Category Archives: telephony

Non-incoming call

These days I have an android ‘phone[1]. Specifically, a Moto G, with android version 4.4.4 according to info. I’m using CSipSimple to enable my home (landline) number on it. Mostly that works fine, and it seems quite rare to have sufficient signal for voice calls but not for SIP. So all’s well, isn’t it?

Yesterday I got an incoming SIP call while I was out. But taking it out of my pocket, the screen wasn’t showing the call, and I had no way to answer it. I typed in my PIN code, and still it was ringing, but still nothing on the screen. Ouch! What’s going wrong?

Having failed to think of anything more sensible, I went straight for the crude approach of power cycling. That has occasionally fixed things when the system appears to overload itself due to too many open apps, or is running warm for no reason I can fathom. Not that that helps with testing incoming SIP calls, so I tried googling, but failed (admittedly without trying very hard) to find reports of similar problems.

Just now I got another incoming SIP call (no caller number, so no answer). This one did display. It was at home, so on wifi. Could that have made all the difference, and if so is there anything I can do to fix the problem when out and about? Or was this some unknown bug that may have been cured by reboot, or pure Heisenbug?

[1] This is not a good thing. I’d much rather have my late lamented Nokia (from the days when Nokia made really good phones) back. But that’s no longer an option: its successor in 2012 the Nokia E6-00 was such a bugridden steaming pile as to be effectively unusable, and the android is a vast improvement on that.

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Congestion

Sunday morning, my dad ‘phones me for a chat.  As always.

Only this time, I hear just the merest snatches of his voice.  Likewise, he can’t hear me.  Somewhere on the line there is a problem, and it seems to be with me.  Specifically, a connection that’s inadequate for VOIP.  That shouldn’t happen: I have cable and pay for a 30Mb line in, and near 2Mb upload speed, which is an order of magnitude more than I should need.

While I figured out an alternative, my dad ‘phoned my mobile number.  Not something either of us like, as it costs (he gets weekend landline calls free).  I explained my alternative, which was to turn my Virgin router off and use VOIP over my O2 line.  Fortunately the weather was gorgeous and it was a pleasure to go and sit out on the front terrace for best 3G signal, though it appeared also to work in some parts of the house.

Later in the day I ran some more tests.  Performance was incredibly poor: on average rather worse than a 28K modem (remember those?) and much of the time a complete standstill.  It took a long time to get a speed test to run at all.  Whoops!

Experimentally I tried a wired connection to the router.  Now suddenly all is well: I’m getting the speeds I’m supposed to.  So it’s the wireless.  A bit of research later and I change the WIFI channel, whereupon all is well.  I also come upon a tool called Kismac, which tells me the problem was indeed congestion: my neighbour and I had both been using channel 11.

Is that a common problem in a cable area?  Lots of Virgin users, and they ship standard routers with a standard configuration that sets us up for conflict, rather than a more mixed area where routers are (a priori, at least) a random mix?

Credit where credit’s due.  Virgin’s help pages were genuinely helpful.  It’s a rare pleasure to find a help page that tells me anything that wasn’t already blindingly obvious.

BTW, I have a couple of DECT phones and an ATA adapter to use my old phone&fax on order.  Should be arriving tomorrow.  So I’ll have a well-equipped house and should hear the ‘phone from anywhere.

Phone search

I’m looking for a phone worthy of replacing my beloved Nokia E71.

My wonderful phone died on Saturday, aged just under three and a half years.  Drowned in a pool of rainwater, as I was walking a three-hour route across the moors.  It came down heavy, so I put the phone in my bag for protection against the kind of minor flooding it’s suffered a few times (and from which my wallet is still soggy even today).  Then it came down really seriously torrential (so even the dog fled for shelter), and breached the protection of the bag.  On arriving at the pub I made to get the phone out, but it was swimming in a pool of water and dead to the world.  RIP.

What makes a worthy replacement?

I want a phone that’s properly comfortable to carry in the pocket, comfortable to hold in the hand and to the ear, and comfortable to type on.  That rules out any iphone and most androids (as does their atrocious battery life).  The beautifully-made qwerty keyboard was such a huge asset!

