that I was hoping to put to use if I can find a cost effective plan.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on July 27, 2016, 09:33:28 AM
Does anyone know if there is a simple phone guide I can use? I am reading through threads but am experiencing information overload.

Looking for a replacement phone service for my Dad.

He uses ~150 min/month (page plus... super cheap) and would like to try adding data.

Currently have a brand new Verizon smart phone (LG Optimus Zone 3) and an unlocked AT&T smart phone (Lumia 640) sitting at home, that I was hoping to put to use if I can find a cost effective plan.

The core guide won't information overload if you don't let it (it's perfectly serviceable without reading the discussion threads). Just focus on the information relevant to the carriers you need.

For your situation specifically, though, I'll point you along with some additional info that isn't in the guide yet.

Service on Verizon MVNOs are going to be more expensive for the same level of service than on other network MVNOs. Also, Verizon is eyeballing shutting down their 1xRTT 2G voice and data network by end of year 2019 or sooner (http://www.fiercewireless.com/story/verizon-shut-down-2g-cdma-1x-network-end-2019/2016-07-13) instead of 2021. Losing Verizon's 2G network means losing CDMA voice coverage. Losing CDMA voice coverage means that you'll be restricted in your ability to make voice calls on Verizon networks with VoLTE capable handsets in a little over three years only, and not all Verizon LTE handsets support that currently, especially budget handsets. Firmware updates for these official Verizon LTE handsets might receive an update, but they might not. Your shiny new Zone 3 is not VoLTE capable at this time, despite being released in January of this year.

Given Verizon MVNOs are the most expensive prepaid carriers, and the accelerated planned obsolescence roadmap, it's getting harder and harder to recommend Verizon MVNOs anymore unless using them is literally your only coverage option. It's just going to turn into a right solid Charlie Foxtrot these next couple years.

There's also the issue of activating your "new" Verizon handset on a Verizon MVNO if the contractual obligations have not been met yet (http://www.prepaidphonenews.com/2016/02/new-policy-may-require-verizon-prepaid.html).

If you still want to go Verizon, the phone is eligible for activation, and you just want to kick the can down to 2019 on the issue, Selectel's 4G LTE annual plan (http://www.selectelwireless.com/product/yearly-plan-4g/) plus some $10 flex cards (http://www.batmobilewireless.com/product/10-flex-card/) that provides data at 5¢/MB (or 5¢/minute/SMS for overages) will work... but it won't be as cheap an option as an AT&T MVNO - say Puretalk USA or Airvoice.

If your dad is over 55, Puretalk's $10 Senior AddVantage plan (https://www.puretalkusa.com/senior-addvantage-plan.php) is the absolute best bang for buck option available on the low end with data availability, though the minutes/texts provided would likely be gross overkill after being given 450 minutes a month to use after the sixth month of service. Otherwise, their Simple 300 plan (https://www.puretalkusa.com/mobile-simple-plan.php) would be just as effective at $10/month no matter his age.

There's also Airvoice's $10 talk and text plan (https://www.airvoicewireless.com/PlansC.aspx). It has the advantage of rolling over unused credits on the account from month to month (unlike the Puretalk plans), but given the estimated monthly minute usage of 150 minutes, that works out to only leaving $4 for any SMS usage (a quantity you didn't provide though I'm sure is quite low) and data. With data rates at 6.6¢/MB, even with no SMS messages sent, that only gives about 60MB on top of 150 minutes for that $10. 50-60MB can be plenty if you seriously neuter data usage (really easy on that Lumia 640 - I have a Lumia 435 and mobile data usage averages under 10MB a month for me), but getting that substantially added minute/SMS padding for emergency/fluke heavy usage months on the Puretalk plans even if you lose the rollover is worth it, as it all but eliminates the overage concerns of going Airvoice these days at that price point.

That help?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: earthshine on July 27, 2016, 12:07:11 PM
Hi I.P. Daley,

thank you for the wealth of information. I was researching PureTalk (your link went to BatMobile) and want to ask
- do you know how I can determine how far 50 MB of data will get him?
- do you want to provide a referral in case we go through this service?

i will read up on air voice also.

these sound like they could be good options! thanks again

earthshine
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on July 27, 2016, 01:56:49 PM
thank you for the wealth of information. I was researching PureTalk (your link went to BatMobile)

Sorry about that. Fixed the link in the original post, and here it is as well:

https://www.puretalkusa.com/senior-addvantage-plan.php (https://www.puretalkusa.com/senior-addvantage-plan.php)

- do you know how I can determine how far 50 MB of data will get him?
- do you want to provide a referral in case we go through this service?

For the first question? Well, it depends on what it's used for. If he's just using it for email and occasional web browsing as needed while mostly staying connected to Wifi, it'll go a long way. If he's streaming audio or video over the cellular network, it won't go very far at all. If you use the Lumia 640, just set up Data Sense with a 40-50MB cap, minimize email updates, pre-load offline maps for GPS if needed, and replace IE/Edge with the Surfy Browser. Text doesn't require much bandwidth... it's images and audio that does.

The second question? Don't worry about it. I typically don't do referral programs. If you want, though, there's a couple other ways of thanking me over on my website up at the top (http://www.techmeshugana.com/).

As always, glad to help.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on July 27, 2016, 03:00:48 PM
That $10 senior plan looks good, it's a much better per-unit value than the $10 airvoice plan. I don't see an option to change to senior plans in their web UI, so I guess it's not just a marketing thing, they actually check customers' age?

Classic selfish boomer welfare preventing us yungins from getting ahead!!!!11!@!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: ofits on August 02, 2016, 12:47:45 PM
A big thank-you, Daley, for the wealth of information you've provided over the years. Trying to synthesize it all is like drinking from a firehose!

My situation: I'm currently on a Republic Wireless "Republic Refund" plan which, at my current data usage (80-100MB), runs me $13-$14 a month. Unfortunately my phone (Moto X 1st gen) has decided to start shutting off arbitrarily and neither my phone nor my plan are currently offered by Republic anymore.

I've considered just biting the bullet and upgrading to their new plan ($20 a month for unlimited talk/text and 1GB data), but the $349 price tag for a new Moto X has given me pause. I know you don't care for Republic Wireless; are there any other MVNO offerings at the $20/1GB data price point (talk/text don't matter so much to me)?

I'm looking at the $10 talk and text plan from Airvoice Wireless, but some details are unclear. You mentioned in an earlier post that unused credits are rolled over, and seemed to imply that the $10 could be used for any combination of talk, text, and data. If I don't talk or text much, could I use all of that $10 for data at $.066/MB? If I needed to go over that amount, would I still be billed at $.066/MB?

Regarding hardware options, you mention in the superguide that it is Trivially easy to BYOD as they’re an AT&T GSM carrier. Is there an easy way to compare phones that fall into this category? I'd like a physical keyboard, though it isn't a dealbreaker, and I'm already familiar with Android and the Play store for apps. I don't mind switching to another OS if there is a good reason to do so, but I'm not sure how apps and app stores are handled outside Android and iOS.

I know that I've asked quite a few questions here, so a big thanks in advance for any and all advice!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on August 02, 2016, 01:45:58 PM
I've considered just biting the bullet and upgrading to their new plan ($20 a month for unlimited talk/text and 1GB data), but the $349 price tag for a new Moto X has given me pause. I know you don't care for Republic Wireless; are there any other MVNO offerings at the $20/1GB data price point (talk/text don't matter so much to me)?

If T-Mobile only coverage is good for your area, look into US Mobile (https://www.usmobile.com/plans). It's like Ting's price structure, but better targeted price-wise for individual line accounts.

I'm looking at the $10 talk and text plan from Airvoice Wireless, but some details are unclear. You mentioned in an earlier post that unused credits are rolled over, and seemed to imply that the $10 could be used for any combination of talk, text, and data. If I don't talk or text much, could I use all of that $10 for data at $.066/MB? If I needed to go over that amount, would I still be billed at $.066/MB?

Yes to the first question. Yes to the second as well, but you'd have to add another $10 to the account before end of cycle. Puretalk USA's Simple 600 (https://www.puretalkusa.com/mobile-simple-plan.php) might be a good option as well, and they too are on the AT&T network... but I'd still lean towards US Mobile if the T-Mobile coverage works well for you.

Regarding hardware options, you mention in the superguide that it is Trivially easy to BYOD as they’re an AT&T GSM carrier. Is there an easy way to compare phones that fall into this category? I'd like a physical keyboard, though it isn't a dealbreaker, and I'm already familiar with Android and the Play store for apps. I don't mind switching to another OS if there is a good reason to do so, but I'm not sure how apps and app stores are handled outside Android and iOS.

There is. GSM Arena (http://www.gsmarena.com/search.php3) is a good option, as is Phone Scoop (http://www.phonescoop.com/phones/finder.php). Basically, any 3G GSM 850/1900MHz phone will work with either AT&T or T-Mobile. You don't start getting into squirrely data band requirements unless you're chasing after LTE data bands, and that's where AT&T and T-Mobile start to drift heavily.

As for physical keyboards, even I have finally accepted that the party is pretty well over. Blackberrys aren't worth it anymore, even if they're running BBOS10 or Android. Most of the old Nokias with physical keyboards at this point have been left broken network-wise with any useful mobile data services due to the SSL POODLE vulnerability, there's maybe the e72/e73 at this point, and it's just not worth the price premium. I finally just folded and gave up, and switched to Windows Phone. The touchscreen keyboard is decent (Biggest complaint about the Word Flow keyboard I have? My fingers don't always slide smoothly swiping on the touchscreen.), and the OS is the least terrible smartphone platform I've used as they seem to have taken the best parts of iOS and Android and combined it together with a consistent UI and an aggressively effective data restriction app. The app store is fine and works like every other one, though the major complaint there is that you can't remove apps that you've downloaded and didn't like as they stay in your app database, even uninstalled. I'm currently using a Lumia 435 (an entry level model). It and the 640 (midrange) are probably the two biggest bang for buck handsets going right now, used. You should be able to obtain an unlocked, used 640 for around $50-60 tops.

Glad to help as always, and hope this helps you out. Any other questions, let me know.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: ofits on August 02, 2016, 02:28:12 PM
Thanks for the quick reply!

If T-Mobile only coverage is good for your area, look into US Mobile (https://www.usmobile.com/plans). It's like Ting's price structure, but better targeted price-wise for individual line accounts.

I can't find a non-4G coverage map for T-Mobile, but since I live in Phoenix, AZ, I doubt it'll be a problem.

US Mobile's offerings look really good. I assume it and Ting's "buckets" work the same way - if I go over a limit it just bumps me up to the next bucket? E.g. on US Mobile if I use 251 MB of data 1 month I get billed for the 500 MB data bucket?

There is. GSM Arena (http://www.gsmarena.com/search.php3) is a good option, as is Phone Scoop (http://www.phonescoop.com/phones/finder.php). Basically, any 3G GSM 850/1900MHz phone will work with either AT&T or T-Mobile. You don't start getting into squirrely data band requirements unless you're chasing after LTE data bands, and that's where AT&T and T-Mobile start to drift heavily.

LTE = 4G = high-bandwidth applications such as Netflix, Pandora, and YouTube, correct? I've mostly weaned myself off of mobile audio/video streaming, but if I wanted to show someone a video on YouTube, would I be able to do it on 3G?

As for physical keyboards, even I have finally accepted that the party is pretty well over.

That's a shame!

In a thread from September of last year you suggested these phones (http://www.gsmarena.com/results.php3?sMakers=9&s3Gs=UMTS850,UMTS1900&sFormFactors=4&idQwerty=1); from the URL I assume they meet the 3G GSM 850/1900MHz parameters you gave me above. Are they underpowered/obsolete/not ideal for my situation?

