Monday, March 31, 2014

Need mobile data in the U.S.? Here's how

This Huawei E5372 portable hotspot is compatible with T-Mobile's network in the U.S. and helps you share the data from one SIM.
(Credit: Michael Tan/CNET)


So, you're heading to the U.S. with your smartphone and dreading the lack of mobile data you're so accustomed to having in your home country. You're also unsure whether your hotel has free Wi-Fi. Now, you're wondering whether you can tether your iPad to your mobile phone for data with U.S. SIM cards.
You figure you'll need to get mobile data because you intend to use Google Navigation while on the road, or risk end up getting lost. Furthermore, you're dreading the multiple calls you'd have to make to your spouse just asking "Where are you, dear? Are you ready to go? I'm at the entrance of the mall." and paying expensive roaming charges every minute. Lastly, you're worried that when someone from the U.S. needs to reach you, they won't bother to call your Singapore phone number.
If any of the above scenarios sounds familiar and if you're wondering whether you should get a U.S. SIM card, here are the results of my research.
First, consider how much data you need. Don't underestimate the amount of data required, especially if you're going to use Google Maps and Navigation much more than you would in your home country. I consume about 2-3GBs a month in Singapore, and I estimate that I'll use that amount in two weeks in the U.S..
Secondly, you'll need to do cost comparisons. Singtel's Unlimited Global Roaming plan, charges S$30 (US$24) a day. This means you would have to pay a whopping S$420 (US$336) just for the data, for one phone. That's not ok in my book.
Thirdly, plan the strategy. The ideal way would be to get 2 SIM cards, one for you and the other for your spouse. Or maybe three SIMs, with the third SIM for your tablets and other devices.
I did the maths, and found that the best value for money SIM card was the T-Mobile SIM Starter Kit which retails for US$39.88 and comes with a SIM card and US$30 of value. This gives you unlimited data for an entire month, with the first 5GB at LTE speeds if your device supports the LTE band. I bought three of these.
Do note that the US$30 T-Mobile starter kit is not available from the stores, it's an online-only deal. In fact, it's such a secret plan that most T-Mobile employees don't even know it exists! You can buy it online exclusively from Walmart.com.
This card comes as microSIM. I bought a S$10 SIM cutter with me before I went to the U.S., just in case. You might need it to cut the micro-SIM to a smaller nano-SIM. You might also want to have on hand microSIM converters it to work on phones that use the larger SIM cards. You can get them from any neighbourhood mobile stores in Singapore.
If you know that your hotel in the U.S. accepts shipments, then you deliver the SIM card to you, otherwise, Walmart can ship to one of its stores or a Fedex office where you can pick up your SIM.
When I arrived in the U.S., I simply picked up my SIM cards from the nearest Fedex office. Unfortunately, they didn't work -- but it was probably just bad luck. I went to a nearby T-Mobile store and they replaced the SIMs for me.
Lastly, these SIMs need to be activated online but I didn't bother with that. You can head to the nearest T-Mobile shop and get them to activate it for you.
I put the SIMs into my HTC One as well as my wife's Samsung Galaxy S, while the final SIM went into a Huawei portable hotspot dongle to share the data with my tablets.
As for voice calls, I used two cheap feature phones and put our Singaporean SIMs inside -- just in case someone from home needs to reach us.
Interestingly, the hotspot needs to be configured for T-Mobile once you put the SIM card in. My hotspot device is compatible with LTE, and you just need to load up T-Mobile's APN settings for the Internet. It's available here. It might sound complicated, but all I had to do was to change the APN name to fast.t-mobile.com and a link was established.
T-Mobile's coverage in the city is excellent -- I had full bars everywhere I went in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Even smaller cities like Bakersfield gave me excellent reception. Unfortunately, I only got HSDPA+ connections (despite selecting the LTE option in my dongle), but this might change in the near future as T-Mobile re-deploys some of their frequency bands to LTE. Nevertheless, H+ was sufficient for all my needs in city areas. Viber, Skype and Whatsapp worked perfectly both for text and messages, and Voice over IP worked fine.
However, coverage was not so great in rural areas. Yosemite only gave me EDGE connectivity, and in Tahoe I had 3G but not great reception. Google Maps and Navigation worked fine even with an EDGE network, but it will take a longer time to start or do a redirection.
I found it difficult to get the T-Mobile SIM to share bandwidth with my phone's Wi-Fi tethering function. When I tried it, all the tethered devices displayed a registration screen to register the device as an authorised device.
Another point for travellers to note that is even if you change the SIM card in your smartphone, Whatsapp, WeChat, Line, and Viber will still work via the phone number you first registered with. The only thing that was changed in your handset is the telco's voice and SMS services.
Having the T-Mobile SIM enabled me and my wife to call each other cheaply and easily as a local call - the T-Mobile plan comes with 100 minutes of free talk time.
Lastly, the T-Mobile staff may tell you that the US$30 plan can't be used for mobile Wi-Fi hotspots -- but it sure worked for me on my Wi-Fi hotspot. Still, things might change in the future, so this is not a guarantee that using a hotspot dongle will work for you.

Monday, February 12, 2007

100Mbit will be reserved for the nerds - for it to reach the mainstream, DRM has to go!

Now that Starhub has given us the wonder of 100Mbit/s download, how many takers will there be.

MANY, but not enough.

Without wading through the complications of bypassing traffic shaping (read `choking') targeting bittorrent protocol packets, without widespread education on peer-to-peer download technologies, and without massive download technologies like Bittorrent getting to the mainstream consciousness because of the perceived `illegality' of these services, most of this country can't really use the 100Mbit/s speed.

