Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Orange iPhone 3GS - No Service, Dropped Calls and Poor signal

Thanks to the patience of the staff at the Orange store at Hempstead Valley Gillingham (Thanks to Gareth, Dario and Fran) my iPhone has finally gone back to Orange. Due to the poor signal received in the ME8 postcode area Orange agreed to cancel the contract and return the phone as there was no guarantee that a replacement iPhone would have any better signal strength.

The latest problems were missed calls when there was full 3G signal showing on the phone and dropping calls mid way through, again when the iPhone initially showed full signal strength. It appears that the iPhone has much more sensitivity to poor signal and moving the phone can affect the aerial so that calls drop even when signal shows as good. Comparison with a non-iPhone mobile on the Orange network shows that iPhone signal strength can be 1 or 2 bars lower which would account for the signal problems encountered if the coverage is patchy.

I have been very impressed with the iPhone 3GS itself and as both O2 and Vodafone have stronger coverage in the area I will be taking out a new contract with one of them once I receive my PAC code from Orange.

[The process of moving a transferred number for a cancelled contract is very convoluted but can be done! You firstly need your contract phone to be reverted to its original number (ie the one before your number was ported into the network). Once this happens you need to register a PAYG SIM with a new number, your phone number can then be transferred onto the PAYG phone to preserve it. You can then request a PAC code to transfer your number to a new network - got that?! Sadly Orange only supply PAC codes by post unlike 3 that send by text message thus speeding up the whole process.]

UPDATE - The difference in service between the O2 and Orange networks in the area is marked. Orange certainly have much higher 3G network coverage than O2 but the way the iPhone operates between the Orange and O2 networks is also different.

The Orange iPhone appears to hold on to a 3G signal for as long as possible even if the service has dropped to one bar, sometimes even getting to the No Service message. The O2 iPhone seems to be much more aggressive with its switching between 2G and 3G networks to presumably avod the dreaded No Service message. The downside is that on O2 the phone is more frequently on the 2G network but does have full signal. Another finding is that the iPhone does seem to have lower coverage at a specific location than a standard Nokia 3G handset.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Orange iPhone No Service on Orange Network : iPhone Searching and 2G/3G Mobile network switching problems [O2 iPhone comparison with Orange]

[Latest update - this seems to be quite a common problem as Orange customer services are receiving many calls about it and this blog is receiving lots of hits about "orange iphone no service". Further testing I have done shows that for any network the iPhone does seem to have lower network coverage at a specific location than a standard Nokia 3G handset, perhaps one of the compromises of cramming so much into a compact device.]

I have purchased an iPhone on the Orange network and have been finding some signal/network coverage problems with the phone that appear to be quite common.

Sometimes the phone seems to lose all signal and show either "No Service" or "Searching" errors. This appears to be related to the phone not being able to switch between 2G and 3G networks fast enough.

There are also several articles that mention that this problem with the Orange iPhone may be related to OS (firmware) 3.1.2 although it has been happening for some time before this as well.

The phone itself is fantastic and an incredibly useful device - just a little frustrating when the phone shows no service when you know there is coverage in the area.

UPDATE - As you may see from later posts I have now cancelled my Orange iPhone contract and now moved to O2. The difference in service between the networks in the area is marked. Orange certainly have much higher 3G network coverage where signal exists but the way the iPhone operates between the Orange and O2 networks is also quite different.
The Orange iPhone appears to attempt to hold on to a 3G signal for as long as possible even if the service has dropped to one bar or even getting to the No Service message. The O2 iPhone seems to be much more aggressive with its switching between 2G and 3G networks to presumably avod the dreaded No Service message. The downside is that on O2 the phone is more frequently on the 2G (GPRS/EDGE) network but does have full signal. Another finding is that the iPhone does seem to have lower coverage at a specific location than a standard Nokia 3G handset.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

How not to design a website : Council pays A Councillor's Own Company over the odds for parish website

It has been brought to my attention that Langley Parish council have recently paid a company run by one of their local parish councillors to design and build a website for Langley village in Kent.

Apart from the obvious conflict of interest in voting to pay yourself to do work for your own parish council the design of the website is unbelievably poor and extremely difficult to navigate.

A free option for parish councils is available from Kent County Council that allows local parishes to maintain their own websites and content - all at no cost to them. Despite this Langley Parish Council appear to have decided to pay a company run by one of their councillors over £6000 to produce a website for them. In addition the councillor's company are being paid over £100 per month to maintain the site. All of this would have been available for no cost from KCC and any member of the parish council could have updated the site.

You can view the £6000 Langley Parish website here and compare it to the Linton parish website that is run for free by Kent County Council. Which do you think is the easier to view and navigate and better value for money? Do you really believe that the Langley website is worth £6000? In fact the records appear to show that the total spent on the site is approaching £13,000. It would seem to be virtually impossible to justify this level of spending on the quality of website provided.

According to the minutes of Langley Parish Council, no mention is made of any personal interest in the decision being made - despite the councillor (Hans Dieter Reichert) being part of the council making the decision. Make your own minds up whether this is a case of corrupt practice by our locally elected representatives or just an example of a parish council wasting public money for no reason.
You can find out more about this story on the Lenham Net website.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Backing up your photos and data cheaply to USB Hard drive

With most people now having several years worth of digital photos stored on their PC it is becoming more and more important to ensure that your valuable digital media is properly backed up. PC hard drives do not last forever and it is all too easy to forget to copy your photos to a secure location until it is too late.