I finally just folded and gave up, and switched to Windows Phone. The touchscreen keyboard is decent (Biggest complaint about the Word Flow keyboard I have? My fingers don't always slide smoothly swiping on the touchscreen.), and the OS is the least terrible smartphone platform I've used as they seem to have taken the best parts of iOS and Android and combined it together with a consistent UI and an aggressively effective data restriction app. The app store is fine and works like every other one, though the major complaint there is that you can't remove apps that you've downloaded and didn't like as they stay in your app database, even uninstalled. I'm currently using a Lumia 435 (an entry level model). It and the 640 (midrange) are probably the two biggest bang for buck handsets going right now, used. You should be able to obtain an unlocked, used 640 for around $50-60 tops.

Thanks for the suggestion. I'll keep an eye out for a used 640 on eBay.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on August 02, 2016, 04:23:10 PM
I can't find a non-4G coverage map for T-Mobile, but since I live in Phoenix, AZ, I doubt it'll be a problem.

US Mobile's offerings look really good. I assume it and Ting's "buckets" work the same way - if I go over a limit it just bumps me up to the next bucket? E.g. on US Mobile if I use 251 MB of data 1 month I get billed for the 500 MB data bucket?

Yeah, the carriers like to confuse/hide what bands cover what areas. Regarding "4G" with T-Mobile, one must remember that they have "two" 4G services. One, which is actually 3.5G UMTS/HSPA+, and the other which is true 4G LTE. They're farming all their 1700/2100MHz AWS band service from HSPA+ to LTE, and they should actually be done with that by now. Basically, any GSM phone with LTE support for bands 2 and 4 will pretty much receive what signal T-Mobile is providing (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T-Mobile_US#Radio_frequency_spectrum_chart).

Unfortunately, it's not automated like Ting and Consumer Cellular are with going over on your plan settings. They'll notify you when you're running close to running out and you can purchase top-ups to provide more minutes/texts/data on the plan.

LTE = 4G = high-bandwidth applications such as Netflix, Pandora, and YouTube, correct? I've mostly weaned myself off of mobile audio/video streaming, but if I wanted to show someone a video on YouTube, would I be able to do it on 3G?

Absolutely. 3G HSPA+ data services are considered broadband and in the case of T-Mobile, are capable of up to 42Mbps. Basically, you're going to get plenty of throughput to stream if needed so long as you're not connected at 2G data speeds.

In a thread from September of last year you suggested these phones (http://www.gsmarena.com/results.php3?sMakers=9&s3Gs=UMTS850,UMTS1900&sFormFactors=4&idQwerty=1); from the URL I assume they meet the 3G GSM 850/1900MHz parameters you gave me above. Are they underpowered/obsolete/not ideal for my situation?

Those are getting harder to find, the prices aren't tracking lower, most of them are feature phones with many of them old enough to suffer from the same POODLE SSL issues that have bricked the older Nokias, and the remainder are Android handsets that you're only going to get moderately current and patched if its still supported by Cyanogenmod. Also, if you want to stream video to show people, you're just going to need a smartphone with a current OS.

Thanks for the suggestion. I'll keep an eye out for a used 640 on eBay.

They're going for a good price, and the AT&T handsets support the key T-Mobile LTE bands (https://www.att.com/cellphones/microsoft/lumia-640-prepaid.html#sku=undefined) that you're after.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: ofits on August 02, 2016, 06:43:45 PM
Yeah, the carriers like to confuse/hide what bands cover what areas. Regarding "4G" with T-Mobile, one must remember that they have "two" 4G services. One, which is actually 3.5G UMTS/HSPA+, and the other which is true 4G LTE. They're farming all their 1700/2100MHz AWS band service from HSPA+ to LTE, and they should actually be done with that by now. Basically, any GSM phone with LTE support for bands 2 and 4 will pretty much receive what signal T-Mobile is providing (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T-Mobile_US#Radio_frequency_spectrum_chart).

I can't believe how nuanced the industry is. Is/was this part of your day job, or are you just an enthusiast? Either way, I'm glad you use your powers for good!

Unfortunately, it's not automated like Ting and Consumer Cellular are with going over on your plan settings. They'll notify you when you're running close to running out and you can purchase top-ups to provide more minutes/texts/data on the plan.

...

Absolutely. 3G HSPA+ data services are considered broadband and in the case of T-Mobile, are capable of up to 42Mbps. Basically, you're going to get plenty of throughput to stream if needed so long as you're not connected at 2G data speeds.

Good to know!

Those are getting harder to find, the prices aren't tracking lower, most of them are feature phones with many of them old enough to suffer from the same POODLE SSL issues that have bricked the older Nokias, and the remainder are Android handsets that you're only going to get moderately current and patched if its still supported by Cyanogenmod. Also, if you want to stream video to show people, you're just going to need a smartphone with a current OS.

Message received. Guess I'll stick to dreaming about physical keyboards.

They're going for a good price, and the AT&T handsets support the key T-Mobile LTE bands (https://www.att.com/cellphones/microsoft/lumia-640-prepaid.html#sku=undefined) that you're after.

So, to summarize, I should be on the lookout for a used Lumia 640, specifically from AT&T for proper band support, specifically the prepaid version so I don't have to mess with unlocking it. I can stick a $4 SIM card from US Mobile in it and be on my way. I can use your used phone guide to mitigate risk when making my purchase. Any other tips/suggestions?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on August 02, 2016, 07:18:47 PM
So, to summarize, I should be on the lookout for a used Lumia 640, specifically from AT&T for proper band support, specifically the prepaid version so I don't have to mess with unlocking it. I can stick a $4 SIM card from US Mobile in it and be on my way. I can use your used phone guide to mitigate risk when making my purchase. Any other tips/suggestions?

You'll need to be sure that the phone is already carrier unlocked, and most of the used market for the Lumia 640 is going to be used AT&T GoPhones that may or may not be carrier unlocked. If you want to use a T-Mo MVNO, you need it unlocked.

Otherwise, it looks like you got it nailed down.

Guess I'll stick to dreaming about physical keyboards.

I miss 'em, too...
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: ofits on August 02, 2016, 08:41:08 PM
it looks like you got it nailed down.

Thanks again, Daley.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Beardog on August 04, 2016, 08:36:04 AM
Hello, I.P.

I finally feel forced to get a cell phone for emergency purposes and to provide an alternate communication method if my VOIP goes down (since pay phones have gone the way of the dinosaurs). 

For a reliable phone that would be used for talk only, on an infrequent basis, what kind of phone would you recommend and where is the best place to buy one?  Your website recommends 'the humble and end of life Nokia Symbian S60 platform' and '[any] modern Java MIDP 2.x feature phone operating system (or even Symbian S40) combined with a WiFi chipset is fine for personal communications usage with such solid offerings as the Samsung Ch@t line, the LG C series, some Alcatel OT handsets, and of course Nokia’s Asha line of phones.'  Could you translate this into a couple of concrete phone suggestions?

For my area, it looks like TMobile and AT&T are the dominant providers.  Would the Puretalk's $10 Senior AddVantage plan be a good phone plan option?  (I'm over 55.)  Do I have to do something to disable incoming texts, since I don't want to send/receive and pay for these?

Is there some kind of battery back up one can keep on continuous charge to have available in the event of a long-term power outtage?

Thank you for any guidance you can provide. 

~ Beardog









Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on August 04, 2016, 08:23:06 PM
For a reliable phone that would be used for talk only, on an infrequent basis, what kind of phone would you recommend and where is the best place to buy one?  Your website recommends 'the humble and end of life Nokia Symbian S60 platform' and '[any] modern Java MIDP 2.x feature phone operating system (or even Symbian S40) combined with a WiFi chipset is fine for personal communications usage with such solid offerings as the Samsung Ch@t line, the LG C series, some Alcatel OT handsets, and of course Nokia’s Asha line of phones.'  Could you translate this into a couple of concrete phone suggestions?

I've not had quite the spare time to update and keep the site current as much as I'd like lately, so apologies for that, but I'll answer your question with a couple posts I made in this thread just a couple days ago on this very topic:

Most of the old Nokias with physical keyboards at this point have been left broken network-wise with any useful mobile data services due to the SSL POODLE vulnerability, there's maybe the e72/e73 at this point, and it's just not worth the price premium.

In a thread from September of last year you suggested these phones (http://www.gsmarena.com/results.php3?sMakers=9&s3Gs=UMTS850,UMTS1900&sFormFactors=4&idQwerty=1); from the URL I assume they meet the 3G GSM 850/1900MHz parameters you gave me above. Are they underpowered/obsolete/not ideal for my situation?

Those are getting harder to find, the prices aren't tracking lower, most of them are feature phones with many of them old enough to suffer from the same POODLE SSL issues that have bricked the older Nokias...

Of course, if you're just looking for a phone (which you are), and don't care about email, SMS text messaging, web browsing, and other networked creature comforts, and just want a straight up mobile phone that just makes phone calls, none of those quoted phones and their features would be worth anything to you and any old 3G capable clamshell or candybar feature phone will be plenty for your needs. A carrier unlocked ZTE Z222 (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B017TQBK6U/) can be really cheap, but the UI can be a little confusing and labyrinthine. There's also the factory unlocked Jethro SC628 (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B012S5WSZ4/), GOSO Big Button (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01H5XHZ2A), and Snapfon ezTWO (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B005CWSF3U/). Before you think I'm recommending those three latter candybar feature phones because they're senior phones and you're over 55, it's not so much that as there's not too many decent feature phones being made anymore at all... but the senior phones are getting the most love (which isn't much love at all) on 3G band support and simple user interfaces for feature phones.

For my area, it looks like TMobile and AT&T are the dominant providers.  Would the Puretalk's $10 Senior AddVantage plan be a good phone plan option?  (I'm over 55.)  Do I have to do something to disable incoming texts, since I don't want to send/receive and pay for these?

Depends on how much you plan on actually using the phone. The Senior AddVantage plan is certainly one of the best bangs for the buck, and sub-$10/month PAYGO plans are getting rarer. However, if you don't plan on using more than 100 minutes a month (at screaming most), you might be better served with an H2O Wireless PAYGO plan at 5¢/minute (https://www.h2owirelessnow.com/mainControl.php?page=planMin) with their refills adding a minimum of 90 days airtime and unused balance rollover. That would still give you AT&T coverage that way, which would be the better network coverage wise if you're wanting non-911 "emergency" phone use. Alternately, there's also Truphone SIM which would charge you 9¢/minute outbound (http://truphone.com/us/consumer/sim/), but give you free inbound calls, they're less rigid about airtime expiry (so long as you use the phone at least once every 45 days), and provides both AT&T and T-Mobile coverage.

Any of these providers should be able to disable SMS/MMS messaging on your account as well as mobile data, but you'll have to call in and talk to a support person to get that done.

Is there some kind of battery back up one can keep on continuous charge to have available in the event of a long-term power outtage?

All the linked phones should have the now standardized Micro-USB B connector for power charging (same as smartphones), and as they're not smartphones, battery life should be at least around a week for all of them. However, because they have a common power connector shared with smartphones, and smartphones are notorious for having short battery lives - and now more frequently non-user-replaceable batteries, a rich aftermarket of rechargeable portable battery phone chargers exist now. This one is one of many on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01DEN66MK/), just for example, and there are plenty of cheaper and more expensive options if you look depending on what all you want it to do (solar, hand crank, flashlight, radio, etc.). This used to be my favorite go-to (https://midlandusa.com/product/xt511-base-camp/) before they discontinued it. Beyond that, you can get 12V USB car chargers down at Dollar Tree for a buck (https://www.dollartree.com/household/electronics/Colorful-12V-USB-Car-Charger-Adapters/500c548c548p344331/index.pro) as a third tier emergency charging method using your car battery.

