3 Network MiFi – Portable WiFi Hotspot

About two months ago, I decided to purchase a MiFi device. I have numerous laptops and devices that require WiFi or an internet connection for the majority of their functions and I was starting to get fed up of the pathetic log-in procedures and costs of hotspots that I was finding around London. I was bored of having to type in an excess of characters for each of my friends WiFi connections that I wanted to connect to and a personal hotspot seemed like a sensible option.

For £134.99 you can get hold of 12GB of data for up to 12 months and a Huawei E586 MiFi device from the 3 (Three) Network. This seemed a reasonable price to pay for something that was going to make my life a bit easier in terms of connecting to the internet on the go and even when at home during maintenance hours or just incredibly bad service. Your essentially getting 1GB a month without a contract or any hidden costs. Similar to that of a PAYG phone.

In terms of coverage, I’ve found 3 to actually be very good. I remember speaking to earlier adopters of the Three network and they found it to be very patchy, some of the major cities getting good services and as soon as you leave them  it being absolutely awful. I can honestly say that from my experience this has changed and having been recommended the Three network by many people recently I can honestly say if your big into your data, they are probably the cheapest and most reliable around. I have coverage in my home town where even the big guns like Everything Everywhere and 02 don’t provide access.

After the first week or so I was finding the device pretty temperamental, even with full signal on a 3G connection some websites were just taking too long to load. Recently though the service has been tip-top. The speeds are relatively decent considering your hopping on a mobile network to download pages for full screen devices. Obviously you don’t want to go downloading film’s using this device but I can’t imagine it would take as long as some might think to do so. I have done a test on speedtest.net in my home with half signal and achieved 3.5mb/s download and 0.75mb/s upload.

I can vouch for the actual device as well. It’s aesthetically pleasing and comes with a nice stand and various charging cables. There is a Micro SD Slot so that you can use the device for storage as well as 3G broadcasting. It’s secured with WPA2 security and it’s incredibly easy to use. The screen is easy to see in what ever light you may be using the device and despite it’s size, displays useful information such as the data that has been used so far, the time that devices have spent connected to it as well as the signal strength.

The battery life is fairly decent, I’ve not had a problem during 4 hour sessions on the device maybe having to charge it just a little bit using the USB port on the laptop however it’s not that power hungry. It also starts up relatively quickly, you can be online within a minute as you can see in the video below:

 

It’s a great companion for an iPad or Tablet if you didn’t spend the extra few pounds on the 3G device and will probably save you money and battery life in the long run. There are also contract versions available however I decided not to commit in case a better device comes out sooner or if the UK actually get there act together and set up a reliable 4G network. I can recommend the 3 Mifi, it comes in Black and White and is available from Three’s website.

 

2 Days with Britain’s worst Internet Supplier

 

I’ve recently returned to my home town for the summer. Leaving behind the fibre-optic network that kept me connected in university halls to a Welsh town that has been so unbelievably poor with technology ever since I can remember.

I went to school 7 miles up the road and they had broadband years before anyone even knew it existed in our town. I remember petition after petition going round the town to get the exchange upgraded to allow for broadband connections before it was finally installed.

Ever since Broadband got installed we’ve been through the various evolutions of what is now Orange Broadband, starting with FreeServe through to Wanadoo and finally up to Orange. They actually served us very well, in fact, the only problems we had were when a 7 year old router that had been on non-stop, finally died and they promptly sent us a new one.

I’ve been fixing routers and helping people out with internet support for years now and sometimes you just can’t solve it on your own as it’s a back-end problem that the company needs to sort out and there has been nobody worse than TalkTalk that I have ever spoken too. They are absolutely useless, intense waiting with vile music for hours on end just to speak to a representative that knows next to nothing about their routers or what to do about a problem. Finally you go through tier after tier of support before they decide they’ll send someone to the exchange to check your problems not there or they decide to send you a new router. This process usually took about 4 hours with various friends that unfortunately ended up with TalkTalk.