Online music is not uncommon. Only that the Digital Rights Management makes even the nerds falter. No standard DRM exists today, nor will it foreseeably exist tomorrow. Apple's boss Steve Jobs is lambasting DRM (just last week). We all know how sucky DRM can be, and that at least there's some complication for you to transfer your Itunes music from one PC to another.

The underground is fiercely `torrenting' terabytes of content every day and night. And this underground is so small compared to the total number of internet users.

Let me again call for the abolition of DRM, which is no use to most people anyway - complicating the life of legal users and totally bypassed by those who choose to bypass it, and ignored by those who, not knowing how DRM works and not knowing how to bypass it online, get their stuff from their friends' thumbdrives or portable hard disk drives.

Let's have the MDA make a scheme where all subscribers to internet services pay an additional 10 bucks or so a month, for the RIGHT to download and distribute whatever they want online, and this money goes to a fund to pay the content providers according to their popularity indexed in P2P indices worldwide.

This blogpost seems cryptic simply because the background knowledge required is difficult, and I don't have the mood to babyfy it. But those who read it and understand it, please consider it and write about it yourself. Because, I REALLY WANT the content providers to survive. The torrenters will always be there, in some form or another. It's the content providers I'm worried about.

Adventures with Stahub's Maxonline MOL Ultimate 100Mbit/s FAT GREEN PIPE!

I got my Starhub Maxonline account for 3 months already, which I contracted with them for an entire year with 30Mbit/s down and 1Mbit/s up. I KNEW they were going to increase it to 100Mbit/2Mbit and sure enough, they did.

Only problem was that my existing modem, my old DOCSIS 2 Motorola SBV5120 couldn't give me the 100Mbit/2Mbit. I had to get the DOCSIS 3 Motorola SB6100 modem to achieve that kind of bitrate. But my account was already provisioned for 100mbit, and every day which passed was another day I kicked myself for paying full fare for 1/3 of the performance I was entitled to.

This was a great strategy Starhub had for sucker nerds like me, so I set off to prepare to get the SB6100.

Not an easy task though. The SB6100 did not have VOICE capability, and since I was on Starhub's VOIP Digital Voice service, by itself, the SB6100 can't make it. A quick enquiry told me what I had to do - keep the SBV5120 to use it as VOICE only, and buy a new SB6100 for the Internet bandwidth. Easy enough unless you're a sucker nerd like me - I worried about the signal quality, since keeping the SBV5120 would necessitate another split of the cable, with proportional losses.

This was what I planned:

| (from SCV)
|
|
(splitter1)---------(cable modem)
|
|
(splitter2)----------(VOIP for Digital Voice)
| | | | | |
| | | | | |
(6 way to room outlets for video)

Now I set off to buy a top grade splitter and found the Monster splitter. It cost me S$60. Here it is... a little different from mine, but sufficient to illustrate.



• Ultra low-loss, high-performance video signal splitter for TV & satellite
• 5 MHz - 2 GHz bandwidth is digital ready for splitting DSS & TV signals
• Internal impedance-matched network for accurate 75 ohm load to all outputs
• Precision die-case, 24K gold-plated contacts
• 24K gold-plated contacts ensure high conductive, corrosion-free connections

After doing the change from Regal 2-way splitter to Monster 2-way, this is the result:

Signal strength from the single layer Monster 2-way splitter, increase from 82% to 86% (somebody please tell me, why I split the signal, should half, why still get such high number? Is BS izzit? I don't have meter, so I use my HD set top box to test the signal)

Practical differences:

+Highest DL speed from 30 tries increase from 28Mbit/s to slightly higher than 29 Mbit/s (from utilities.starhub.com)
+Before this, I use 3 way splitter, everytime I press START, I only have a 30% chance of the download proceeding to 100% ... most of the time stuck halfway. After my change to Regal 2 way aplitter, I achieved 100% success, but sometimes need 8 steps of the download bar, sometimes need 6 steps. After change to the Monster, maximum steps is 7 steps, sometimes 6, and very rarely 5 steps. PLEASE NOTE HOWEVER THAT STARHUB INCREASED MY THEORETICAL BANDWIDTH FROM 30MBIT/S TO 32MBIT/S. SO ALL MY RESULTS MAY BE INVALID LIAO.
+Signal quality STAY at 99-100%. No difference between Regal and Monster for Signal Quality. Signal Quality got no difference across all my splits, even the 2nd layer split also SQ is about 99-100%.

Result:
1) Technical wise, not worth S$60. The changes are so marginal.
2) Psychological buff of seeing a nice big gold color splitter, priceless. Achieved.

OK so I went ahead and bought the SB6100, when I got it, I relegated the SBV5120 to a 3rd level split - the phone still worked, so ... fine.

After a very very hard day, where I kick the hell outta myself for stupidity, here are the results for my new SB6100 modem:

speedtest.net figures:


Surprising thing is the incredible upload speed. The Ubicom based router I have detects 3030kbit/s uplink speed, which I thought was wrong, until I saw the speedtest figures. This is the happiest thing, because the downlink speed is something like `too much' at this time, and the great upload speed will help achieve more download speed.

Starhub figures:

Connecting to Server ...
Logging on to Server ...
Starting download
Download Successful !!

Download Stats:

Transfer Time: 9782 milliseconds
Total File Size: 83886080 bytes

Top speed attained: 68.44 Mbps

All these tests done with the normal idiotic overconservative WinXP settings for RWIN with no frame multiplier. I can achieve more speed - up to 83Mbit/s with Starhub util and 37Mbit/s for speedtest, but with these my upload speed cannot be consistent.

As for why I was stupid, I hardcode a lot of numbers into my ubicom router instead of autodetect, so for half a day, I worked with a hardcoded 30Mbit/s down and 1Mbit/s up figures based on my old connection.