Hope that helps! Any other questions, just ask.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Beardog on August 05, 2016, 11:39:31 AM
This is incredibly helpful!  I truely appreciate your expertise.   Thank you for responding to my very basic questions.

Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: With This Herring on August 05, 2016, 01:30:57 PM
To start:  I have read the Guide a few times and have been Googling.  My question is a little different, so I hope that will be a nice change.

I am currently on my family's AT&T plan and my cell phone is broken, so I am looking to replace both plan and phone.  My average monthly usage is 100 - 200 minutes of calls and 600 - 1000 texts and around 1 MB of data (not a typo, I don't do data more than the occasional MMS).  However, the majority of those texts (minimum 400 - 600 per month) is due to a GroupMe conversation that my friends use to keep in touch.  (GroupMe is a service that gives your group a unique phone number for group text messages.  Members of the group text must be added to be able to send/receive messages.)  These are almost never time-sensitive, so I would prefer to see them on my computer.  Removing those texts takes my average to around 200 to 400 per month.

I'm hoping to stay on an AT&T MVNO, as I already know it provides coverage in all the areas I commonly visit.

Looking at my usage, I'm thinking that Puretalk's SIMPLE $15 for 600 minutes plan will cover me (as each text is 1/3 of a minute) as-is.  However, if I can get the GroupMe conversation onto my computer, I would probably be covered most months with the SIMPLE $10 for 300 minutes plan.

I am currently eying used, unlocked with clean ESN  Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4G (http://www.gsmarena.com/samsung_galaxy_s_relay_4g_t699-4914.php) phones because of their QWERTY physical keyboards, threaded texts, good camera, and support by Cyanogenmod (never used it, but you recommend it, soo...).  They are for T-Mobile, but should work with AT&T MVNOs, right?

In theory, I could use the GroupMe app, but I don't like the permissions list or that it is yet another Microsoft product.
Quote
Version 5.5.3 can access:
In-app purchases

Identity
    find accounts on the device
    add or remove accounts

Contacts
    find accounts on the device
    read your contacts

Location
    precise location (GPS and network-based)

SMS
    send SMS messages
    receive text messages (SMS)

Phone
    read phone status and identity

Photos/Media/Files
    modify or delete the contents of your USB storage
    read the contents of your USB storage

Storage
    modify or delete the contents of your USB storage
    read the contents of your USB storage

Device ID & call information
    read phone status and identity

Other
    modify app ops statistics
    receive data from Internet
    manage document storage
    full network access
    view network connections
    create accounts and set passwords
    read sync settings
    toggle sync on and off
    use accounts on the device
    prevent device from sleeping
    control vibration
    install shortcuts

So what I would love is a way to be able to get the GroupMe conversation into Pidgin.  I've figured out how to send texts via the AIM account I have set up in Pidgin, but I don't know what number to use to set up to receive texts in this GroupMe conversation.  I know the short code that appears on my phone as the source of IM->text replies, but I couldn't add that to the GroupMe conversation.

So, my questions are:
1) Phone - yes or no?
2) How can I unload GroupMe conversation to computer without downloading MS junk or granting MS permission to do everything to my phone/computer?  I think need some phone number that can just be added to the GroupMe conversation and then have the messages go straight into Pidgin.  I'm sure someone else has figured out this one, but I can't find it.  Maybe a VOIP phone number?  I just don't understand enough about them to know if that would work.

Any advice is welcome when you return!  (And have a good Sabbath.)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on August 05, 2016, 05:46:05 PM
I am currently eying used, unlocked with clean ESN  Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4G (http://www.gsmarena.com/samsung_galaxy_s_relay_4g_t699-4914.php) phones because of their QWERTY physical keyboards, threaded texts, good camera, and support by Cyanogenmod (never used it, but you recommend it, soo...).  They are for T-Mobile, but should work with AT&T MVNOs, right?

Yeah, for the most part. As for Cyanogenmod and this phone, two things:

1) The phone is only supported through CM11, which is equivalent to Android 5.0, which is starting to get dated itself at this point.
2) Cyanogen Inc. recently fired most of their OS staff (http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2016/07/report-cyanogen-inc-to-layoff-20-of-workers-may-pivot-to-app-development/), which doesn't entirely bode well for the future.

In theory, I could use the GroupMe app, but I don't like the permissions list or that it is yet another Microsoft product.

-snip-

So what I would love is a way to be able to get the GroupMe conversation into Pidgin.  I've figured out how to send texts via the AIM account I have set up in Pidgin, but I don't know what number to use to set up to receive texts in this GroupMe conversation.  I know the short code that appears on my phone as the source of IM->text replies, but I couldn't add that to the GroupMe conversation.

There's no easy path for what you're wanting, honestly. Everyone wants to wed you to their proprietary apps. If GroupMe works for you and you already have a Skype account and/or are running Windows 10 (which, if you're using Windows, you might as well - the invasive stuff was backported to Win 7/8, but it's easier to disable most of it in Win10), just lean into it and use the app on your phone/desktop. The permissions aren't great, but they're not terrible, either.

So, my questions are:
1) Phone - yes or no?
2) How can I unload GroupMe conversation to computer without downloading MS junk or granting MS permission to do everything to my phone/computer?  I think need some phone number that can just be added to the GroupMe conversation and then have the messages go straight into Pidgin.  I'm sure someone else has figured out this one, but I can't find it.  Maybe a VOIP phone number?  I just don't understand enough about them to know if that would work.

1) Phone? Ehh, especially for the price and the alternatives. Truthfully, the industry has pretty much abandoned us physical keyboard users. I gave up myself and just bought a Lumia. The Word Flow touchscreen keyboard is no physical QWERTY, but it's tolerable. Amazingly, Microsoft has better privacy control settings on their phones than Google does on Android. Go figure.

2) Not easily, especially not without, say, handing over similar invasion levels to Google. Just lean into it.

(And have a good Sabbath.)

Thanks! May you be blessed with peace this Shabbat, as well. :)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: With This Herring on August 06, 2016, 11:50:33 AM
Well shoot!

I am actually the same person from this thread (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/windows-7-to-linux-when-whether-help!) who just switched to Linux a month ago, so no Windows 10 here!  I do have a Skype account, but it uses a junk email, fake name, and fake info.  Making a GroupMe or MS overall account would require giving a real phone number.  I may just stick with paying for these extra texts.

The only reason I have an interest in a smartphone as opposed to another dumbphone (feature phone?) is the ability to download text conversations to my computer.  That <=1MB data usage is solely MMS picture texts.  I don't use phones to browse the internet, performs GPS functions, or answer emails.  If I bought the phone, installed CM, and then switched off almost all internet/data access to it, would it matter if the OS was never updated?  I do not know much about the security side of software, especially not on phones.

I really don't want to give up the physical keyboard.  I find the touchscreen keyboards very difficult to use.  I have narrow fingers, so maybe the tips are just too tacky.

I'm of one of the standard Christian branches, so I won't be peaceful until 4 this evening, but thank you!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: prefixcactus on August 07, 2016, 01:44:08 PM
just switched to Linux a month ago, so no Windows 10 here! 
Lovely!
Quote
The only reason I have an interest in a smartphone as opposed to another dumbphone (feature phone?) is the ability to download text conversations to my computer.  That <=1MB data usage is solely MMS picture texts.  I don't use phones to browse the internet, performs GPS functions, or answer emails.  If I bought the phone, installed CM, and then switched off almost all internet/data access to it, would it matter if the OS was never updated?  I do not know much about the security side of software, especially not on phones.
I once thought I couldn't imagine myself without a smartphone and mobile data anymore, but then it stopped recognizing my SIM card about half a year ago and I was forced to switch over to my dumb phone (which I keep for things like 2-week hikes). I've been using it ever since and don't really miss all the advanced connectivity stuff. The only problem, I guess, is the severely limited memory on my model, which forces me to delete most of the messages every week or so (punching the debit-card logs into gnucash first).

I do kinda miss the useful apps and stuff, where I used to keep notes and log my habits and expenses, but a smartphone is a kinda crappy thing for that, really, due to severely limited I/O.

As for the security side of things, Android is pretty good in terms of that, and since you've eliminated the greatest source of infestations (browsing the internets through your phone and/or clicking on questionable links and/or downloading questionable apps), I'd say you're quite secure on that count. By the way, the tor project had a great article on bulletproofing the system, I think it was called "mission impossible: a secure android" or something.

Quote
I really don't want to give up the physical keyboard.  I find the touchscreen keyboards very difficult to use.  I have narrow fingers, so maybe the tips are just too tacky.

I'm of one of the standard Christian branches, so I won't be peaceful until 4 this evening, but thank you!
I strongly recommend getting something with a physical keyboard. They don't make any such devices anymore, unfortunately, but the old ones are still great, check out the HTC Desire Z or Sony Xperia [ray or something, I don't remember exactly]. Those are mostly limited to old android versions though; the Z did run 4.x CM but with a serious audio problem where the device would convert hideous amounts of power into heat when playing music. It might've been just that one ROM, though; they do sometimes get bugs like that. Anyway, those two should be dirt cheap now and are great devices. And if you're hardcore, you could get a Nokia N900, a physical-keyboard-enabled smartphone with none other than Debian (slightly modified) on board. (do note that they have a nasty habit of μUSB ports getting torn off the board by regular usage; that's what killed mine. So be sure to glue the port to the board with epoxy or something if you do get one of these beauties).

A different approach entirely would be to get a portable external input device, like a chorded keyboard. the Twiddler is one; Unfortunately they're hard to find used, except for the first COM&PS/2 version, which is unfortunately mostly useless today (presumably because the people who are geeky enough to buy one are also fond of the thing and use it for years). I haven't succeeded in getting one myself yet, and I'm starting to think I'm going to have to bite the bullet and buy a brand-new one. There's also the smartphone-oriented Octodon keyboard, which unfortunately is still in development (and, due to its smartphone-orientedness, not fitting my purpose of disposing with them entirely).
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: With This Herring on August 07, 2016, 04:11:16 PM
*snip*
I really don't want to give up the physical keyboard.  I find the touchscreen keyboards very difficult to use.  I have narrow fingers, so maybe the tips are just too tacky.

I'm of one of the standard Christian branches, so I won't be peaceful until 4 this evening, but thank you!
I strongly recommend getting something with a physical keyboard. They don't make any such devices anymore, unfortunately, but the old ones are still great, check out the HTC Desire Z or Sony Xperia [ray or something, I don't remember exactly]. Those are mostly limited to old android versions though; the Z did run 4.x CM but with a serious audio problem where the device would convert hideous amounts of power into heat when playing music. It might've been just that one ROM, though; they do sometimes get bugs like that. Anyway, those two should be dirt cheap now and are great devices. And if you're hardcore, you could get a Nokia N900, a physical-keyboard-enabled smartphone with none other than Debian (slightly modified) on board. (do note that they have a nasty habit of μUSB ports getting torn off the board by regular usage; that's what killed mine. So be sure to glue the port to the board with epoxy or something if you do get one of these beauties).

A different approach entirely would be to get a portable external input device, like a chorded keyboard. the Twiddler is one; Unfortunately they're hard to find used, except for the first COM&PS/2 version, which is unfortunately mostly useless today (presumably because the people who are geeky enough to buy one are also fond of the thing and use it for years). I haven't succeeded in getting one myself yet, and I'm starting to think I'm going to have to bite the bullet and buy a brand-new one. There's also the smartphone-oriented Octodon keyboard, which unfortunately is still in development (and, due to its smartphone-orientedness, not fitting my purpose of disposing with them entirely).