To my surprise when I turn up to the house a few days ago, I walk into the office and see a bright white, TalkTalk router. Devastating. I connect my laptops and various devices to the router and within an hour I could tell the service is absolutely awful. Obviously the router is cheap as chips, something that the company have bulk bought and distribute for next to no money, after all, this is a business that only wants to make a profit. Any costs that can be kept down are kept down, regardless of the effect on service it would seem. I can change that, what I can’t change is the service, that’s at TalkTalks end. It’s been up and down, since I’ve had it. It would work on some machines, others needed more configuration that absolutely no average user would be able to do.

They managed to convince my poor clueless mother into believing that it would be worth the switch by offering it to her free with her phone line that was already on TalkTalk and telling her they’ve upgraded something in the exchange that will allow better speeds than we’re currently receiving from Orange. Now, I’m sat here using my 3G MiFi because it’s a more reliable service and actually allows me to use it. Tiny packets of data are taking absolutely ages to load. Only some of them even make it through.

It’s an absolute outrage, I feel sorry for all of those people who, like my Mother, have so little understanding of the technology and the settings they wouldn’t know whether they are being screwed over or not. Of course, now we’re locked into a twelve month contract and they won’t speak to me on the phone when I’m complaining because I’m not the bill payer however if I was helping them solve a problem they are more than happy to speak to me.

I’m not here expecting the speeds I get up in London, that would be silly, the infrastructure up there is so much better as it needs to be, but I expect to be able to use my internet and with Orange, that was rarely a problem. Yet I’ve only been using TalkTalk for two days and I’ve been having problems non-stop. If I was to say the most infuriating thing it’s the inconsistency. The day I arrived I was able to watch half an episode on iPlayer without pause and then it stopped loading, couldn’t even load Google. I reset the router, connected to SpeedTest.net and tried to run a speed test, once the ping had been measured. Nothing. It wouldn’t even conduct a speed test and it’s been like this ever since.

TalkTalk, your evil, pathetic and without a doubt one of the worst companies I’ve had experience with for customer service. Stop preying on helpless people who don’t have the technological skills to tell your awful service from a good one.

Is iOS losing it?

When Apple first released it’s iPhone and iPod Touch, it had a much more primitive operating system than it does now. There was no app store, no games, just a browser and basic utilities. Some time later, Apple decided that App Store was the way forward and they were right.

I don’t have a problem with iOS functionality. It’s actually a very functional OS, in fact, among the best for a mobile platform. The fact is, it’s not unique in anyway, Android has stepped up it’s game massively, it’s now a suitable operating system for nearly anyone. iOS does what it does well. But not in an interesting way. Every time I use my iPhone now I’m not surprised, nothing crops up in the App Store that’s ground breaking or unique to iPhone any more. The iPhone has lost it’s wow factor. The 4S was a disappointing upgrade from the 4 albeit obvious, the actual interface has stayed exactly the same since 2007. Those coloured icons, shiny buttons, grey keyboard and inconsistent colours. I actually think it’s starting to look a bit old. Sure, if I jailbreak my device I can customise the icons but something made by a company that’s so renowned for it’s ability to design should be able to design a more modern and beautiful. Apple prides itself on it’s stunning design skills yet Windows Phone is a much better looking operating system. When did anyone see Microsoft designers surpassing Apple’s in software aesthetics? Even Steve Wozniak (Co-Founder of Apple) suggested that Windows Phone apps are more beautiful than those on iPhone and Android the other day.

The next iPhone will impress people and people will flock to buy it and they will probably have a very nice device that feels good in the hand and looks great and is faster than the predecessor. But times are changing, people now realise that phones can play Angry Birds and can navigate you from where you are to where you want to be. Apple showed that off ages ago but it’s been a long time since they’ve actually released anything with the wow-factor that the iPhone once bought to people. It’s no longer a game changing device, the interface is starting to bore me. In fact, I feel that the tech industry has started to slow down a bit this year, it’s been ages since I’ve logged onto a decent technology blog and read a piece of “breaking” news that’s worth reading or even the given tagline.

