Thursday, November 29, 2007

The 3 SkypePhone and 3's coverage

So I'm currently in the States, where of course my new 3 SkypePhone doesn't work. Or at least the interesting Skype bits of the phone doesn't work...

However I was loaned two handsets by 3, and my wife has the second handset. So theoretically at least, we're good. Gemma can carry around her SkypePhone back in the UK, and I can call her from the States for free from my laptop using Skype. Why theoretically? Well so far the places where there isn't any 3 coverage is getting rather long: our house, her parent's house, her office, my office, the cities and towns we visit regularly. The list of places where there is coverage is considerably shorter.

The couple of Skype calls we have managed have had fairly good voice quality, but I've been out here a week and we've only managed those couple of calls because of the coverage issues. Generally I've been using Gizmo, which unlike Skype uses SIP which is actually standards compliant, and means I can call my home phone network for free. Which isn't something I can do with Skype.

So what's my impression so far? If you live in central London, and you use Skype, go out and buy yourself and your family some phones. You probably won't regret it. But if you live in a more rural area, be careful. The phone itself is pretty nice, it works as advertised, but at least for me, 3's coverage doesn't extend to anywhere we really need to be...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Quest for the holy grail over?

For some years now bringing down the cost per kWh of photovoltaics to a more manageable level has been the holy grail of the the solar power industry. At least in the labs high efficiency vacuum deposited "thin film" technologies, that do not rely on silicon, has been around for some years. However these have been expensive and not commercially viable in the mass market.

CREDIT: Nanosolar
Nanosolar has developed a proprietary ink that makes it possible to simply print the semiconductor of a high-performance solar cell.

Nanosolar is part of the new generation, the so call third wave, of solar cell companies. They are doing away with the expensive vacuum deposit processes and are simply printing the semiconducting ink onto a substrate to make the cell.

The company has just completed it's move to its San Jose manufacturing facility, and is gearing up to start production in first quarter next year. While I'll reserve judgement till I'm actually holding one of their panels in my hands, because as we all know "cheap solar cell technology is now only ten years away..." has been a mantra for the industry for at least twenty years, this is actually looking fairly promising. The quest for the holy grail may now be over.

Update: Nanosolar are now shipping the first panels...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Not supported under Mac OSX

So I really should get some work done, but before going off and doing things I'm actually being paid to do I'll just drop a quick note to say that, predictably perhaps, the new 3 SkypePhone isn't supported by iSync and Mac OSX...

Not supported by iSync

SkypePhone, but no Skype?

Well I was right to think that there wouldn't be any Three signal out in the sticks for my new SkypePhone to pick up...

However I'm now back in the big smoke, or at least as smoky as it gets in Devon, the little smoke perhaps? I've got a couple of bars of Three signal and I'm on their 3G network. Just done some tests, and text messages go out fine. But no Skype, it just hangs on "Signing in" and doesn't connect. I wonder if my wife will have any better luck with her handset? She's going to be creating a Skype account rather attempting to log in to her existing account...

Update: After pointlessly playing around with the packet data settings for a bit I turned the phone off and then back on again. Magically both Skype, and all the phone's packet data functions which hadn't been working either, started to work...

The question is whether there is some generic problem here, or whether this is just because I turned the phone on for the first time while it was out of signal? Although I can't really see why that should make a difference?

Which reminds me, the main problem I had with this phone so far is that I had absolutely no idea how to turn it on. I'm way too used to Nokias with the power buttons on the top or the side. The on/off switch for the SkypePhone is buried on the keypad. How quaint!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The 3 SkypePhone, unboxed...

I was recently offered a pair of Three's new SkypePhones on loan, and as promised, the two handsets arrived in today's post. I've got them for a month before I have to put them back in the post to Three, so we'll see how I get on with them...

First impression? They handset is small, and light. Pocket sized. Which makes a nice change. I'm more used to smart phones and the bulk associated with the latest bleeding edge hardware. Although, when compared to Nokia's N-series phones for instance, they aren't the most attractive handsets in the world. Especially the white and blue version. However they look, serviceable. You can't complain...