Thank you for the phone suggestions.  As for the chorded keyboard, the idea is interesting, but I can't picture carrying yet another item with me when out.  Any time I am home and would be doing texting of the scale to merit it, I would probably just use something like Wammu/Gammu via my laptop anyway.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on August 07, 2016, 04:54:15 PM
I am actually the same person from this thread (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/windows-7-to-linux-when-whether-help!) who just switched to Linux a month ago, so no Windows 10 here!  I do have a Skype account, but it uses a junk email, fake name, and fake info.  Making a GroupMe or MS overall account would require giving a real phone number.  I may just stick with paying for these extra texts.

Sorry about that, everything just kind of blurs together after a while.

Regarding "giving a real phone number"? If you're using GroupMe already, actual app or not, they already have your phone number. *shrugs*

I also fiddled around a bit with GroupMe and more fully researched the fool thing (because I've been needing to anyway), and it looks like you can log into and use the account from the website (https://web.groupme.com/signin), and can create a stand-alone account without tying an MS account into the mix.

The only reason I have an interest in a smartphone as opposed to another dumbphone (feature phone?) is the ability to download text conversations to my computer.  That <=1MB data usage is solely MMS picture texts.  I don't use phones to browse the internet, performs GPS functions, or answer emails.  If I bought the phone, installed CM, and then switched off almost all internet/data access to it, would it matter if the OS was never updated?  I do not know much about the security side of software, especially not on phones.

Going smartphone would simplify SMS backup a fair bit. If you're looking to run a dated system but have no intent of taking it online, excuse MMS, that would be reasonably safe for the most part. Just be sure to "permanently" disable WiFi (http://forum.xda-developers.com/android/general/root-permanently-disable-wifi-t3057599) (you'll need root access temporarily - easy enough if you've switched to CM), uninstall whatever networked apps and browsers you can just to get 'em out of the way, and when you enter the APN settings for your carrier, enter the MMS properly, but misconfigure (break) the mobile data APN. This will ensure that you can still receive MMS messages (disabling mobile data cuts everything off), but nothing else should work.

You could still theoretically get a targeted exploit via MMS, but it still wouldn't get very far without actual internet access.

Knowing exactly what you're after, however, really opens things up and brings the older S40/60 handsets back into the mix. I might not only have a simpler solution for you - but the perfect device... I'll send you a PM.

I really don't want to give up the physical keyboard.  I find the touchscreen keyboards very difficult to use.  I have narrow fingers, so maybe the tips are just too tacky.

I don't blame you one bit. Even after the switch, I still miss my keyboard.

I'm of one of the standard Christian branches, so I won't be peaceful until 4 this evening, but thank you!

Whether we embrace the physical Shabbat or the metaphoric one by celebrating throughout the week as a shadow of the glory to come, I hope it was peaceful and restoring. :)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: With This Herring on August 07, 2016, 07:53:41 PM
I am actually the same person from this thread (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/windows-7-to-linux-when-whether-help!) who just switched to Linux a month ago, so no Windows 10 here!  I do have a Skype account, but it uses a junk email, fake name, and fake info.  Making a GroupMe or MS overall account would require giving a real phone number.  I may just stick with paying for these extra texts.

Sorry about that, everything just kind of blurs together after a while.

No worries!  You've written hundreds of pages of advice, and I don't even have a little picture yet to make myself more memorable.


Regarding "giving a real phone number"? If you're using GroupMe already, actual app or not, they already have your phone number. *shrugs*

I also fiddled around a bit with GroupMe and more fully researched the fool thing (because I've been needing to anyway), and it looks like you can log into and use the account from the website (https://web.groupme.com/signin), and can create a stand-alone account without tying an MS account into the mix.

True, but I'd rather not reinforce it, if that makes any sense.  The friend who started it just told us, "Hey, I'm going to get a group chat going!" but didn't give details.  I didn't learn about GroupMe until it was already too late.  (Someday certain friends will learn to disclose important things, but that day is not today.)

GroupMe is still an MS property, and its TOS and privacy policy are all on MS's page, so I can't see that there would be much difference between setting up an MS account or setting up a GroupMe account.  The webapp would help get the texts on the computer and off of metered SMS, but it also means I couldn't get it integrated into Pidgin.  (There was a plugin, but it was abandoned by the creators back in 2013 I think.)

So, I spent way too many hours on this yesterday and I actually did find a way that should get some texting to work through Pidgin.  If one gets an SMS-enabled DID and VOIP service through Vitelity (which is the supplier of services to voip.ms, according to posters on dslreviews, but according to its FAQs is fine with tiny accounts), they actually have a tutorial on getting it set up in Pidgin (http://www.vitelity.com/blog/2013/05/vitelity-101-sms-enabled-dids-webinar-recording/)!  As far as I can find, it works because Vitelity converts the messages between SMS and XMPP.  It's designed for businesses, but it looks like it works for individuals.  I would be paying $1.49/month for Vitelity's service, but that's not bad for unmetered texting that would fit all my criteria.

I will be replying to your PM shortly.  Thank you!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on August 07, 2016, 09:17:11 PM
So, I spent way too many hours on this yesterday and I actually did find a way that should get some texting to work through Pidgin.  If one gets an SMS-enabled DID and VOIP service through Vitelity (which is the supplier of services to voip.ms, according to posters on dslreviews, but according to its FAQs is fine with tiny accounts), they actually have a tutorial on getting it set up in Pidgin (http://www.vitelity.com/blog/2013/05/vitelity-101-sms-enabled-dids-webinar-recording/)!  As far as I can find, it works because Vitelity converts the messages between SMS and XMPP.  It's designed for businesses, but it looks like it works for individuals.  I would be paying $1.49/month for Vitelity's service, but that's not bad for unmetered texting that would fit all my criteria.

You'll have to tell me how well this works out, especially given GroupMe's frequent SMS short-code usage and handling, and most VoIP SMS gateways not really being able to handle short codes. (This is something to be aware of as well with many MVNOs. They don't do SMS short codes, either. Most MVNOs don't, in fact.)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: alsoknownasDean on August 13, 2016, 11:56:40 PM
My LG G3 has been playing up (a new battery should solve the issues, but it's taken it's time to arrive from eBay). Hence, I've been using my spare Moto G (first generation).

Using the Moto for a couple of weeks has made me realise that I can get by fine with a cheap smartphone for most of what I do, instead of a fancypants higher end one. The small screen isn't a big deal. The camera on the Moto is pretty crappy, and having no SD card (it's the dual-sim model) is a nuisance (especially with 8GB of storage), but there's other cheap smartphones around that can solve those ones.

A temporary downgrade hasn't been such a bad thing really. Due to the camera and SD card, I'll go back to the LG once I've fixed it, but maybe when it's time for a new phone, I'll be looking at the sub $200 prepaid units instead of higher end models.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: kandilynn on August 15, 2016, 10:46:56 PM
Are there any MVNOs that work on US Cellular network? I'm from a tiny rural town in SE Oklahoma and the only people that have towers there are US Cellular and a small local carrier called Pine Cellular. AT&T is partnered with Pine, so people with an AT&T contract can use Pine's towers, but my AT&T Go Phone doesn't work there at all. I don't currently live there, but I visit often enough that I want to make sure I have coverage. If I'm going to break down, it would most likely be on an 8 hour road trip to visit my family. My husband wants to get contracts with either AT&T or Verizon for this purpose. (Verizon is partnered with US Cellular in my hometown.) His family also lives in a very rural area that has AT&T coverage, but not much else. (Verizon has 1x coverage, whatever that is...)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on August 16, 2016, 09:32:40 AM
Are there any MVNOs that work on US Cellular network?

(Howdy, fellow Okie!)

Ehh... ish?

Selectel (https://www.selectelwireless.com/wp-content/themes/neighborhood/my_images/Prepaid_Coverage.gif) (Verizon) and Ting CDMA (https://ting.com/coverage) (Sprint) both have roaming agreements that include each other's networks as well as USCC, but it's roaming, which means you're restricted to voice and SMS only. Ting CDMA would be a poor choice indeed, given all coverage in and around your area would be roaming due to Sprint's complete and total lack of coverage in the Texarkoma region outside of the I-30 corridor. Selectel might be a better option on the CDMA end, at least through 2019, until Verizon shuts down their 1xRTT network.

For the region, and you hint at this yourself, AT&T with roaming might be the better choice overall given GSM coverage is a bit more thorough for the area than CDMA, but AT&T only coverage (which is what GoPhone is) leaves holes. That leaves Consumer Cellular (https://www.consumercellular.com/Coverage/Map?carrier=1) with their AT&T SIM, which should give you better possible coverage, but similar roaming restrictions while on Pine.

Given your restrictions and your region with everyone involved, as well as the potential price point you may be dealing with for service (you didn't go into detail on what sort of usage you'll be averaging), Pine's own Redwood plan (http://pinecellular.com/plans.asp) (it and Hackberry are the only two good deals) with three-four lines is approaching sane pricing for an "unlimited" talk and text plan with 2GB of data (and actually cheaper than the equivalent on most AT&T MVNOs without roaming)... which means pooling resources with family would help everyone (provided you yourself live within Pine's native network). It's probably overkill for most people (yourselves included), but $33.33-31.25 per line with data access in your region due to spotty coverage for what you'd be paying for isn't terrible. Of course, you'd get nearly the same coverage (excuse data) with Consumer Cellular at possibly cheaper per line, but you will lose mobile data access while roaming on Pine's network if that matters. The best part is? It would still be a bit cheaper than an AT&T, Verizon or USCC contract with a similar plan allotment, no potential contracts or additional handset costs, and you should be able to bring most any carrier unlocked GSM phone you want... which are cheap and plentiful depending on what you're after.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: kandilynn on August 18, 2016, 05:14:06 PM
Thank you. The first two you mentioned, Selectel and Ting, don't work in the three places that I want to make sure I have phone service. (Broken Bow, OK, Franklin, MO, and Bismarck, MO) My husband actually has the $40 Pine plan now, but since we moved to Missouri, his bill has been over $80/month. We talk and text a lot, but we use less than 1GB of data. In looking around, I found out that Google fi is partnered with US Cellular. Is there any reason not to go with google fi? I think that our consumer cellular bill would be about the same ($30 for talk, $20 for text and data, $10 for us to both have a line.) , but we would get money back for the data we don't use with google fi.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on August 19, 2016, 09:17:16 AM
Thank you. The first two you mentioned, Selectel and Ting, don't work in the three places that I want to make sure I have phone service. (Broken Bow, OK, Franklin, MO, and Bismarck, MO) My husband actually has the $40 Pine plan now, but since we moved to Missouri, his bill has been over $80/month. We talk and text a lot, but we use less than 1GB of data. In looking around, I found out that Google fi is partnered with US Cellular. Is there any reason not to go with google fi? I think that our consumer cellular bill would be about the same ($30 for talk, $20 for text and data, $10 for us to both have a line.) , but we would get money back for the data we don't use with google fi.

I'd go Consumer Cellular, then, as it looks like the best option. Just be sure they send you an AT&T SIM card, and not a T-Mobile one.

As for Google Fi, the handsets are expensive and you can't just use any phone, which means you'll be generating more electronic waste. It's also... a bit schitzophrenic (constantly trying to switch networks which causes service interruptions) and the voice quality isn't that reliable. The thing to remember with Google Fi is that its primary network is T-Mobile, and it's using UMA for voice calling. Once you leave T-Mobile coverage, all calls are routed over LTE using a form of VoIP (including USCC), and that VoIP service can be uneven and painfully unreliable - especially since it's constantly trying to find the fastest connection, not the most solid, and it doesn't try to stay on the same network an existing call is running on. All these additional domestic roaming partners Google has added to their service is technically LTE service only, which is considerably smaller than the carrier network's full coverage map. It basically works better in some locations than others. It's a clever idea, but it's not robust enough to be reliable, especially not out where you're going to be. Broken Bow barely has 2G coverage with Fi, and both Franklin and Bismarck has absolutely no coverage at all. If reliability matters, go with Consumer Cellular.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Travis on August 20, 2016, 05:12:34 PM
I'm concerned that I've reached some kind of cut-off with my OS that apps will start dropping off.  If that's the case and I need to look at another phone, how "new" should I go?