The unification of Apple’s operating systems isn’t impressing me either, I enjoy using my MacBook Pro with OSX Lion more than my MacBook Pro with Snow Leopard but the addition of an iOS style icon interface hasn’t made me more inclined to use it or drastically improved the experience. The App Store was again, obvious and the applications are similar to that you can find in a web browser without the need for additional software. Granted more software is being made for Mac as a result but most of it’s ridiculously expensive and throwaway apps. I use my laptops and desktops for doing real computing, if I wanted a simple device I’d buy an iPad or use my iPhone.

I feel the next iteration of iOS should have drastic improvements that aren’t obvious. I expected a copy of BBM in iOS at some point, I expected notifications on my iPhone to improve, I realise that the operating system is improving but it’s completely lost it’s wow-factor and it’s individuality. I hope the next iPhone and iOS impress me or I may jump ship, those Windows Phones are becoming awfully tempting with their speed and beauty.

 

The Avengers Assemble – IMAX

 

In a day and age when it costs an inordinate amount of sterling to buy a cinema ticket and with 3D being a way for studios and cinema’s to squeeze even more money out of us, I rarely actually go. Although I’m sure most of you are aware of the over inflation of prices of every item on sale in a cinema as well as the initial ticket of entry, many of you may not have an IMAX within a distance worth travelling. In fact, if you have to drive any further than 2 miles to a cinema you’re looking at an expensive day out. The price for an adult IMAX ticket is £13.70 if you go at peak times, or £12.20 off peak, even with a student card it’s going to set you back just over a tenner. It’s pretty darn expensive to see a film, especially when you can pick up 3 DVD’s for £10 in most stores. The problem being is in order to get the most out of a film we are convinced it’s necessary to watch it on a monumental screen with sound systems we could only dream of being able to afford. In all fairness, IMAX shines here, the screens are better, the 3D is on another level when compared to REALD systems and the sound is distinctly clearer.
So, after not being to the cinema since freshers, a fanatical obsession with comic books and marvel I decided to dedicate my funds to a ticket to see The Avengers Assemble. A nerds wet dream, a conglomerate of the Marvel Super Heroes gathering together in order to save the world from evil forces. A combination of stories from said heroes make for an action packed, start-studded nerd fest. For those of you who are too cool to be familiar with the original comic book Avengers they were actually a fairly different set of super heroes and included Ant-Man and The Wasp. There are some of the originals still in there Iron Man, Hulk and Thor are the remaining originals, Ant-Man and The Wasp probably haven’t aged as well and might not fit in with the demands of a modern movie fan.
The basic story of the Avengers Assemble is that S.H.I.E.L.D has to assemble the Avengers in order to protect the earth from Thor’s evil brother who wishes the world will bow to him and treat him like a god.Loki is trying to use the Tesseract to aid his chances of rule and the Avengers need to defeat him. The film has very cleverly intertwined the stories from previous Marvel films, for example the spy from S.H.I.E.L.D in Iron Man 2, Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) story develops more within the film as does Captain Americas. You can expect more of the usual wit and back-chat from Tony Stark as well as some relatively funny slurs from Dr. Bruce Banner. Collectively there is quite a bit of comedy in the film which is a nice touch.
Most important, some might say, in a movie like this is the action. Super Heroes by nature must be action fuelled and The Avengers Assemble does not disappoint. Running in at a somewhat long 143 minutes (2 hours and 23 minutes) if this film was 100% action the viewer might be left overwhelmed with over edited scenes however Marvel have done very well with their CGI. Obviously this is a field that is getting better and better but somehow Marvel have managed to make things that are so unbelievably unrealistic, look realistic. Iron Man himself is inconceivably well made, there has clearly been a large amount of time and effort put into this and it makes the film more enjoyable.
Comic book fan, Marvel Movie fan, Action film fan, watch it. It’s critically acclaimed, doing great on Rotten Tomatoes and is great fun from start to finish. It may help if you get up to date on Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and Hulk movies though.