Only after I slept a bit then woke up at about now, I thought of it. Sorry starhub for spamming your mailbox and calling you up so many times. I am an utter idiot loh!


After going to www.dslreports.com and optimizing my RWIN and putting a timestamp on all my TCP/IP packets, this is what I got:



Starhub:

Connecting to Server ...
Logging on to Server ...
Starting download
Download Successful !!


Download Stats:

Transfer Time: 8312 milliseconds
Total File Size: 83886080 bytes

Top speed attained: 78.81 Mbps

Real world: It took me like less than 5 seconds to download the 50MB Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0: x86 (KB928416) ... LOL!


This was a successful installation, and it was every bit as I expected. But its effect on me is profound, I find myself thinking of all ways on how to use the connection. It's a real change if downloads don't take any time at all relatively.

Anyway, money well spent!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

First HD-DVD Disc Torrent - HD-DVD copy protection broken?

Quite quickly, without supercomputers, unencrypted HD-DVD high definition content has been made available for bit-torrent download.

Reference: http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070115-8622.html

Usually, if an AACS device has been compromised, there is a key revocation system which revokes the keys, disallowing further playback.

But this has been rendered irrelevant, as the torrent available for download is unencrypted, free of any copy protection system. So any key revocation system will be unable to stop further playback of the file, in this case, Serenity.

A ripper exists: BackupHDDVD, which uses keys separately available from the internet, to rip the contents of a HD-DVD disc. A key was also passed on to the internet recently, which works
with BackupHDDVD. This is a full recipe for a HD-DVD rip, and this presumably resulted in the unencypted file available via torrent.

Reference: http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070107-8564.html

So, my speculations:
  1. If all goes well for the content protection camp, the compromised key available on the internet and any connected keys, will be revoked.
  2. So future content will not decrypt using the compromised key, but all current content will still be rippable
  3. AACS' key revocation system is utterly useless in any other respect, because the ripped content is not protected at all. It is naked HD video.
One more point for my call for a blanket license covering all content. Utterly impossible to protect anything which relies on human integrity, honesty and diligence. :)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Clean up Windows XP memory with 1 click!

From Hardwarezone forums:

Make a shortcut in Windows XP, location of file, put `%windir%\system32\rundll32.exe advapi32.dll,ProcessIdleTasks' without the quote marks.

Clicking on this shortcut will clean up your Windows memory by clearing up the idle processes. Works for me, and it is better and I feel safer than the freeware/spyware on the net which claim to do the same. At least this one is from Microsoft.

Original source.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Government sues Streetdirectory.com who sued so many people!

Virtual Map, the owner of streetdirectory.com , has made quite a good living enforcing their intellectual property rights against large and small companies in Singapore - when these companies used the unprotected jpg maps from streetdirectory.com, boom! they got threatened with a suit, and they'd settle out of court. And their licensing fees and `penalties' were not cheap. They succeeded against several parties, including the most famous case of all, NTUC! The fees were quite outrageous as I recall.

All the map data was licensed from SLA. They were trading in the license.

And SLA has started an action against Virtual Map, as reported by TODAY here. SLA states that it terminated their licensing to Virtual Map in July 2004.

Well, let's just see what happens. Virtual Map has only gotten hate from what I read in the papers the past few years, with their victims claiming entrapment, inducement, `making a living outta suing people', etc. Nothing flattering coming from the victims of course.

Well, let's see whether the SLA succeeds. If the SLA wins, Virtual Map might have to pay back all the license fees it collected from its clients since July 2004, with interest. Facts from the case and rulings might also put holes in Virtual Map's license even before July 2004, and the payback may extend even before July 2004.

After everything, their victims might hope that somebody might have the bright idea to allege that Virtual Map KNOWINGLY licensed their maps without having valid title.

Let the Discovery process reveal interesting internal emails! This will be fun to watch.

more blogs on this: Cnet Gin's Tonic

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Finally, Picasa can post to Blogger Beta

Since I upgraded my blogs to blogger beta in August, I've had nothing but problems when I try to post pictures to the blogs using Picasa. But I saw others with utterly no problems after the October Picasa patch which enabled dual logins to either Blogger or Blogger Beta.

Why? Because of this obscure point: If Backlinks are enabled in your Blogger beta blog (how's that for a tongue twister???), Picasa cannot post pictures there. Thanks to http://knownissues.blogspot.com/search/label/picasa :

You cannot post from Picasa to Blogger in beta if you have backlinks turned on.
OK now that I've turned off the backlinks to my baby's blogs, the pictures come alive again!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Goosync syncs your cellphone with Google Calendar

Goosync has made me the happiest man in the world today. The happiest! Really! How happy am I? Well, for the first time in my life, I've put an image at the centre of my blogpost! That's how happy I am.

The DREAM of synchronizing my cellphone with Google Calendar has almost been forgotten until today. I tried various ways of doing it, using the iCal specification, using various MAPI hacks with Outlook, sharing here and sharing there, and all of these either don't work or work with so much resource overhead, or have serious deficiencies.

FORGET ALL THAT NOW!

GOOSYNC ENABLES YOU TO SYNC YOUR CELLPHONE OVER THE AIR WITH GOOGLE CALENDAR!

Here's how it does it.
  1. Register at Goosync.
  2. Enter the normal crap, and then, they will want your google password. If you're afraid, do this.... make another google account (new google account), just for this, empty of everything, and share this new google account calendar with your normal google account or google hosted account. Then share your google hosted or normal google account with this new google account's calendar. So now it reads and writes both ways. This way, you'll protect your normal google account and any hacker who gets the new google account password is only limited to seeing your calendar, so that limits the damage. [Edit: Shared events don't seem to update anymore. Also, you can use your google hosted account by entering myname@domain.com at the username under Google Credentials.]
  3. Goosync will send you a SMS message with autoconfiguration code. Enter the password Goosync gives you and Accept the changes it contains.
  4. Then go to your cellphone's remote sync function, and run the goosync code, and you're synched both ways via GPRS, 3G GPRS or any damn internet connection your phone has.
Now this fulfils my dream in more ways than I anticipated. Now I can sync without my computer. I don't need the cable and all the problems which come with USB synchronization.