Sounds like you're in a good place with nothing to lose here. As much as there might be hardware issues, it might just be software issues with the phone needing a little love and a bit of an OS refresh.

If you're even remotely technically inclined (or know someone who is), it might be worth looking into CyanogenMod (https://wiki.cyanogenmod.org/). Depending on your specific model of S3 (https://wiki.cyanogenmod.org/w/Devices#vendor="Samsung";searchable="s iii";), there are several pre-built versions of CM12 and 13 available (equivalent to Android 5.x Lollipop and 6.x Marshmallow) that'll help fight off the planned obsolescence issue a bit longer, especially if it fixes your WiFi issue at the same time. The price is right (free), and it might help squeeze a bit more life out of that phone yet... heck, it might even run better than you're used to.

How new should I go and be secure in that my phone will stay supported for a few years?

The problem is as you're discovering is forced planned obsolescence from the manufacturers. The best way around this if you want to continue to sup from Google is to buy/use mainstream Android handsets that're supported by CyanogenMod and take the effort to do the firmware swap or spend the premium on a Nexus device and still have the forced obsolescence happen not quite as quickly and still be left resorting to CyanogenMod to squeak out a bit more time. This isn't to say that there aren't quite a number of great independently spun firmware replacements floating around places like XDA (http://forum.xda-developers.com/) for various model Android handsets both mainstream and offbeat, but for every good one out there, there's some serious crap and compromised options as well. It's just easier and you're guaranteed a cleaner, safer and better timely update supported Android build going mainstream CM. It's kinda hard to escape, and Apple is just as bad about it.

That said? If the banking apps you're after are available on Windows Phone (https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/search/apps?q=banking) (and honestly they're usually just an HTML5 webpage/app wrapper for the most part), and you really want to do all your banking from an insecure wireless device like a smartphone (I refuse to trade security for convenience, myself, YMMV), consider a used unlocked Lumia like the 640 (running between $50-70)... Microsoft is actively continuing to update the platform and develop WP10 despite the ballyhooed cries from the tech media about Windows Phone being dead, they're dirt cheap (partly because they sold for cheap and everyone thinks the platform is dead now), they're pretty robust, the OS is light and responsive, the UI is consistent and very usable, it's simple to migrate your user data from other phones to the thing, the "app gap" is nearly non-existent at this point, battery life is good, batteries are end-user replaceable, mobile data usage is low, and it's easy to purge the carrier bloatware from 'em.

I've been very slow and curmudgeonly about abandoning my older QWERTY handsets and less "advanced" phones like the Nokia C3 and the Blackberry 9900... I've been very vocal about my dislike of both iOS and Android, and I even mourned the Nokia buyout and death of Symbian OS at the hands of Microsoft. Now, I'm not saying Windows Phone is perfect (hardly), but from my broad experiences it delivers on what Nadella has been promising, which is a platform that stands out from the competition in a good way. It's the least terrible smartphone platform out there, IMHO, and I now carry a Lumia 435. I spent $20 on the thing, and outside of build quality (the plastic case and camera photo quality give away the fact that it's an entry level phone - but it still feels pretty solid and well built), it's literally been the nicest, fastest, and easiest smartphone I've had the misfortune of using or owning. Everything just works....

...and this endorsement comes from someone who has had a standing and public 15 year grudge against Microsoft as a *nix admin. I still won't run Windows 10 on my desktop, but I will use their phones. They're no nonsense, they play nice with everyone else's cloud services, I don't have to store my contacts on Microsoft's servers, and I can even sync my Lumia with Evolution on my Ubuntu desktop. It's a bit surreal both experiencing and sharing this, but it's true. Take that however you will.

It's hard to dodge the whole planned obsolescence, you are the product due to privacy concerns and big data, and pending SaaS financial milking that everyone is driving towards with these devices... but for the time, you could do much worse for a $50 smartphone.

I wiped my phone and installed CM; however, I'm having trouble reinstalling my old apps. I can log in to my Google Play account, but it says my apps are still installed on my device and doesn't give me the option to reinstall.  I'd be willing to forgo using my Google account to manage my apps, but I'm not familiar with any alternatives.

Edit: It turns out you need to download the ROM for Google Play and flash it at the same time you do the OS.  Cyanogen seems to be working out okay so far. It's quite different from the factory OS so it'll take some getting used to.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on August 21, 2016, 08:07:19 AM
I wiped my phone and installed CM; however, I'm having trouble reinstalling my old apps. I can log in to my Google Play account, but it says my apps are still installed on my device and doesn't give me the option to reinstall.  I'd be willing to forgo using my Google account to manage my apps, but I'm not familiar with any alternatives.

Edit: It turns out you need to download the ROM for Google Play and flash it at the same time you do the OS.  Cyanogen seems to be working out okay so far. It's quite different from the factory OS so it'll take some getting used to.

Yeah, that part you edited in on how you fixed the store issue is kind of an important step during the upgrade process. Glad to see you got it working and that the upgrade seems to have cured all the previous woes thus far. As for the "quite different", there's two things going on: 1) it shows exactly how much Samsung messes with stock Android on their phones, and 2) it shows just how much Google messes with their own UI from version to version in stock Android.

Pfft! Consistency... who needs consistency?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: dpfromva on August 31, 2016, 02:41:31 PM
OK, confession, my eyes and brain totally glazed over reading the guide, but it did inspire me to call Verizon (after hacking my way through the voicemail and "all our customer service representatives are busy" jungle), say "My kids keep telling me to get Roku or Firestick. I'm not sure how they work, but it looks like I could really reduce my costs. Gosh, should I just close my Verizon bundle account? What do you advise?" I had to get a new land line phone number (Yes I are a dinosaur), and I got rid of some features I didn't need anyway, but I was able to score some additional discounts on a new 2 year contract. Tip: Select "sales" when they give you a menu choice. I also kept up a steady stream of telling my sales rep how awesome and wonderful she was to help me out, and she in turn kept "finding" new free channel offers and fee waivers. Could I have done better with other providers? Of course. But will I have more money to throw in my stache every month from one rather lengthy phone call? Yes indeed.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Travis on September 01, 2016, 04:37:00 PM
I.P., do you have any recommendations on VoIP apps?  Half the time I use Hangouts, the sound cuts out on both ends throughout the call.  Most of my calls I'm standing within spitting distance of my router so it's not a signal strength issue.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on September 01, 2016, 06:01:49 PM
I.P., do you have any recommendations on VoIP apps?

For Android? Csipsimple, but you'll need a VoIP provider that offers a phone number (DID) to receive calls to your Google Voice number.

You might need to check quality of service settings on your router, though.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: dilinger on September 07, 2016, 07:19:30 PM
Hi Daley,

I've been using Ting for about a year now.  It made more sense when my wife and I shared a plan, but now it's just me and I'm paying around $17 ($21 after taxes) for a very basic 100 mins/1000 SMS/100 MB.  That's the tier I'm in; the actual usage is much lower, thanks to your recommendation of voip.ms (actual usage last month was 23 minutes/400 SMS, and I'm trying to transition to even lighter SMS*).  Point is - Ting ends up being way overpriced for my current usage.

I was looking at pay-as-you-go plans and discovered Tello.  It's a Sprint MNVO with similar tiers as well as prepaid stuff.  I realized with my current usage that I would be paying $7-$8/mo with their prepaid stuff, or $9-$10 for their tiered plans.  Plus the voip.ms fees, which were a whole $0.74 for 74 minutes last month.

Have you (or anyone else) tried them?  Any horror stories that I should be aware of?   Any other concerns?

 * Except everything SMS/IM sucks.  I don't want to install gapps on my phone or use non-free software, so Kik/Whatsapp/etc are out.  Signal looks great but requires Google Play.  Telegram is the most promising option (there's an IOS app so my wife can use it), but it's weird that it's non-encrypted by default..

I.P., do you have any recommendations on VoIP apps?

For Android? Csipsimple, but you'll need a VoIP provider that offers a phone number (DID) to receive calls to your Google Voice number.

You might need to check quality of service settings on your router, though.

I'll second that.  I was using Android's stock dialer for SIP, but it had no distinction between wifi and data, so it would be registered and accepting calls over  3g data when I didn't want it to be.  CSipSimple knows the difference and only does SIP when I'm wifi.  It also supports SMS (over SIMPLE), although voip.ms doesn't support that protocol so I have no idea how well it actually works.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on September 07, 2016, 08:32:03 PM
Point is - Ting ends up being way overpriced for my current usage.

I was looking at pay-as-you-go plans and discovered Tello.  It's a Sprint MNVO with similar tiers as well as prepaid stuff.  I realized with my current usage that I would be paying $7-$8/mo with their prepaid stuff, or $9-$10 for their tiered plans.  Plus the voip.ms fees, which were a whole $0.74 for 74 minutes last month.

Have you (or anyone else) tried them?  Any horror stories that I should be aware of?   Any other concerns?

Yup, Ting can be quite the racket if you're only running a single line. It's why I only recommend them and Consumer Cellular for multi-line billing situations, and honestly Consumer Cellular's starting to become a bit of a better deal due to their pricing structure... especially for data and texting.

Anyway... Tello. I'm guessing you're considering Tello due to currently being a Ting CDMA customer, and not a Ting GSM customer? If you're on Ting GSM or your CDMA/LTE phone has sufficient T-Mobile GSM band support and is carrier unlocked, it might be worth mentioning US Mobile (https://www.usmobile.com/). If we're firmly still in the Sprint CDMA only camp, I'd be more inclined to mention/reiterate Eco Mobile (https://www.ecomobile.com/). Their PAYGO prices aren't as cheap as Tello, but there's a reason for that.

A few points to be aware of regarding Tello:

They've been around for a bit over in the UK, but their US service has only been running since the tail end of last year and they won't hit the one year mark until mid-December.

Their terms of service and privacy policy also outline advertising and datamining of their customer base. This has become a real problem with a lot of newer Sprint MVNOs, unfortunately. I should also mention that without steady datamining and advertising revenue, their pricing structure isn't wholly sustainable on the cheaper end... which Lycamobile customers can attest to after the major price hikes a while back.

Lastly, their data billing policy is a bit... loaded in favor of the house. Minimum data usage billed per session is 100KB, which means just checking your email ten times over mobile data can potentially be billed as a full 1MB of data use. Most other MVNOs bill per actual KB used no matter the session length, and I frankly haven't seen such blatantly grabby data billing practices as theirs outside of AT&T's GoPhone.

As for horror stories or knowing anyone who's tried them, they've not made a huge splash so I can't talk much, and the very small handful of users who do use them over at HoFo report customer service is decent. They mostly seem to be getting traction as a "cheap" bailout point for people sick of FreedomPop and RingPlus' quality and support issues.

That work?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: dilinger on September 08, 2016, 12:30:30 AM

Anyway... Tello. I'm guessing you're considering Tello due to currently being a Ting CDMA customer, and not a Ting GSM customer? If you're on Ting GSM or your CDMA/LTE phone has sufficient T-Mobile GSM band support and is carrier unlocked, it might be worth mentioning US Mobile (https://www.usmobile.com/). If we're firmly still in the Sprint CDMA only camp, I'd be more inclined to mention/reiterate Eco Mobile (https://www.ecomobile.com/). Their PAYGO prices aren't as cheap as Tello, but there's a reason for that.

Yes, currently a Ting CDMA customer.  Switching to GSM means either downgrading to an older phone or getting a new phone.  My current phone (s4) still works fine and has pretty good AOSP support.

At my current usage rate (~100 MB and ~400 SMS), EcoMobile ends up being more expensive than Ting.  As I said I'm working on lowering my SMS usage, but I'm not there yet.