The handsets don't come charged though, so it's time to take them home and plug them in, and considering I live out in somewhere rural enough that your neighbours still take the time to say "Hello" we'll see how I do for signal. Neither Orange, nor O2, have any signal in my village, and a brief scan of the documentation tells me that the Skype part of the a SkypePhone only works on Three's 3G network, and stops working when you roam onto their partner networks. I might have to wait until tomorrow to test them out.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

An Apple store of my very own...

Just got the email from Apple announcing that the Exeter Apple Store, in the new Princesshay development, will be opening this Saturday, the 24th of November.

An Apple Store of my very own, pity I'll be 30,000 ft over Greenland inbound into LAX at the time really. I'll miss out on that free t-shirt...

The iPhone 3G? Already?

Now this is an interesting rumour. Apparently Vodafone has snagged the rights for the 3G version of Apple's iPhone, now rumoured for release in Q1 next year.

This seems moderately unbelievable, except of course for the fact that they're currently suing T-Mobile in Germany over rights to the iPhone. Although nobody really seems sure what the basis for the lawsuit actually is, it does tie in nicely with the new rumour, which of course could be the point, it now seems sort of believable, whereas it wouldn't have been before that.

So why are Vodafone suing T-Mobile, and why just in Germany? What about the other markets with exclusivity deals like the UK and France?

Update: Apple Insider have some details of the law suit. It looks like the courts, at least at the moment, agree with Vodafone that it's illegal for the handset to be sold locked with a two year contract in Germany. Unfortunately, a Vodafone spokesman has apparently told the Wall Street Journal that,

We're not taking any plans to replicate these actions anywhere else, or in the UK. It's a different regulatory environment.
So no unlocked handsets here in the UK it seems, although with Apple forced to sell the phone unlocked in both France and now perhaps Germany, you have to expect some sort of legal challenge to the locking on phones in the UK under the restrictions on trade and commerce between E.U. member countries.

Update: A leak from AT&T on the 3G iPhone?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Mobile TV not dead, just lazy?

According to the latest lot of consultants (via Mobile Europe) mobile TV isn't dead on arrival, it's just a bit lazy, and is now only two years away from taking off. According to the consultants, Mott MacDonald Schema,

...95 percent of British mobile users have not accessed mobile TV and those that do use it regularly, which is less than one percent, don’t access it more than once a month.
However they apparently believe that,

In a couple of years we could see the real take off of mobile TV and significant revenue streams.
All I can say is that if you believe that, I've got a very nice bridge you might be interested in..?

More Apple sub-notebook rumours?

I've been waiting for a replacement for the 12-inch Powerbook, and something "much cooler" than the current Macbook Pro for two years now. It hasn't happened yet, and I've repeatedly asked "What about the 12-inch?"...

Yet despite that rumours of a subnotebook persist ahead of Macworld in January next year. You know what, they're probably accurate. Why? Because last month I finally gave in and bought a Blackbook.

Update: More rumours ahead of Macworld.

Fixing Google Maps

Google is appealing to the wisdom of crowds once again. They want you to fix Google Maps for them, by moving the marker for your house to actually be over your house rather than in the middle of the street.

Unlike their image labeler application, this appeal is founded quite firmly in self interest. It makes sense, if you want people to be able to find your house or office, and you can actually see people doing it, and in the process radically improving the Google's geo-referencing and search results...

The Amazon Kindle?

I'll admit it up front, I'm amongst the faithful. The small library my wife and I have accumulated over the years takes up most of the sitting room, and it's over-spilling the bookcases yet again. It's almost time to buy yet another bookcase and jam it into the room somehow. So I'd quite like a sleek, paperback sized, ebook reader that actually works as advertised, but it's been a long wait.

CREDIT: Engadget
The Amazon Kindle

But I don't think the Amazon Kindle (via Engadget and Read/Write Web) is it. A good deal of what people enjoy about books, the thing that makes it actually enjoyable to read a book as opposed to a chore, is the way the book feels in your hand. Effectively the user interface is the thing that makes book useable. Unfortunately, you just have to look at the Kindle to know this will never replace the paper back.

Technically the book reader might push the right buttons, but you'll never get people who buy books to buy this thing. Not only is the thing not ergonomic, it's just plain ugly to look at...