In terms of apps, most of what I care about is pretty standard.  I think any modern candidate will have 3g, wifi, rudimentary web and mail, calendar and text notepad.   FM radio and GPS/maps are almost as widespread.  I want to be sure to have maps (like Nokia’s) I can pre-load, so I don’t have to load data on-the-fly (as with Google maps) when out of 3g contact or on extortionate international data rates.

An e-ink screen would be great, but I don’t believe anyone’s put one on a ‘phone 😦

Nokia’s candidates today appear to be the E5 and E6.  Online reviews suggest the former is a step down: in particular it’s significantly fatter than the E71, making its impact in the pocket more of a problem even if it’s fine in the hand.  The E6 looks good, but at a price.

Other obvious candidates are some of the smaller blackberries.  Trying to find out about them, and not least whether their maps will pre-load data.  And this recent article points me to a few androids, which could be candidates if the keyboards are good enough and if there’s a maps app I can use.

Fortunately I can survive short-term using the pocket-‘puter as emergency phone, so this isn’t desperately urgent.  So I’m soliciting comments and insights.  Any advice?

Reporting ‘phone spam

Dear Lazyweb, is there an app for any kind of mobile ‘phone that’ll take the number of the last incoming call and submit a quick complaint to OFCOM?  The phone in question is a Nokia E71 (Symbian 60), but if that’s not available then an equivalent app for AN Other platform would seem a startingpoint for hacking it

I’ve long suffered from phone spam, but getting it every day on the mobile is a new affliction this year.  The computing power of today’s phones ought to bring some benefits in combating this curse!

Pimp my business

Just had another spam ‘phone call to ask whether I’m considering selling the business.

This is clearly not someone who knows anything about the business, let alone wants to buy.  They’re just working through a list of registered businesses.  It has all the tell-tale signs of a junk call: a bored voice with a strong Indian accent reading from a script, the noise of the call centre making it very hard to distinguish a word of what he’s trying to say.  Oh, and an 08** number, which I wouldn’t answer at all if it came through on the landline[1], but do take on the mobile as they’re still relatively rare there and because it’s a number used for legitimate incoming work calls.

When I started writing this, I was going to ask what the **** they hoped to sell me if I’d said yes, I was considering selling the business.  But I guess that’s not so hard: if my business had fitted into some regular category they deal with, they’d have introduced me to some relevant broker and taken a commission.  Or perhaps they’d have done that anyway, and left the broker to flounder on assets they can’t make anything of.

Or maybe the right broker could: “SEO” is nowadays an asset with monetary value, and the googlerank of my webpages might still be worth quite a lot to someone prepared to abuse it.  Maybe they could even make something of my existing software/online services and turn that into revenue (yeah, right, dream on – that’s where I originally saw WebThing going before it became clear that my consultancy time was the only thing people wanted to pay for).  Though whatever value any of those things might have is certainly faded over the years they’ve been collecting dust: Site Valet would at least want updating before I could seriously recommend it for the ‘net of 2010, and older stuff is pretty-much completely lost/obsoleted.

Anyway, that’s hardly relevant to an annoying spam call.  Suppose I had been wanting to sell my business, and had more conventional assets: for example a high street presence and a loyal customer base, or a laboratory or factory.  How might I go about realising the value of my assets?  Surely not by struggling to understand a word of what someone from a noisy call centre is trying to say?

[1] As they do most days, sometimes several in a day, despite my having supposedly opted out.

Phone spam

Dear Lazyweb, can anyone help?

Despite having long ago registered NOT to get spam phone calls, I get more of them than I do real calls.  It’s annoying enough when I’m sitting by the ‘phone (as I am when at the ‘puter – with which it shares a desk), but makes me positively angry when I run in from another room for it.  I’m getting to the point where I don’t bother to try with landline calls, except when I’m expecting them.

I tried asking BT about blocking spam numbers a while ago, but they say they can’t, or won’t.  SO I wonder, is there a ‘phone or other bit of kit I can buy, that’ll screen out incoming calls from any 08xx number (as well as withheld numbers – so I don’t have to trouble BT with them)?  I avoid answering those already, as they are reliably some-call-centre.

Convergence?

Convergence between the ‘puter and the mobile ‘phone is coming.  My existing phone (E71) is a step along the way, and arguably skype on the laptop is approaching from the other direction.