Lastly, their data billing policy is a bit... loaded in favor of the house. Minimum data usage billed per session is 100KB, which means just checking your email ten times over mobile data can potentially be billed as a full 1MB of data use. Most other MVNOs bill per actual KB used no matter the session length, and I frankly haven't seen such blatantly grabby data billing practices as theirs outside of AT&T's GoPhone.

Yikes, I wasn't aware of that.  That seems.. really bad.

EDIT: actually, at least for my usage the difference is about 1 MB per month for the past few months.  Most of my connection seem to be in the 150KB - 300KB range anyways, so this doesn't affect me like I thought it would.

That work?

Yes, thanks very much, very helpful!  I'll give it some more thought..
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on September 08, 2016, 09:03:49 AM
At my current usage rate (~100 MB and ~400 SMS), EcoMobile ends up being more expensive than Ting.  As I said I'm working on lowering my SMS usage, but I'm not there yet.

I know, but there's really no reasonably priced Sprint MVNOs anymore that don't datamine. Yet another reason I really don't recommend sticking or switching to Sprint MVNOs anymore.

Yes, currently a Ting CDMA customer.  Switching to GSM means either downgrading to an older phone or getting a new phone.  My current phone (s4) still works fine and has pretty good AOSP support.

Depending on how technical you're inclined to be (and I'm guessing you're reasonably so given the AOSP namecheck), even though Sprint can't/won't do DSU unlocking on the SPH-L720, it's not impossible to get domestic GSM/UMTS operational for AT&T/T-Mobile use on this handset given the thing has hardware support for GSM/UMTS 850/1900. Depending on the specific model of S4, I've even heard report of LTE 850/1900 band support. There's a few guides over at XDA (http://forum.xda-developers.com/galaxy-s4-sprint/general) worth rifling through, though I haven't tried any of them personally so I can't vouch for linked file integrity or guide accuracy with any of the myriad instructions.

The instructions look long and complicated, but there's actually only maybe 5-10 minutes worth of actual work once you understand most of these guys are posting guides down to every last button press instead of outlining what's actually being done in the three step process of reset, modem firmware flash, network settings (ish). Once unlocked, it should stick for any ROM you choose to run from that point outside of stock Sprint. If you want to revert to Sprint coverage with the phone, you just have to flash the stock ROM back and carry on from that point.

I only mention this to let you know you might have more options than you realize with your current handset. Do this at your own risk, of course, but I thought I'd share the knowledge and let you make the call. If T-Mo without roaming coverage works for you, that opens up US Mobile, which puts you at around $11/month without needing to work your usage lower. It also potentially opens up Puretalk USA's $10 Simple 300 plan for AT&T coverage depending on how much further down you can trim background data usage.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: dilinger on September 08, 2016, 10:54:31 AM
Depending on how technical you're inclined to be (and I'm guessing you're reasonably so given the AOSP namecheck), even though Sprint can't/won't do DSU unlocking on the SPH-L720, it's not impossible to get domestic GSM/UMTS operational for AT&T/T-Mobile use on this handset given the thing has hardware support for GSM/UMTS 850/1900. Depending on the specific model of S4, I've even heard report of LTE 850/1900 band support. There's a few guides over at XDA (http://forum.xda-developers.com/galaxy-s4-sprint/general) worth rifling through, though I haven't tried any of them personally so I can't vouch for linked file integrity or guide accuracy with any of the myriad instructions.

Oh nice, I had no idea!  It looks like it's just a simple (hidden) menu option, too.  This seems like a great way to go, and I can time it for a nougat upgrade so going back to the stock rom won't be a big deal.  Thanks again!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on September 08, 2016, 11:50:32 AM
Thanks again!

No problem, glad to help.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: alsoknownasDean on September 10, 2016, 08:11:19 PM
I'm currently spending $29.90 (for 28 days) on my mobile (3GB quota), and $59.95 a month for my ADSL (250GB quota).

There are mobile plans coming with more and more data, even from the majors (Optus currently has a $50 per month SIM-only plan with 15GB data, and so does Vodafone).

I'm thinking that it's almost worth cancelling my ADSL, bumping up my mobile plan and tethering for my Internet. On a typical month I only use about 30-40GB, and I could cut that a bit.

Has anyone else done this? :)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on September 11, 2016, 04:12:32 AM
I'm currently spending $29.90 (for 28 days) on my mobile (3GB quota), and $59.95 a month for my ADSL (250GB quota).

There are mobile plans coming with more and more data, even from the majors (Optus currently has a $50 per month SIM-only plan with 15GB data, and so does Vodafone).

I'm thinking that it's almost worth cancelling my ADSL, bumping up my mobile plan and tethering for my Internet. On a typical month I only use about 30-40GB, and I could cut that a bit.

Has anyone else done this? :)
I know a guy who does that. His connectivity is horrendous, but YMMV. Try tethering for a day or two before cancelling your ADSL.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: gimp on September 11, 2016, 04:38:20 PM
Update after almost a year -

T-Mobile family plan with a bunch of friends. 10 gigs data each (double checked this), $32-33 each per month. For some reason they decided to upgrade us to unlimited data for the next year and a half. 10 gigs per person is already effectively unlimited data... but no complaints, in any case. (Yes, "unlimited" is never truly unlimited. They state that they may throttle after 26 gigs.)

Anyways, no complaints. Good speeds. Occasional spotty service, but on the other hand, shockingly decent service out in the deep boonies.

My previous concerns about needing two separate lines (GSM and CDMA) for emergencies during my travels proved completely unfounded.

The iphone 6s+ is still no different than when it was brand new, except for a few software updates. The screen protector has a small chip, so I may replace that eventually - my friends tell me that a screen protector every year or so seems to be normal.

Can't believe I'm paying just a few bucks more for effectively unlimited LTE on a real phone as I was paying for 3G on that shitty old android phone courtesy of republic wireless. In retrospect, it was not the best deal ever. IP, you especially might find me saying this rather cathartic.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on September 11, 2016, 09:52:29 PM
Can't believe I'm paying just a few bucks more for effectively unlimited LTE on a real phone as I was paying for 3G on that shitty old android phone courtesy of republic wireless. In retrospect, it was not the best deal ever. IP, you especially might find me saying this rather cathartic.

Glad to hear, Gimp... but more than anything? I'm just glad that you found something that actually works for you reliably, at a fair price, with reasonable terms of service.

Happy trails to you with it, good sir.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: gimp on September 12, 2016, 03:13:07 PM
Thanks, man. Really.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: ZiziPB on September 18, 2016, 07:39:00 PM
Hello, just a quick update after a few months with Ting - one word: happy!  The switch over from Verizon happened seamlessly.  New service is good and the price is right.

New dilemma: what to do about my phone as Apple decided to stop supporting the 4s.  Do I need to upgrade or can I just ignore the lack of support and keep on using the phone?  If upgrade, do I get a 6s or an older model? Would like stay in the iPhone family since it makes communicating with my daughter who is abroad much easier.  Any suggestions?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on September 20, 2016, 09:20:19 AM
New dilemma: what to do about my phone as Apple decided to stop supporting the 4s.  Do I need to upgrade or can I just ignore the lack of support and keep on using the phone?  If upgrade, do I get a 6s or an older model? Would like stay in the iPhone family since it makes communicating with my daughter who is abroad much easier.  Any suggestions?

If you're leaving it offline most of the time and you're not using it for anything sensitive or encrypted (such as banking), and web surfing is at a minimum, you're probably fine staying put. As for staying with Apple long term, it's a walled garden, and the garden is designed to bleed as much money from you as possible. Consider switching platforms to something like Windows Phone, which has support for syncing with iCloud, among other things, and isn't a money pit from either the data dependence end or handset cost end. Windows 10 Mobile is a serious workhorse utility device platform and a solid tool.

As for exiting the ecosystem and family communication concerns, there's plenty of cross-platform messengers. You don't have to use iMessage and FaceTime to talk with your daughter.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: ZiziPB on September 20, 2016, 09:39:19 AM
Thanks much IP Daley for the practical advice. I do use my phone to do some basic banking so I think I should probably upgrade. 

Is there any specific Windows phone that you would recommend?  If I go with an iPhone, I am looking at 6s which currently runs $550.  Ideally I would like to spend much less than this and still get the functionality I am used to.  Thank you.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on September 20, 2016, 10:11:27 AM
Is there any specific Windows phone that you would recommend?  If I go with an iPhone, I am looking at 6s which currently runs $550.  Ideally I would like to spend much less than this and still get the functionality I am used to.

If you're doing banking (honestly, there's not enough money in the world to get me to put sensitive banking information on a smartphone), it might be best to check to ensure your bank has an app, first. (Check for all apps you use, and for the record, Snapchat isn't supported.) As for model? The Lumia 640 LTE is an amazing handset for the money (used, carrier unlocked for under $75), but if you're wanting something more fancypants that does touch payments and the like, the Lumia 950 is a solid choice at under $300 refurbished/used.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: ZiziPB on September 20, 2016, 10:21:11 AM
Is there any specific Windows phone that you would recommend?  If I go with an iPhone, I am looking at 6s which currently runs $550.  Ideally I would like to spend much less than this and still get the functionality I am used to.

If you're doing banking (honestly, there's not enough money in the world to get me to put sensitive banking information on a smartphone), it might be best to check to ensure your bank has an app, first. (Check for all apps you use, and for the record, Snapchat isn't supported.) As for model? The Lumia 640 LTE is an amazing handset for the money (used, carrier unlocked for under $75), but if you're wanting something more fancypants that does touch payments and the like, the Lumia 950 is a solid choice at under $300 refurbished/used.

The banking I do on the phone is limited to my checking account that doesn't have that much in it at any given point in time - I'm willing to live with the risk.  But it looks like my current bank only has an Apple and Android app and same goes for Schwab where I have another account that I access from time to time :-(
So it seems that the main problem with a Windows phone is lack of apps...
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on September 20, 2016, 02:08:43 PM
The banking I do on the phone is limited to my checking account that doesn't have that much in it at any given point in time - I'm willing to live with the risk.  But it looks like my current bank only has an Apple and Android app and same goes for Schwab where I have another account that I access from time to time :-(
So it seems that the main problem with a Windows phone is lack of apps...

So long as you're not doing anything like check deposits by phone, most all the features you need for management is probably just as doable anymore from a web browser as it is a dedicated app.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: ZiziPB on September 20, 2016, 04:50:32 PM
The banking I do on the phone is limited to my checking account that doesn't have that much in it at any given point in time - I'm willing to live with the risk.  But it looks like my current bank only has an Apple and Android app and same goes for Schwab where I have another account that I access from time to time :-(
So it seems that the main problem with a Windows phone is lack of apps...

So long as you're not doing anything like check deposits by phone, most all the features you need for management is probably just as doable anymore from a web browser as it is a dedicated app.
Haha, check deposits are mostly what I do through the phone app... Saves me a trip to the bank.  I'll have a look ar the windows phone over the weekend. Microsoft has a store at our local mall.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Joel on September 28, 2016, 04:49:08 PM
Is there a reason Cricket is not discussed as an alternative cell phone service provider?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on September 28, 2016, 04:59:08 PM
Is there a reason Cricket is not discussed as an alternative cell phone service provider?

Here's a good synopsys and subsequent discussion (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/cricket-wireless-users-worth-the-savings/msg538461/#msg538461).

Long short, though, terms of service and support quality matters. Cricket fails both by the measure of standards I utilize with unreasonable terms of services, poor taxes no actual MVNOs charge, and shoddy customer support. Additionally, AT&T is playing dirty pool with their brand and their wholesale customers and data pricing. I don't like to reward bad behavior. As such, I don't feel comfortable recommending them not only for the sake of the people I help, but for the sake of the future health and market diversity of the MVNO industry.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Joel on September 28, 2016, 05:29:50 PM
Is there a reason Cricket is not discussed as an alternative cell phone service provider?

