Got a 3G Dongle? Know your limit!

July 29, 2009

So have you got a 3G dongle?

Do you know your limit?

Do you know how much you will be charged if you go over that limit?

If you’re on O2 and go over by just 1GB you would be facing a £100 bill!

The BBC reports on the issue of 3G bandwidth caps on mobile broadband services.

Mobile broadband users face stiff penalties for exceeding their download limits even though most aren’t aware of what those limits are.

I use a Vodafone 3G dongle and though the Windows software (on a single computer) does measure how much data use the Mac connection software (in other words what I normally use) doesn’t. Generally I guess that my usage is fine as I don’t use the dongle everyday and rely on my home and work internet connections and not just the mobile broadband connection.

However I know some people and some learners have a 3G dongle for their internet and that’s it! Using a 3G dongle everyday would be getting close to their limits if they were downloading podcasts and watching online video.

Do you have a 3G dongle? Do you know your limit?

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G2 mobile phone now available in the UK

July 28, 2009

After the Google G1, many people have been waiting for the second incarnation.

Well you need to wait no longer, T-Mobile now have the Google G2 mobile phone on their website.

t-mobileg2

Capture and share the fun with the T-Mobile G2 Touch. The 5 megapixel camera captures the moment, then its just one touch to load your pictures and videos to Facebook, Flicker and Twitter. You can get comments on your photos instantly with alerts straight to your phone, and even check out your friends’ online albums in the live gallery. Get online and make it your own: there are thousands of great applications available to download from Android Market™. And communicate your way using the large interactive touchscreen.

The specifications aren’t exactly detailed, but looks like it can do everything that the G1 can do. There is now a 5Mp camera, and like the G1 can do video, mp3, web, etc…

So am I going to get one?

No, just got an iPhone 3GS so unlikely to get the G2 now.

I am not a fan of the design or styling, a little too plastic like and what’s with the weird bend for the microphone. I can understand it for ensuring that the microphone is closer to the mouth, but the design just confuses me, it doesn’t work from a design perspective.


The coffee is still usually better…

July 28, 2009

Those of you who know me will know that I quite like online conferences and have participated in a fair few over the years. JISC are running another of their innovating e-learning conferences this November.

The JISC Online e-Learning Conference 2009 takes place between the 24 and 27th November.

Train delays, expensive hotels and piles of notes are a thing of the past for delegates joining JISC’s latest e-learning conference – because the whole programme takes place online.

Researchers, practitioners and managers with an interest in technology for learning are being encouraged to sign up now for the fourth online conference ‘Innovating E-Learning’ on 24 – 27 November 2009.

Delegates can interact in real-time sessions, watch presenters on video, meet other delegates in the virtual coffee shop, and comment on the conference using Twitter.

Conference organiser Sarah Knight said: “Innovating E-Learning gives people a chance to take a step back from their everyday work and look at technology from a different and innovative angle.

“Perhaps most importantly, JISC wants to provide a space for researchers and teachers to discuss the challenges facing their institutions with the keynote speakers and delegates from all over the world.”

Keynote speakers include Helen Beetham, the author and researcher who has played a leading role in the JISC e-learning programme, Dr Rhona Sharpe, principal lecturer at the Oxford centre for staff  and learning development at Oxford Brookes University, and Peter Bradwell, researcher at the think tank Demos.

They will explore topics ranging from the basic principles of using technology in education, to helping overseas learners and meeting the needs of employers.

Sarah added: “By sharing ideas and good practice universities and colleges can make sure that they stay up-to-date on new developments.”

Four years from its inception, the online conference continues to receive positive feedback.

One delegate at last year’s event commented: “For me, it is the most wonderful experience to be able to sit back and listen to so many knowledgeable people chatting away in such an accessible way about things I care about. I normally follow a number of mailing lists, blogs and social spaces, but being here is like having all that up-to-date information condensed and available at my fingertips.”

To register and find out more, visit the conference website.

There are a few advantages of online conferences over traditional face to face conferences, feel free to add to them in the comments.

With an online conference it is feasible to go to all the presentations and workshops even if they are at the *same time*.

If you are a reflective person, then like me the question you actually want to ask the presenter is thought of as you travel home on the train, with an online conference you have a chance to reflect and ask that question.

You can attend a meeting at the same time as attending the conference.

You can teach a lesson at the same time as attending the conference.

You can watch Doctor Who at the same time as attending the conference.

You can attend the conference at 2am, useful for insomniacs and those with small children.

Having said all that it is useful too to make time for the conference, shut the office door, work from home for a bit, wear headphones, move to a different office, work in the coffee spaces in the college.

You can see presentations again, you can pause them, you can ignore them and (virtually) walk out without feeling you may be offending someone as their talk doesn’t relate to you as you thought it did.

No more do you have to stand on platform 12 at Bristol Temple Meads wondering if the delayed 18.19 is in fact ever going to arrive before you freeze to death.

The coffee is usually better.

The coffee is usually better...

A few disadvantages as well…

No bag, so nothing to add to that huge collection at the back of the cupboard in the office…

No physical freebies, no mouse mats or mugs…

Finally the JISC have asked if I will be the conference blogger again, hmmm, do they realise what they have done….

Go, you’ll enjoy it.


ILT Champions Informal Conference Report

July 25, 2009

ilt0903

A report I wrote on the informal ILT Champions Conference has been published in the ALT Newsletter.