Now Nokia have released the N900, and I’m thinking this looks interesting.  Have they bridged the gap to the point of being worth buying as a converged device, or is this still no more than an interesting device that nearly makes it?

On the plus side, it’s a Linux box, with builtin display but also the capability of plugging in to a monitor, keyboard and mouse when at a desk, all in a unit that’ll fit in a pocket, and can be used in a smaller space than a conventional laptop/netbook.  And with a SIM card it offers builtin connectivity.

As against that, it’s on the bulky side for a mobile ‘phone, and lacks the battery life of the E71 or a simpler device.  One wouldn’t want it to replace the phone.

And the crux of the matter: is Maemo really Linux as we know it, or am I going to find it a waste of time to attach that keyboard and monitor and try to use it as a porta-‘puter?

I guess a good proxy for that question is, does it run X11 natively / without fuss?  If it does, I think enough follows from that to make it a real ‘puter.  If not, what I want may still be vaporware.

Anyone using the device as I envisage?  Or tried but found it problematic?

Text spam

Dear Lazyweb, is there any way of fighting text-message spam?

I’ve already tried ‘phoning O2 and asking them, but they tell me they can’t (or won’t) do anything. Do any of the other UK providers offer a service that’ll block a sender, or block on a keyword in the message (like, everything that starts with FREEMSG)?

Or if I can’t block it, how about as a poor second-best, programming my ‘phone to drop them without bothering me?  The ‘phone is a Nokia E71 (Symbian s60), so any hints for that would be ideal.  Kind-of, procmail-for-text-messages or similar.  Or if I could do it on Maemo, that might help incentivise me to go out and buy a tablet ‘puter, though I’d still want to use the E71 for day-to-day use as it’s more comfortable in the hand and the pocket than something bigger.

Oh, and if any legislators are reading, how about legislating for us to be given a rejection button for junk phone calls and texts, that’ll cause the sender to be charged real money (e.g. £5 per call should mount up, though £50 would be better).  Money to be collected by the telco and donated to charity – less a small administrative fee to be determined by ofcom.

p.s. if any reader has power to do anything with it, the number that just spammed me to induce me to write this is 07833 992283 (UK) or +44 7833 992283 internationally.  If publishing the number here attracts any kind of inconvenience to that shit, then good.

Videoconferencing

Never tried videoconferencing before: I don’t really see the point[1].  But my mum’s just got a new macbook, and upgraded her skype, and wanted to play with her new toy!

So she skyped me.  And as soon as I replied, I could see her in a skype window.  Looking at it, there was also a button to turn my camera on.  Hey presto, we’re videoconferencing!

[1] Now sharing something on screen (“whiteboard”-style) is another matter, and makes a lot of sense when discussing something complex.  And yes, I can see the plain ol’ video has a point too when there’s something visual to demonstrate.  But not just for its own sake.

Mobile Maps

I’ve been using Nokia’s maps and GPS on my ‘phone for some time.  It works well on the road, but has basically no information other than roads (and while the roads data are good, other data such as rivers and railways are often inaccurate).  An annoying artifact of the software assumes you’re on a road, and tends to “correct” the computed fix if you’re not.  This leads to an illusion of greater accuracy, but ensures poorer reliability[1].

Recently I tried Google’s maps app.  It’s very pretty, and contains rather more information than Nokia’s, though it’s also much slower e.g. to zoom/pan.  From home it could see two GPS satellites, and computed a poor fix, nearly 200m away from me (I presume it combined the two GPS satellites with non-GPS info – maybe it knows individual mobile phone masts or something).  Surprisingly, the fix was consistent: it gave me the same incorrect position the next day.  But since that was from indoors, I gave it the benefit of the doubt: surely it’ll do better in the open.

Then I tried it while out walking.  No use: it insists on a data connection (does it need to ‘phone home)?  Unlike Nokia’s map, which asks for a connection on startup but works fine without one if I hit “cancel”, google’s refuses to proceed without it.  Bah, Humbug.

This morning I tried another variant: I fired up google maps at home, then kept it running as I went out.  No use: a short way down the road, it lost my WIFI and insisted on a new connection.

So, back to Nokia maps.

[1] A subject I do know about, both in theory (as a mathematician) and in practice (as someone who has done quite a lot of work in the field).