Here's a good synopsys and subsequent discussion (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/cricket-wireless-users-worth-the-savings/msg538461/#msg538461).

Long short, though, terms of service and support quality matters. Cricket fails both by the measure of standards I utilize with unreasonable terms of services, poor taxes no actual MVNOs charge, and shoddy customer support. Additionally, AT&T is playing dirty pool with their brand and their wholesale customers and data pricing. I don't like to reward bad behavior. As such, I don't feel comfortable recommending them not only for the sake of the people I help, but for the sake of the future health and market diversity of the MVNO industry.

Good thought.

For someone who wants 2 iPhones and combined uses about 3gb of data, < 1,000 text messages, and < 500 minutes... I'm thinking Ting may be the best option for us at this time. And it appears they have your blessing. Any specific concerns about Ting without having to read the whole thread?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on September 28, 2016, 05:57:21 PM
For someone who wants 2 iPhones and combined uses about 3gb of data, < 1,000 text messages, and < 500 minutes... I'm thinking Ting may be the best option for us at this time. And it appears they have your blessing. Any specific concerns about Ting without having to read the whole thread?

No real concerns with Ting as a provider, and the wife and I are actually with them currently after P'tel went under (one of the casualties of the wholesale market undercutting practices that brands like Cricket have caused).

However, at the usage levels you speak of, Consumer Cellular would be the better choice between the two for the money. Your usage level pegs at $56+tax with Ting to provide the service tiers necessary to cover your needs, but for $60+tax with Consumer Cellular, your tier usage thresholds will be 1000 minutes, unlimited texts, and 3GB of data, and you have the option of AT&T with roaming coverage instead of just T-Mobile with roaming coverage.

That said? You could probably easily gut a lot of that data dependence resulting in considerably more savings with either provider, because 3GB even between two phones is a LOT of data. Try going on a data diet (http://www.techmeshugana.com/2013/12/what-is-mobile-media-costing-you/) and restrict your background data services and restrict a lot of background data usage (such as application and security updates) to WiFi only.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Joel on September 28, 2016, 06:00:51 PM
For someone who wants 2 iPhones and combined uses about 3gb of data, < 1,000 text messages, and < 500 minutes... I'm thinking Ting may be the best option for us at this time. And it appears they have your blessing. Any specific concerns about Ting without having to read the whole thread?

No real concerns with Ting as a provider, and the wife and I are actually with them currently after P'tel went under (one of the casualties of the wholesale market undercutting practices that brands like Cricket have caused).

However, at the usage levels you speak of, Consumer Cellular would be the better choice between the two for the money. Your usage level pegs at $56+tax with Ting to provide the service tiers necessary to cover your needs, but for $60+tax with Consumer Cellular, your tier usage thresholds will be 1000 minutes, unlimited texts, and 3GB of data, and you have the option of AT&T with roaming coverage instead of just T-Mobile with roaming coverage.

That said? You could probably easily gut a lot of that data dependence resulting in considerably more savings with either provider, because 3GB even between two phones is a LOT of data. Try going on a data diet (http://www.techmeshugana.com/2013/12/what-is-mobile-media-costing-you/) and restrict your background data services and restrict a lot of background data usage (such as application and security updates) to WiFi only.

Exactly. those are the absolute maximums we hit over the last 2 years for usage. Our normal use was much lower, and I think using Ting in the pay-as-you-go model will actually be a good way to cut down on usage! Thanks for your help
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Paul der Krake on September 29, 2016, 02:49:10 PM
I will soon be receiving an employer phone subsidy, to the tune of $50/month. My current smartphone is now 3 years old and has a couple of issues, so I am looking to take advantage of the whole $50 to not only purchase service but also finance (!!!) a new device.

My research so far has shown that no MVNOs worth being a customer of let you purchase phones from them. I have identified two options.

- Google's project FI. Their terms of use look fine to me, and I could get a 5X or even a 6P and $30 worth of service. Their phones come unlocked, and I can take it abroad and have service.
- Consumer Cellular. The only phone worth getting is the iPhone SE, and after taxes and fees it would come to about $49. Bonus: the phone payoff is only 16 months instead of 24 for Google. I cannot figure out whether their phones come unlocked, or with a Consumer Cellular logo on the back, branded like cattle.

Are there other options that I should consider?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: dilinger on September 30, 2016, 01:41:21 PM
Is there a reason Cricket is not discussed as an alternative cell phone service provider?

Here's a good synopsys and subsequent discussion (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/cricket-wireless-users-worth-the-savings/msg538461/#msg538461).

Long short, though, terms of service and support quality matters. Cricket fails both by the measure of standards I utilize with unreasonable terms of services, poor taxes no actual MVNOs charge, and shoddy customer support. Additionally, AT&T is playing dirty pool with their brand and their wholesale customers and data pricing. I don't like to reward bad behavior. As such, I don't feel comfortable recommending them not only for the sake of the people I help, but for the sake of the future health and market diversity of the MVNO industry.

The upsides to Cricket's horrible customer support:  Back when they switched networks (screwing a lot of their customers), I was able to pick up a Cricket Galaxy S4 in great shape for super cheap off of ebay.  I combined it with a broken Sprint S4 (cracked screen) to make a franken-S4 for less than $100, back when S4s cost around $300.  It looks a little weird (the back cover says Cricket, and it's 2 different colors), but with a phone case you don't even see any of that.

After reading about what they did, I'd never use Cricket.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Joel on October 12, 2016, 10:57:03 AM
For someone who wants 2 iPhones and combined uses about 3gb of data, < 1,000 text messages, and < 500 minutes... I'm thinking Ting may be the best option for us at this time. And it appears they have your blessing. Any specific concerns about Ting without having to read the whole thread?

No real concerns with Ting as a provider, and the wife and I are actually with them currently after P'tel went under (one of the casualties of the wholesale market undercutting practices that brands like Cricket have caused).

However, at the usage levels you speak of, Consumer Cellular would be the better choice between the two for the money. Your usage level pegs at $56+tax with Ting to provide the service tiers necessary to cover your needs, but for $60+tax with Consumer Cellular, your tier usage thresholds will be 1000 minutes, unlimited texts, and 3GB of data, and you have the option of AT&T with roaming coverage instead of just T-Mobile with roaming coverage.

That said? You could probably easily gut a lot of that data dependence resulting in considerably more savings with either provider, because 3GB even between two phones is a LOT of data. Try going on a data diet (http://www.techmeshugana.com/2013/12/what-is-mobile-media-costing-you/) and restrict your background data services and restrict a lot of background data usage (such as application and security updates) to WiFi only.

Hey I.P. Daley - Are you aware of any iOS apps that can be used to track the source of data usage? We've noticed my wife's phone battery and data usage spiking a lot lately, and while I've tried to turn off as many unused apps as possible, it would be great to identify which specific apps are using the majority of her data (and battery).
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: geekette on October 12, 2016, 01:13:25 PM
It's probably Pokémon Go ;-).

No need for an app, just go to Settings -> Cellular. Scroll down and you can toggle cellular data for apps. All the way at the bottom you can reset to zero.   Then check over the next week or so to see what the data hog is.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Joel on October 12, 2016, 02:27:15 PM
It's probably Pokémon Go ;-).

No need for an app, just go to Settings -> Cellular. Scroll down and you can toggle cellular data for apps. All the way at the bottom you can reset to zero.   Then check over the next week or so to see what the data hog is.

Good call. I didn't realize that you could do that.

I found an app called Onavo Extend that seems to track usage by app, in addition to some form of data usage reduction process. Has anyone investigated this app and have any thoughts?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on October 13, 2016, 08:05:25 AM
Onavo Extend

I've suggested Onavo's apps in passing in the past before Google and Apple pulled their collective heads out of their exit holes and built in better data usage tracking and control apps into the core OSes themselves, but now that the OS can do pretty much everything Onavo's apps can do, it's not worth the additional thumb in the datamining pie just to get redundant features from a third party.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: With This Herring on October 19, 2016, 11:48:39 AM
Yahoo: T-Mobile fined $48M over slowing 'unlimited' data plans (http://finance.yahoo.com/news/t-mobile-fined-48m-over-150416275.html)

I.P. is proven right once more.  Unlimited plans are not the deal one would think they are.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on October 19, 2016, 11:55:10 AM
Oh boy! I'm proven right again on how terrible the mobile industry actually is.

*sigh* Why can't I ever be proven right about a positive? :/
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Joel on October 20, 2016, 10:35:53 AM
Is there a reason Cricket is not discussed as an alternative cell phone service provider?

Here's a good synopsys and subsequent discussion (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/cricket-wireless-users-worth-the-savings/msg538461/#msg538461).

Long short, though, terms of service and support quality matters. Cricket fails both by the measure of standards I utilize with unreasonable terms of services, poor taxes no actual MVNOs charge, and shoddy customer support. Additionally, AT&T is playing dirty pool with their brand and their wholesale customers and data pricing. I don't like to reward bad behavior. As such, I don't feel comfortable recommending them not only for the sake of the people I help, but for the sake of the future health and market diversity of the MVNO industry.

Should you list Cricket as a brand to ignore then?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on October 20, 2016, 11:37:28 AM
Should you list Cricket as a brand to ignore then?

I probably should at this point. Too bad I can no longer edit locked threads on the forum here without bugging Rebs, Swick or Toque, even if I locked it to begin with.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: alsoknownasDean on October 21, 2016, 03:49:00 AM
Maybe there needs to be a 'Wikistashia' or something like that :)

But yeah I'm surprised that T-Mobile were allowed to advertise a plan as unlimited when it's shaped after a certain amount of usage.

I'll need to eventually organise to get my mum a new phone, her Nexus S isn't cutting it anymore (especially when it was originally partitioned so that 1GB was for apps and the remainder of the internal storage was partitioned as an SD card, hence, apps no longer update due to lack of space). I guess I'll have to work out whether to get her a $100 Huawei/ZTE/Alcatel or something like a Samsung S5 on a low-end plan.

The $100 prepaid units look surprisingly good nowadays. A bit short on RAM (mostly 1GB) but otherwise OK. I think once my current LG is in need of replacement, I'll just buy a cheaper phone next. I don't need a $1000 flagship, really.

I spilt coffee on my old (late 2008 model) MacBook Pro's keyboard two months ago, I originally was going to buy a new machine, but I've got another top case (thanks eBay) sitting on top of my fridge. I'll put it in once my exams are finished next week. I also need to fix the screen on it.

I guess it's a bit more badass spending $50 on a new top case than spending hundreds on another laptop (or over $1000 in the case of another Mac).
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: alsoknownasDean on October 28, 2016, 05:13:41 AM
I think once my current LG is in need of replacement, I'll just buy a cheaper phone next. I don't need a $1000 flagship, really.

Just my luck, said LG phone died a couple of days ago. Since I had it repaired at a shopping mall phone repair booth earlier this year to replace a screen, I'm not confident that it'll be covered under warranty.

The phone no longer boots nor charges.

I guess I'm going to be looking for another phone sooner rather than later. Sigh. I only sold my old iPhone a month or so ago too.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: geekette on November 06, 2016, 06:50:41 PM
Jumping to the top of my angst queue...  AT&T is shutting down their 2G network at the end of the year, and my 81 year old mother has (barely) used her basic LG CE110 for years on Airvoice.

I see a lot of these ZTE Z222 (http://www.ebay.com/itm/New-ZTE-Z222-Unlocked-AT-T-GoPhone-3G-GSM-Bluetooth-with-Camera-Flip-Phone-/182345203442) phones on eBay.  Or the LG B470 (http://www.ebay.com/itm/AT-T-GoPhone-LG-B470-Prepaid-Cell-Phone-Black/201675177146) also looks similar. 