Now, Google, please go buy Goosync. They've earned it. Just 5 million bucks. They've made me happier than you have. Goosync, I love you. I love you. I love you.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Soon: Synthetize a 3D environment using your pictures (and others')

Microsoft Photosynth is going to revolutionize the way you sort pictures. Right now you sort pictures according to your own tags, labels, or folders. Photosynth synthetizes a 3D environment based on the images in your pictures. Example: if you go to India, take pictures all around the Taj Mahal, Photosynth can arrange your images according to WHERE you took it around the Taj, in a 3D space, presumably merging with data available from the pictures of other people all around the Internet.

And this would add a further dimension to your pictures, much more than GPS geotagging. It will augment reality, give you a much more powerful view, and from a human point of view, evoke more intimate emotions about your pictures.

Check out the video here:

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Thatcher's Advisor Debunks Assertions of Global Warming

Read here.

I've recently been greatly influenced by reports of global warming, not that I'm an expert, but it sure is intuitive that with all the heat pumped from our cars, factories etc. to the atmosphere, something bad's gonna happen. And Climate Change has become such an all-pervasive religion that I've scarcely heard any authoritative source.

So when a Thatcher fanboy like myself read Christopher Monckton's pop-science article at the Telegraph, it was something I wanted to spend a few minutes on. Read it yourself and judge.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Google Calendar now supports SMS in Singapore

Google Calendar now supports SMS in Singapore and other countries! This is lovely! SMS notifications of events etc. FREE OF CHARGE.

This has been a long long awaited feature, now I'm investigating how the other Google services can use my cellphone. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Vista Readyboost - FAT or NTFS, what flash drive to use ...

Vista features a caching technology called Readyboost, where, small files which take the hard disk drive a lot of time to read, are cached in a USB flash drive since USB flash drives have a far faster seek-time compared to Hard disk drives - yes, even Raptors.

There is a lot of talk on Readyboost on the web, but the details are lacking. After googling a bit, here's my take:

1) FAT or FAT32 or NTFS?

Though FAT and FAT32 use less CPU overhead, I thought that FAT would be fastest. Turns out to be not so... I guess it's because today's CPUs are so fast that the CPU overhead is nothing at all. Here're some experimenter data:

Test run #1 (without thumbdrive):

* Average boot time: 1:10m ~ 70s

Test run #2 (FAT32 formatted, 1840MB ReadyBoost swap file):

* Average boot time: 1:13m ~ 73s

Test run #3 (NTFS formatted, 1840MB ReadyBoost swap file):

* Average boot time: 1:05m ~ 65s



2) Format the USB drive at what sector or cluster size?

This is simple. If you have tons of small files, cluster size is an issue, since the smallest files which can be generated and stored is the size of the cluster. So if you have a 4KB cluster size, a 1KB file in fact would still take 4KB. Since Vista uses ONE HUGE FILE, just the default cluster size would be fine. Or any cluster size would be fine. The one detail I haven't worked out is `whether USB drives have a native cluster size'. Anybody can tell me this? I'd be grateful.

3) Which USB flash drive works?

I used the Imation Thumbdrive Micro 1GB, and it worked like a charm.

Discussion thread here, almost everything covered!

Vista RC1 Keys available from Microsoft

Microsoft released Vista RC1 for public download, but did not give the keys. At this time, the official position was that only beta2 testers could get Vista RC1 working.

After googling a bit, I found that Microsoft left a backdoor for us to get the keys even though we are not beta2 guys....

procedure to get beta2 keys:

http://www.jkg.in/34-how-to-obtain-the-windows-vista-beta-2-key-serial-for-free.htm

Edit: Arrgh I think the link above is dead, I have dragged the following code from the depths of my desktop cache, hope it works:

  • Select your country and click the button labelled ‘Go’ or try using the form here:









  • (please click on the country selector. The country selector is the backdoor. Do not go to the microsoft homepage, coz it's changed)

    YOu can now download vista http://download.windowsvista.com/preview/rc1/en/download.htm

    Until July 07 then deactivate. I tested keys, all activated Vista without problems, to get ultimate edition.

    Enjoy!

    Get More Bandwidth by using a better Cable splitter

    http://www.fadfusion.com/imageresample.php?file=./images/products/large/20/2002/20029700082.jpg&newsize=200Thanks to the thread in here: the threadstarter found that his cable splitter was rusty, and changed it with positive results - more bandwidth.

    That got a discussion going. And sent me shopping. Here's what I found.

    Most cable splitters have these attributes:
    • Frequency: the best are 0-1000Mhz, but what I could easily find was 5-1000MHz.
    • dB loss: Signal loss for 1-Split-2 and 1-Split-3 is 3dB, but Signal loss for 1-Split-4 is 7dB.
    • Isolation: some of the splitters have electromagnetic noise isolation, ranges from 80-120dB, I bought the 120dB one.
    There is also a proper connection method: this post details it well:
    To achieve a 4 way split, it is advisable to get a 3 way splitter together with a 2 way splitter, rather than to get a 4 way splitter.