James Clay reports on the second ILT Champions Informal Conference, which took place at Gloucestershire College in April.

Read the full article.


Microblogging

July 25, 2009

Nice little simple video from JISC on microblogging.

Also available on blip.tv with more information on the project blog.


Usability of websites on mobile devices

July 24, 2009

Jakob Nielsen has been undertaking some usability testing of websites using mobile devices.

His conclusion:

In user testing, website use on mobile devices got very low scores, especially when users accessed “full” sites that weren’t designed for mobile.

Doesn’t surprise me. Websites are usually designed by designers and often they focus on how it looks then how it works. This is bad enough when using a browser on a computer, but when it comes a mobile device as Jakob’s study shows, it doesn’t work well or doesn’t work at all.

The number of mobile devices is increasing and the amount of mobile web usage is going up as well. Designers of websites and e-learning content need to consider mobile devices now rather than wait until it is too late.

iPhone


Likewise

July 23, 2009

Bill Thompson in his BBC column covers a couple of issues I have discussed before on this blog, lack of 3G and conference wifi.

Firstly Bill has been on holiday and has been “suffering” from a lack of connectivity.

I have just endured a week of limited connectivity and it has given me a salutary lesson in what life is like for the digitally dispossessed here in the UK and around the world.

I have been driven to searching for open wireless access points so that I can download my e-mail, sometimes wandering the beach looking for elusive 3G signals just to get my Facebook status updated.

He was on the Norfolk coast and it reminded me of my holiday last November on the Suffolk coast which I blogged about.

Lovely place, however connectivity was seriously lacking. The place we were staying at had no internet which generally isn’t an issue for me as I have a 3G USB stick (or I use my phone as a tethered modem or using JoikuSpot as a wireless hotspot).

However despite the area being very trendy and popular could I get a mobile phone signal? No I could not! No signal from T-Mobile or Vodafone…

As a result I had no connectivity apart from when we travelled to an area with a mobile phone signal or at a place with wifi.

boat

My similar experiences to Bill should remind us that we should never take connectivity for granted and that though 3G is great it still does not cover all of the UK. We when designing websites and e-learning content need to remember that not all our learners will have fast broadband speeds or good 3G connections.Using video and audio is great (you can even now have HD video on the web as seen in this video I put up recently).

As I summarised in my blog post:

It did make me think about those learners who don’t have easy access to the internet, and despite falling costs of both broadband and 3G it can still be sometimes impossible to get online as the area itself does not have broadband or 3G coverage. Rural and coastal areas are often places with minimal 3G coverage and broadband access. Using 3G at 7.2Mbps in the centre of London streaming video and browsing really fast makes you sometimes forget that in some areas this is an impossibility.

As well as having issues with 3G in Norfolk, Bill also had problems with wifi at a conference he was at.

We had wifi access inside the theatre as the conference included tutorials on social networks and online engagement, and the audience were encouraged to contribute questions online so they could be displayed on the screen behind the speakers.

Unfortunately the wifi stopped working about half-way through the first session of the day, and those of us with smartphones and laptop dongles were forced to resort to slower 3G connections.

The reason given was:

It appeared that we had overwhelmed the capacity of the wireless network that the venue had set up for us..I talked to the IT support engineer and he asked me how many of us were trying to connect, and I told him I estimated that thirty to forty people were using laptops and probably the same number had wifi-enabled smartphones. After he had recovered from the shock he explained that the wifi router they had installed could only support twenty simultaneous connections and had crashed when we all tried to log on.

This is now happening too often at events I go to; I blogged about this back in October last year.

One thing I have noticed attending a few events recently is that the wireless networks have been unable to cope with the large number of delegates wanting to use it.

A few years (or even just a year ago) if you attended an event with free wireless, there were probably just a few of you who used it with their laptops. Today if you attend an event, you may find that everyone (virtualy everyone) has a laptop and if not a laptop then a PDA or a phone or an entertainment device with wifi capability.

As a result the wireless networks can not cope… Generally this happens because most wireless routers can only deal with a limited number of wireless clients.

With many more people with laptops, netbooks, wifi enabled phones conference venues need to have a much better infrastructure to cope with the wireless. Likewise if we are to be encouraged to amplify the conference through social media and social networking then we need decent connectivity. If we are also going to live stream video and audio from the conference then we need more than decent connectivity we need excellent connectivity.

I recall an Apple Keynote at WWDC in 2007 when video iChat was demonstrated I believe that due to issues with the entire audience using the 802.11g network, they used 802.11a to ensure that the demo worked.

Sometimes it can work. At the MoleNET Conference at the Emirates stadium which was awash with mobile wireless kit and the LSN had ensured that a robust infrastructure was in place and it worked really well.

Of course it is not just wifi, if everyone has an iPhone at the conference, then there will be issues with 3G connectivity as happened at SXSW in Texas this year. 3G does not work as well inside as it does outside which is one factor, but as happened at SXSW too many people using 3G devices means that there is insufficient bandwidth for everyone. The solution at SXSW was bringing in extra capacity to meet the demand.

Demand is another issue with ADSL and contention ratios. Despite the hype and advertising, for some (me included) it is impossible to get more than 1Mb download speed on ADSL due to not only distance from the exchange but also the contention ratio as more and more consumers sign up for broadband.

What Bill’s column and my blog articles show is that we can’t take (at this time) connectivity for granted, for some it will be restricted because of geography and for others because of excess demand, we need to remember that.