Other options? 
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: fiveoh on November 17, 2016, 07:14:41 AM
Has anyone tried Mintsim?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on November 17, 2016, 09:08:47 AM
Has anyone tried Mintsim?

Mint SIM is a sub-brand of Ultra Mobile. This means T-Mobile native network, no roaming. Been a while since I've read their TOS, but as with every provider, you should do that yourself before plopping down money. As for Ultra as a carrier specifically, I'd been hesitant to put them on the official list in the past, partly due to age and marginally due to terms of service. The terms have backed off a bit on the troubling language, IIRC, and they've now been in place for a few years... so when P'tel folded earlier this year and they offered deals for escapees, I didn't balk. They're now the only T-Mobile provider currently offering the plans they are at the prices they are, the other had been P'tel.

I used to make a big deal about business longevity in my recommendations as it demonstrated a solid business model in a cutthroat industry with thin margins and no (IMHO, necessary) government regulation to protect and preserve the wholesale wireless telecom market. Then the carriers started exploiting that lack of regulation when the wholesale MVNOs eroded away their high priced cash cow user base, and now over the past year and change, we've seen a lot of shift, consolidation, shutdowns and buyouts in the industry because of it. P'tel, one of the oldest MVNOs in the nation had to close its doors. Walmart even got out of the game. WALMART. They literally sold off their Family Mobile customers to Carlos Slim/America Movil/Tracfone Wireless this last summer. Even America Movil, the 800lb gorilla of the industry owned and run by a man who knows how to work a monopoly position, is starting to lose customers. Crap is definitely going down in the MVNO industry. The risks of using any MVNO has increased some, even the "blue chip" ones. The only "safe" long-term brands for the risk adverse are the ones owned by the actual carriers. Unfortunately, without regulation, what happens to those prices once they kill off all the competition?

I feel a bit quixotic these days. We're starting to lose the battle, but so long as we're willing to chose real competition over the carriers directly, these cheaper, alternative plans should persist in some form or fashion.

Which brings us back around to Mint SIM specifically. Their gimmick, their differentiation as a sub-brand from Ultra is their price structure. Pay for X months in advance, get a bulk rate discount on service with biggest savings for those who pay a year in advance.

Given what I've told you of the current state and health of the MVNO industry... does this sound like a safe bet for saving money?

My advice? Find a monthly plan that that gives you what you need at a price that saves you money, stick with it and fight the urge to perpetually chase after the cheapest deal available by jumping from provider to provider thus causing churn and volatility with the providers, and simply appreciate the savings you can get for as long as you can still get it.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: fiveoh on November 17, 2016, 09:24:47 AM
Has anyone tried Mintsim?

Mint SIM is a sub-brand of Ultra Mobile. This means T-Mobile native network, no roaming. Been a while since I've read their TOS, but as with every provider, you should do that yourself before plopping down money. As for Ultra as a carrier specifically, I'd been hesitant to put them on the official list in the past, partly due to age and marginally due to terms of service. The terms have backed off a bit on the troubling language, IIRC, and they've now been in place for a few years... so when P'tel folded earlier this year and they offered deals for escapees, I didn't balk. They're now the only T-Mobile provider currently offering the plans they are at the prices they are, the other had been P'tel.

I used to make a big deal about business longevity in my recommendations as it demonstrated a solid business model in a cutthroat industry with thin margins and no (IMHO, necessary) government regulation to protect and preserve the wholesale wireless telecom market. Then the carriers started exploiting that lack of regulation when the wholesale MVNOs eroded away their high priced cash cow user base, and now over the past year and change, we've seen a lot of shift, consolidation, shutdowns and buyouts in the industry because of it. P'tel, one of the oldest MVNOs in the nation had to close its doors. Walmart even got out of the game. WALMART. They literally sold off their Family Mobile customers to Carlos Slim/America Movil/Tracfone Wireless this last summer. Even America Movil, the 800lb gorilla of the industry owned and run by a man who knows how to work a monopoly position, is starting to lose customers. Crap is definitely going down in the MVNO industry. The risks of using any MVNO has increased some, even the "blue chip" ones. The only "safe" long-term brands for the risk adverse are the ones owned by the actual carriers. Unfortunately, without regulation, what happens to those prices once they kill off all the competition?

I feel a bit quixotic these days. We're starting to lose the battle, but so long as we're willing to chose real competition over the carriers directly, these cheaper, alternative plans should persist in some form or fashion.

Which brings us back around to Mint SIM specifically. Their gimmick, their differentiation as a sub-brand from Ultra is their price structure. Pay for X months in advance, get a bulk rate discount on service with biggest savings for those who pay a year in advance.

Given what I've told you of the current state and health of the MVNO industry... does this sound like a safe bet for saving money?

My advice? Find a monthly plan that that gives you what you need at a price that saves you money, stick with it and fight the urge to perpetually chase after the cheapest deal available by jumping from provider to provider thus causing churn and volatility with the providers, and simply appreciate the savings you can get for as long as you can still get it.

Good info and advice.  We've had my wife on Airvoice $10 a month plan and its been rock solid for over a year now.  She has been complaining lately about wanting more data and MintSim is having a sale on their 3 months plan for $35(11.67 a month).  It offers unlimited talk/txt and 2gb of 4g data.  I went ahead and ordered the SIM and am going to give it a try.  If it doesn't work out, we will probably go back to Airvoice and I'll tell her to suck it up.  :)   I was thinking of doing the year plan after the 3 months is up(16.58 a month) but in light of what you just told me, I'll have to reevaluate that. 

Oh, and THANKS!
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on November 17, 2016, 09:39:52 AM
Good info and advice.  We've had my wife on Airvoice $10 a month plan and its been rock solid for over a year now.  She has been complaining lately about wanting more data and MintSim is having a sale on their 3 months plan for $35(11.67 a month).  It offers unlimited talk/txt and 2gb of 4g data.  I went ahead and ordered the SIM and am going to give it a try.  If it doesn't work out, we will probably go back to Airvoice and I'll tell her to suck it up.  :)   I was thinking of doing the year plan after the 3 months is up(16.58 a month) but in light of what you just told me, I'll have to reevaluate that. 

Oh, and THANKS!

Given what you know, unless you already paid for the service time with Mint SIM, it might be better to just eat the cost of the SIM card. Otherwise, hedonic adaptation is going to set in and you'll find yourself wedded to "needing" a $35+/month plan with 2GB of data.

If you're going to cause churn and switch carriers, do so smartly, deliberately, with an eye on staying put. If T-Mobile service provides you solid coverage, and your wife wants a little extra data but the $10/month Airvoice plan has otherwise served her well, consider US Mobile (https://www.usmobile.com/) instead.

Like I said, churn is bad. Churn means financial instability for the MVNO. They need steady customers to survive. I want to encourage you to be one of those steady customers. If Airvoice doesn't fit you as well currently, make a switch that still gives the providers stability instead of jockeying too much. :)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: alsoknownasDean on November 18, 2016, 04:42:15 PM
The $100 prepaid units look surprisingly good nowadays. A bit short on RAM (mostly 1GB) but otherwise OK. I think once my current LG is in need of replacement, I'll just buy a cheaper phone next. I don't need a $1000 flagship, really.

I spilt coffee on my old (late 2008 model) MacBook Pro's keyboard two months ago, I originally was going to buy a new machine, but I've got another top case (thanks eBay) sitting on top of my fridge. I'll put it in once my exams are finished next week. I also need to fix the screen on it.

I guess it's a bit more badass spending $50 on a new top case than spending hundreds on another laptop (or over $1000 in the case of another Mac).

Said MacBook is all fixed (not perfectly but it works OK), hooray. Now, Apple have decided that it isn't going to get Sierra, so I'm stuck on El Capitan. All OK for the time being as Apple will probably continue to support it for a couple of years, although it's got me thinking about alternatives, even giving Linux a whirl.

I'm not a complete newbie to Linux (I used it as my only OS for a while a number of years back), but I've been long out of the loop. I wonder how well Mint or one of the Ubuntu versions works on old Macs? Even Debian, but I don't want to spend a lot of time stuffing around with configuring or maintaining the machine, I've been spoiled by the relative 'set and forget' of OSX. That and I'm open to using proprietary drivers/codecs/software.

I like the idea of the lightweight Chromebook style model, lots of Linux distros still seem to load up with software.

Oh, I picked up a $99 Huawei Y6 Elite from the supermarket the other week. I'm pretty impressed for the price. I had to change carriers as it's a locked prepaid handset, but I'll just use it for a while on Vodafone (they subsidized the handset, it's only fair) and then unlock it down the track (and go back to Amaysim or Optus probably).

I know people who spend more than $99 per month on their phone plans. :)
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: dlawson on November 22, 2016, 11:20:24 AM
So I just moved and am looking to set up an internet connection. From what I can tell, Charter Spectrum and Earthlink are the only options in my area.

The Spectrum website currently only advertises a single package for internet-only offerings: 60/5Mbps with unlimited data, no data caps, and a free modem at $39.99/mo for 12 months ($59.99 thereafter), plus a $35 installation fee. I called in a couple times and couldn't get any agent to admit to a lower-speed, lower-cost package, even after specifically asking for "Basic 3", "Basic 6", "Everyday Low Price", etc. It seems that they've deprecated the entire range of former-TWC internet-only offerings.

Earthlink is, of course, a Spectrum reseller and are offering nearly the exact same thing. The only differences are that they're advertising 100Mbps vs. 60 and have no installation fee. Same story: after multiple attempts I cannot get them to admit to a lower-speed, lower-cost package.

Is anyone familiar with this situation? This move by Spectrum seems fairly recent and I haven't found a lot of discussion about it. I'd love to hear if anyone managed to worm into a more reasonable plan.

I'd rather not have to bite the bullet on this and pay the $40. If I do, it'll almost certainly be Earthlink as 1) they're marginally cheaper with no installation fee and 2) are much more likely than Charter (http://stopthecap.com/2016/10/18/charters-new-hard-line-promotions-time-warner-cablebright-house-will-drive-customers-exit/) to extend my promotional rate (http://stopthecap.com/2016/11/07/charter-still-losing-time-warner-cable-customers-hard-line-retention-deals/) in a year.
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Daley on November 22, 2016, 11:47:13 AM
So I just moved and am looking to set up an internet connection. From what I can tell, Charter Spectrum and Earthlink are the only options in my area.

Charter Spectrum, eh? Raw deal, man. They only officially offer two speeds: Plus (60Mbps) and Ultra (100Mbps), unless you're a poor person or gone gray and wrinkly - then they have a $15/month 30Mbps deal (https://newsroom.charter.com/press-releases/2016/charter-industry-standard-low-cost-broadband-families-seniors/) mandated as part of the merger requirements, but it's almost as difficult to qualify and sign up for as it is to find (http://www.fiercecable.com/cable/charter-s-new-14-99-broadband-tier-too-hard-to-find-progressive-groups-says).

If the Earthlink deal is better, go Earthlink and ride it while it lasts. There's talk of a Windstream merger (http://news.windstream.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=1770) (read buyout), so there's no telling what the future's gonna hold, especially with a new president and cabinet bent on further market deregulation (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2016/11/trumps-fcc-tom-wheeler-to-be-replaced-set-top-box-reform-could-be-dead/). Save money where you can while you still can.

Guessing there's zero xDSL options in your area?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: dlawson on November 22, 2016, 12:24:52 PM
Guessing there's zero xDSL options in your area?

Absolutely nothing. No alternatives either... Verizon, Google Fiber, etc. are all not in the area. As far as I can tell, literally the only internet option is Spectrum.

So much for a free market, eh?
Title: Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
Post by: Travis on December 18