    4 way splitter will result in at least a 7dB drop in RF signal stregnth to each of the 4 taps. By using a 3 way spliiter, you at least get 2 taps with a 3.5dB drop. My recommendation is to connect your modem to one of the 3.5dB tap, and connect the 2 way splitter to the other 3.5bB tap, together achieveing a 4 way split.
    My results? I'm happier with my optimized connection than before. It's little trouble, so doing it gives you peace of mind and at least a psychological boost.


    Saturday, August 26, 2006

    Starhub changes HDTV programming


    After being subjected to months of old World Cup matches, finally Starhub is showing samples of DiscoveryHD and National Geographic HD. And they look BEAUTIFUL.

    Using the power of Blogger Beta


    From a `user' of blogging technology and not really a power blogger geek, Blogger Beta's new features are a god-send. I especially like the enhanced way that archived posts are presented in the javascript applet on the sidebar. And the organization of the page elements enable code to be put into a neat little box in authoring mode, makes things so much more clean and configurable.

    Here we are - the Tech-Biased Perspective in a new look.

    Wednesday, August 16, 2006

    MDA has some HDTV-related events coming up soon

    Just received an email from the MDA a few minutes ago. Here it is ad-verbatim.

    Dear Sir/Mdm,

    UPCOMING HDTV EVENTS

    Keen to learn more about High Definition (HD) Technology? Want to experiance HD broadcasting?

    We've got several interesting events that you can attend in August to discover more on HDTV and the benefits it offer. You can walk away with exclusive HDTV premiums or even stand a chance to win a 26” HD-Ready LCD TV. Read on for details!

    A. Exhibitions:

    1. HDTV Mobile Exhibition
    Date: 8 Aug to 31 Aug
    Venue: Level 1, Tampines Regional Library

    Discover the difference between High Definition and Analogue signals at our ongoing exhibition at the regional library outlets. Visitors stand to receive an exclusive HDTV premium when they complete a simple survey form.

    2. Evolution of TV: Getting You Ready for HD
    Date: 10 Aug to 31 Aug
    Venue: Level 7, Lee Kong Chian Reference Library, National Library Board Building
    Organized by Sony Singapore and supported by the MDA and NLB

    Experience the evolution of television technology from the first black and white sets to today’s state-of-the-art systems. Visitors stand to win a 26” HD-Ready LCD TV from Sony worth $1,599.

    B. Talks:

    1. Demystifying HD & Setting up a complete HD Cinema
    Date: 19 Aug, 20 Aug
    Venue: Changi/ Simei Room, Level 3, Tampines Regional Library
    Presented by Snazio

    Demystifying HD & Setting up a complete HD Cinema
    Discover the myths and realities of High-Definition (HD) technology and the various ways you can enjoy HD-quality entertainment.

    Time:

    Date: 19 Aug
    1.00pm - 1.30pm – Demystifying HD
    1.30pm - 2.00pm – Setting up a complete HD Cinema

    5.00pm - 5.30pm - Demystifying HD
    5.30pm - 6.00pm - Setting up a complete HD Cinema

    Date: 20 Aug
    1.00pm - 1.30pm – Demystifying HD
    1.30pm - 2.00pm – Setting up a complete HD Cinema

    2. The Big Picture & Demystifying HD
    Date: 27 Aug
    Venue: Changi/ Simei Room, Level 3, Tampines Regional Library

    The Big Picture presented by Chi Mei
    High Definition TV (HDTV) broadcasts are on the way! What kind of television will bring the richness of multimedia into your living room…now and into the future?

    Demystifying HD presented by Snazio
    Discover the myths and realities of High-Definition (HD) technology and the various ways you can enjoy HD-quality entertainment.

    Time:

    1.00pm - 1.30pm - The Big Picture
    1.30pm - 2.00pm - Demystifying HD

    5.00pm - 5.30pm - The Big Picture
    5.30pm - 6.00pm - Demystifying HD

    Admission is free to all events.

    For more updates, please visit www.hdtv-trial.sg for the latest HDTV developments and happenings.

    See you there!

    Best Regards
    Community & International Relations
    Media Development Authority

    Tuesday, August 15, 2006

    Starhub Maxonline Blocks Port 80 incoming

    OK I'm quite pissed. I spent a whole day configuring my Network Attached Storage (more on that in another post later) just to see that a normal http://xxx.dyndns.org didn't work from outside, but did work from inside. I did get the https://xxx.dyndns.org and ftp://xxx.dyndns.org to work though.

    After hours of terminal services out to get back in etc, my MIS Vincent suggested that Starhub may have blocked the port. I gave them a phone call, and they told me - yeah, all (incoming) port 80 connections are blocked to protect us from a virus.

    Hah! Likely story. Well I gave them a bit of my mind. Here it is, the text in full!

    Gmail Michael Tan

    MaxOnline Connection - Port 80 (A/c: XXXXXX)

    Michael Tan Tue, Aug 15, 2006 at 3:16 PM
    To: "helpdesk@starhub.com"

    Thank you for your message.

    Many many ports, are vulnerable to attack, including:

    port 135: Denial of Service, necessary for RPC
    port 445: sasser worm
    port 5554 sasser worm
    port 9996 sasser worm
    port 25: DOS, necessary for SMTP
    port 53: DOS, necessary for DNS transfers

    and the list goes on.

    You have not closed any of these ports, and in fact, opened up ports 135 - BUT left port 80 blocked. In the same breath, you state that closing port 80 does not interfere with `normal' use of the internet - where your opinion of the `normal usage' include surfing, gaming and email.

    For clarity, here's the governing clause:

    9. Use in a Network Environment
    a. You must not use or permit the use of the Service for the purposes of providing or operating any server services (including but not limited to HTTP/web, SMTP/mail and FTP/file transfer services).

    First, I take issue with your definition of `normal' usage. As we progress in the golden age of information technology, the use of the internet has expanded to many many other uses:

    1) Bit-torrent technology to download software (linux packages), game patches (world of Warcraft patches), etc. - in this application, your PC at home acts as a server to supply data to other bit-torrent clients - in many cases, port 80 is used, and blocking port 80 slows down the data flow.

    2) Linking a readily available IP camera to the web using Dynamic DNS technology, for your customers to view what's happening at home while they're at work. Port 80 is commonly used as default.

    3) Use of private storage as in Network Attached solutions readily available today, for your customers' data to be accessible anywhere in the world.

    So, your restriction 9A is now too wide for today's environment. The technology employed is so simplified today, and the applications so relevant to today's environment, that keeping point 9A unamended to reflect the new internet, is becoming untenable.

    I am not advocating full blown usage, but your initial position in 9A is untenable today. Perhaps, `no commercial use' should be a better filter of intentions to keep the spirit of the rule.

    Aesthetic considerations - today, incredibly easy Dynamic DNS free services give you a url to link to your dynamic IP address. To litter it with a hard to type `port suffixes' makes it rather user unfriendly, and requires complex configuration beyond the ken of normal users. Take a look at this address: http://niceaddress.dynamic.com:8081 - very cumbersome, right?

    Thank you for your email, though. I would appreciate it if you could forward it to your management for further consideration.


    --
    ____________________________________________
    Michael Tan
    michaeltanyk@gmail.com
    http://miketan.blogspot.com
    RSS/XML Feed: http://miketan.blogspot.com/atom.xml



    On 8/15/06, helpdesk@starhub.com <helpdesk@starhub.com> wrote:
    Dear Michael

    Thank you for contacting StarHub.

    We wish to inform you that Port 80 has been closed permanently to
    protect customers against viruses, e.g. Code Red (which exploits this
    port to circulate itself). This move is consistent with some ISPs
    around the world.

    Since Port 80 is used mainly for server applications which is against
    the Terms and Conditions as stated on
    http://www.starhub.com/termsandconditions/infocom_serterms_mo.html
    (point 9.a), closing this port will not affect normal Internet
    activities such as surfing, gaming and email etc.

    If you have any questions on StarHub Digital Cable and MaxOnline
    services, please call us on our Customer Care hotline at 1633 (+65
    6820 1633 from overseas), email to this address or fax in to 6725
    1603.


    Best regards

    Vincent Kwee
    Customer Care - Online





    StarHub Ltd. Reg. No.: 199802208C This email is confidential and privileged. If you are not the intended recipient, you must not view, disseminate, use or copy this email. Kindly notify the sender immediately, and delete this email from your system. Thank you. Please visit our website at www.starhub.com




    Friday, July 28, 2006

    The Human Mind vs the mindless march of technology

    Check out Cnet's special feature on the ten year old Apple Newton vs the brand new Samsung Q1 UMPC. The Apple Newton wins. Surprise... yeah.

    The human mind, if intensely focussed towards creating something bespoke, in this case, a Newton handheld PC, vs taking a mishmash of technology, none of them bespoke, and concentrating on the off the shelf components and trying to keep costs down, it's no surprise:

    When a human mind is dedicated towards the creation of a handheld PC, SPECIFICALLY, without heed to cost nor uniformity nor UI conformity nor anything else, the result can surpass 10 years of technology advancement.

    Samsung shouldn't be embarassed, being in this case the glorified mindless manufacturer. But Microsoft should be, with their billions at their disposal, and 10 years of standing on the shoulders of giants, and yet not being able even to create an OS interface and subsidiary technologies to approximate the decade-old Newton.

    When is this mindlessness going to stop, Microsoft? I'm tired of it.

    Monday, July 24, 2006

    Creative - watcha gonna do?

    Here's a best guess report on the new Microsoft Zune Ipod killer. Seems to be a Microsoft branded product. While not detracting from the Ipod, it looks cool in a bland sort of way.

    It's boring, period. The only thing left to speak about, is - what about those guys who used Microsoft middleware and software to make their own Ipod killers? Especially Creative - what are you gonna do now that Microsoft is rolling out their own branded PMPs?

    Be a contract manufacturer for Micorosoft? Not a bad idea though, considering the quantum of success Creative's had with their own brands.

    Wednesday, July 19, 2006

    JAJAH - free phone to phone, anywhere, any phone


    Just take a look at http://jajah.com

    Finally, phone to phone conversations, potentially free, between any phone anywhere in the world. All you have to do is to register your phone numbers at Jajah, access a web page, key in your call receipient's phone number, and press call. Phone to phone VOIP, simply!

    `Potentially free' is because it's only free if your receipient's phone number is also registered with Jajah. But this isn't an issue. You could simply register your `computer blind' friends with Jajah using other email addresses under your name, and their numbers are registered, not strictly correctly, but sufficient to make free calls to them.

    And you can SMS too, through the browser, but at US$0.045 per SMS, even between registered users, I think there're cheaper solutions elsewhere.

    So, what if you're out without a computer? Shouldn't be a problem, if your mobile phone has a web browser. I faced issues though, accessing the Jajah webpage gave me parsing errors on my Sony Ericsson M600 phone browser (Opera 8.6). Will be looking for a solution.

    In the meantime, just call away.

    Update: The thing is that Jajah checks your IP, determines the network location, then fixes your country code. So this limits you to some extent if you try to register for people outside your country. Some countries (specifically Malaysia) have a problem - they can't register. Perhaps Jajah withdrew support for Malaysia.

    For the lucky ones in free countries, my M600 is working now, with Opera Mini 2.0, downloadable from http://mini.opera.com

    Monday, July 17, 2006

    New Firmware released for Starhub's ADB 3800C box

    New Firmware for Starhub ADB 3800C box was released last week. After updating, the audio dropout issue has not been rearing its head so far. I'm monitoring and will keep you posted.

    Update: I've monitored, the dropout issue is less, but yet, still occurs.

    Wednesday, July 12, 2006

    TVUplayer - Peer to peer streaming playback

    Imagine a video player, with the capability to suck streaming video from your peers, connected to all the broadcasters of the world. Broadcasters will not need to have huge fat connections as feeds will, after the initial seed is planted in a peer, be fed peer to peer without needing any more service from the broadcaster itself. Stuff of nerd utopia?

    Well, this is now reality. TVUnetworks is offering such a player, in beta, for free. How he handles the legality, I don't know. It seems to be legal. He is open to the world, even his address is available. The World Cup was rebroadcasted to tens of thousands using this technology.

    What does this mean? The quality is excellent, with a 100kB/s total feed from 15 peers, we have better than Starhub SD quality. Do cable operators have to move up to HD totally just to escape TVUnetworks and its brethen? Even then, there is no theoretical limit to the delivery capability of peer-to-peer streaming. Even 6Mbit/s HD can be delivered now if the upstream datarate in a region is good. With Docsis 3 bonding, wow, we'll have even less limits.

    What is sure, is that Slingbox is dead. TVUplayer does not need any configuration, any hardware, etc. Any broadcaster wanting to go it alone, like Mediacorp's Mobtv.sg better review their business plan, perhaps to work with TUVnetworks, solving all their bandwidth issues.

    Incredible stuff. I'll keep you guys posted. Now for HBO on TVUplayer.

    Tuesday, July 11, 2006

    Audio Dropouts - ADB 3800C HDMI

    Since the very beginning of the Starhub HD trial, I faced an audio dropout issue. Every few minutes, the audio would drop for 2 seconds or so, then resume. After the single firmware upgrade available, I still face the audio dropout problem, but less. This problem occurs in HD, and SD channels too. Just to clarify, this issue ONLY happens for me if I use HDMI audio. I did not try the AC3 out - but the stereo jacks don't give the issue.

    The last time I faced such an issue with digital video, in digital video editing, this is the problem - I'm not saying that the SCV HDMI audio dropout problem is exactly this problem, but perhaps the problem I faced years ago can raise some ideas on how to troubleshoot among the SCV people.

    The old steadfast Sony M1 DV codec chip used in some video editing systems, supports a standard called 'locked audio' in DVCAM systems. In locked audio format, the audio output must be set to exactly 32032hz per second, otherwise the chip will not accept the audio in sync. The Sony consumer DV cameras are also designed to record/output audio in and around that frequency, averaging around 32032hz for every second.

    However, in the Canon XL1 the audio frequency changed heavily for every second, sometimes with differences of more than 20 to 30hz between seconds. This caused the average audio frequency was around 32053hz for every seconds. When Canon 32053hz audio mixed with Sony 32032hz audio, in a video editing system using the Sony M1 DV codec chip, the audio sync will be way off, and unusable. The symptom is EXACTLY what I see in the Starhub HDMI audio - dropouts at irregular intervals. I remember the dropouts very well, the resemblance is uncanny. The dropouts will happen once the sync goes to hell and the audio buffers reach their limit, the chip will try to flush the buffers to reset the sync, causing an audio dropout in the process.

    The solution: When capturing, the video editing system will look at the first second (store it in the buffer) and measure the sampling rate, and if that sampling rate was outside the range of 32026hz to 32038hz, the editing system will consider the camera as an XL1 and capture audio as 32053hz per second. After sampling as 32053hz per second, it will convert the audio to 48048hz, and then convert back to 32032hz, to create an .AVI file. This is to create an .AVI file that is compatible with other cameras.

    Credit to Charles Burmeister in DVinfo.net in jogging my memory.

    What this means to Starhub broadcasts, is that the sampling rate of the audio streams broadcasted by Starhub's DVB-C system, may be `slightly' out of the max and min parameters which the set top box's HDMI transmitter can handle. OR, the ADB 3800C box does internal audio conversion (HDMI stage), and outputs the audio via the HDMI which sampling rate are out of the min or max parameters of the TV's audio system can take, again causing a sync issue. Or both, of course. Both ways, it points to the HDMI transmitter chip - since stereo jacks don't have an issue. I've yet to experiment with the AC3 optical out, but Starhub guys can do that, I don't have time for that now.

    Because the sampling rate may not be fixed, this will create dropouts not at regular intervals, but irregular intervals. It can range from hours without a dropout issue, or just 30 to 40 seconds.

    Starhub officials who see this, may it give you a little idea on how to fix it. Worst is that the ADB box has a stability issue with the system clocks.

    If it is indeed an audio sampling issue, the following problems can be eliminated:

    1) TV's AC3 decoder problems - cannot be, because everybody here have different TV, and most experience the issue. Anyway, our TVs work fine with the AC3 output from our HDMI DVD players.

    2) Source video issues - cannot be. All your source is like that. Worse, I am experiencing lipsync issues with your mediacorp content! Which I did not experience with the old Digital set top box or analog set top box.

    3) Cable issues - cannot be. I used 3-4 different HDMI cables already.

    4) Signal Strength - Nah. I have 100% quality with very low Biterror rate according to the Starhub contractor.

    It might be a HDMI transmitter issue (most probably Silicon Image)... other devices have this issue also: see http://forum.ecoustics.com/bbs/messages/2/162876.html

    Anyway, over to you, Starhub.

    Edit: With more research, so many similar problems on the net, just search for `HDMI audio dropout' in google. I am indeed quite convinced that the HDMI transmitter chip on the ADB 3800C has some issues. Refer to this link here for best evidence. I quote:
    Observation; audio would drop every few seconds and "digital" would blink on amp indicating no optical sync at all. Each time audio would come back there would be a slight glitch in a part of the picture as well. Appears to have been recorded this way as I could replay the problem.
    So every audio drop, optic sync is `gone'. The HDMI transmitter is probably emptying its buffers. Then the sync comes back. C'mon, this is a good lead for the troubleshooting!

    And I urge Starhub to try with AC3 out (optic) and see whether you have the same issue or not. I would expect that the AC3 out has no issues. If so, wham, you got your culprit - the HDMI transmitter.

    Friday, July 07, 2006

    Removal of Mr. Brown link

    I've had a Mr. Brown link since the Te Kwa days in my small collection of links. I'm removing Mr. Brown's link at this time. I'm disturbed by the implications of Mr. Brown's act of censorship of certain comments in a his comments page where hundreds of people are commenting on the lack of free speech.

    Thursday, July 06, 2006

    mrbrown `Today' column suspended

    This has nothing to do with tech.

    I don't give much heed to what mrbrown says, as his issues don't concern me much. But he sure is funny. Since I like TRANSPARENCY, and since the entity which suspended him is a newspaper, and since a few thousand people visit this blog, just be informed of the suspension. Original here: http://www.mrbrown.com/blog/2006/07/regarding_today.html

    Edit 6pm 7 July 2006: Also in the interests of TRANSPARENCY, I declare that at least 1 comment, by a user who calls himself IRCTP, who posted some comments not in line with that of most of the other commenters on the `regarding today' blogpost, was deleted by mrbrown at or around 5.45 pm today. To be clear, Mr. Brown has a right to delete that blogpost as he controls the site. It shows that in certain circumstances, he does not feel that open debate is the best thing.

    Which is similar to the reputed government behaviour of course.

    While I am not endorsing any censorship, I merely with to put on record and public view the act of deletion - which he did without notification or explanation.

    Tuesday, June 27, 2006

    More Support for Progressive HD tranmissions

    My letter to MDA chief for HD has not yet been answered. Anyway, here's something I came across while doing some other research in my line of work.

    EBU recommendation for a progressive approach to HD in Europe

    I'll write more about it soon. In any case, the EBU supports HD transmissions in Progressive, and gives well weighted reasons for it. Take a look yourself.

    Excerpt:
    EBU Project Group B/TQE looked objectively at the technical case for retaining interlaced scanning or using progressive scanning. Although it may be surprising, the group has not been able to find technical arguments to support the continued use of interlaced scanning in the circumstances being considered. These are the delivery of new HD services to progressively scanned receivers, in an environment where advanced bitrate reduction is available. The technical arguments that we have found come down in favour of progressive scanning.
    If any of this means anything to you, you could drop an email to the MDA chief of the HD programme: yeo_chun_cheng@mda.gov.sg Do it before it's too late. We stand at the cusp of HD adoption in Singapore. If we are too late, we will never be able to do the right thing. For those who came in late, MDA has announced that they will standardize on an interlaced 1080i format as reported in the Straits Times. It may be a wrong decision, and one should let the government reconsider or at least address this question. After all, it is taxpayers' money, and I am a taxpayer and so may you be.


    powered by performancing firefox

    Why Wimbledon HD not shown through Starhub?

    The Wimbledon championships is yet another golden platform to show off Starhub's new HD service.

    http://www.tvtechnology.com/features/news/2006.06.14-n_BBC.shtml

    WHY IN THE WORLD is Starhub not showing Wimbledon HD during our Starhub trials? The content is already licensed from ESPN, does it cost so much extra to put it into channel 300 or 301???

    Toshiba's HD-DVD player is a PC!



    Actually, Toshiba's first HD-DVD player is actually a .... PC! Isuppli tore down a player, and the secret's out!

    http://www.eetimes.com/rss/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=189600999

    It's an Intel PC with 1GB memory and tons of other subsidiary chips.

    This is why I say, this year, the HTPC is really gonna boom! Even Toshiba has bowed to the power and flexibility of a PC.

    When are you gonna get a HTPC? Abit can supply you a HDMI motherboard real soon for the new Conroe chips. I'll probably build a expandable, customizable ultra high quality HTPC as soon as Conroe ships.

    Friday, June 23, 2006

    Hands Off the Internet

    This is an animated cartoon about the future of the Internet:

    http://www.internetofthefuture.org/


    This site set up obviously by telcos or a group of telcos, hosted at 1and1.com. The summary of it - Telcos who spend lots of cash to put in more bandwidth, want to segment the bandwidth to `premium' bandwidth and `normal' bandwidth, where presumably the premium bandwidth will be more expensive but offer assured service levels. But te US Congress wants `net neutrality' - and if the US Congress gets what it wants, it will be illegal for any company to segment bandwidth this way at least within the US.

    This affects us. What is illegal in the US will mean that we don't get the technology to do all this in Asia. And we probably can't depend on Europe.

    To me, hey, more power to you, big business. Do what you want. Let the public decide.
    Nobody knows the business as well as business. And I believe that free market Competition will suffice to act as a check and balance against overcharging.

    Obviously not what the commies at The Register believe ... to hell with questioning the justifications. If Big Business wants to charge more, so be it. Why has our faith in the invisible hand of the free market wavered so far???

    Let's put it this way - if government wants to control, they probably gotta pay (unless they put a gun to the telco's head, and I believe the USA has not reached this desperate situation, yet) and if government pays, it's the public money. If the government of the USA decides to pay for it, it might create a dangerous precedent for OUR government. And I'd really rather not pay since I really don't use that much bandwidth. Look, just a thousand or so visitors to this blog (which is in the USA) don't take as much bandwidth as Mr. Brown's 50K visitors! Let Mr. Brown pay!