We use a large server to store and backup all our digital media files (photos and video) plus important documents but affordable solutions are available for little outlay.

If you purchase a 1Tb (terabyte = 1000 Gb gigabyte) external USB hard drive (around £60) you can connect this to your PC to enable backups to be made. There are various free software packages that will manage this backup process for you. If you configure this software it can automatically copy any new or changed files from your PC to the external USB drive making sure that copies are available in the event of a hard drive crash.

Some of the software you can use is SyncToy (free from Microsoft) or DeltaCopy (open source). The configuration of DeltaCopy is more complex but it is a powerful piece of software that we use.

SyncToy is free but can easily be setup and be scheduled to run every time your PC starts or you can run it when you want.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Windows XP Home with network passwords

I recently installed a new media server with attached printer to share across the network. My normal PC running XP pro worked fine, saving the network details and connecting without problems each time after a reboot.

I then found that one of the machines on the network running Windows XP Home was unable to save the network password and therefore unable to display the network shares without entering the password every time the machine was rebooted. It also meant that the shared network printer would not work at all on the XP Home machine as it was expecting a password to be entered - it was possible to use it if a network share was activated before attempting to print. It appears that this "feature" is part of XP Home and there is no facility for saving network passwords in this version of XP.

I have now resolved the problem by swapping the PC for one running XP Professional and all is now working without any issues.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Remote Desktop Connection

I routinely use Remote Desktop (RDP) to connect to my other PCs without having to connect a keyboard & monitor. Until recently I had a problem where I couldn't copy/paste to clipboard whenever I was using Remote Desktop connections.

Various internet searches showed some info but nothing that matched my scenario. Yesterday I checked versions and realised I was still running RDP v5.1 that comes with Windows XP. I upgraded to the latest RDP v6 from Microsoft website (free download) and amazingly the problem has now completely disappeared. Copy & paste works perfectly even when RDP connections are open - result!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Windows XP - Copy & Paste Not Working

I came across a rather odd and obscure problem today. Using Windows XP on a new PC I was suddenly unable to copy & paste data between applications either using mouse or keyboard shortcuts of CTRL-C and CTRL-V which was very frustrating!

Nothing seemed to be any different and a few searches on Google didn't throw up any info until one link that appeared to link the problem to Remote Desktop. I use this software to connect to other machines on my network including my server. For some reason Remote Desktop (rdp) appears to have taken over the Copy/Paste function and prevents other applications using it.

The solution was to close Remote Desktop COnnection (RDP) which restored Copy & Paste back to normal.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Microsoft Virtual PC

Virtualisation is currently a hot topic with market leader VMWare offering some of its software under Open Source licence agreements. Microsoft has also released its own desktop virtualisation software called Virtual PC. This is available as a free download from the Microsoft website.

The beauty of virtualisation is that you can run multiple operating systems on the same hardware and at the same time. Previously to run different operating systems you needed to perform multiple installations and choose which system to boot at startup.

Virtualisation performs differently. You install your operating system as normal which is designated the "host" system. Virtual PC is then installed on this and allows additional "guest" operating systems to be installed. You can flick between operating systems as easily as clicking between different application windows. One restriction is the capability of the hardware that you are running the software on but assuming this is sufficiently specified it is very easy to test out different operating systems or different software on the same OS.

I will shortly be testing Windows 7 using Virtual PC on my Vista 64 system and will detail the results that I find.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Open Source Software Comes of Age

I've been using Open Source software for many years but have not felt it was always suitable for business use - until now.

There are now many Open Source software products that can easily replace the equivalent Microsoft or proprietary offering and save substantial amounts of money which is no bad thing in the current climate.

Open Source software can include Linux and associated applications but there are also many Open Source programmes for Windows such as Open Office which is a fully-featured Office suite to replace MS Office.

One of my favourite applications is Joomla which is an Open Source Content Management System (CMS) suitable for use on your website or intranet. Compared to a product such as MS Sharepoint this could save massive amounts of money. I am aware of a company spending many thousands just on Sharepoint user licences before looking at the server licencing and implementation costs. With Joomla the only costs are the implementation consultancy - potentially cutting the costs of a project dramatically.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Netbooks - The future of laptops?

I recently bought an Acer Aspire One known as a netbook. This ulta-portable laptop is much smaller and lighter than a traditional laptop but still sports a 120Gb hard disc, 1Gb RAM and fast processor along with built-in wireless networking.

It is so portable it can be carried virtually anywhere and with the expandability offered by the 3 USB ports and external video output it is an extremely versatile device. For many uses it could replace a traditional laptop as it is brings all the virtues that a laptop was meant to offer but in a more portable design. Standard laptops have now become very bloated and it is easy to see why netbooks are becoming so popular.

My netbook allows me to check my email on the move, backup images to the hard drive from memory cards and even carry out basic web editing and photo loading without needing to use the main desktop or laptop. As it is so light it can be carried in another bag without even noticing the weight.

My verdict - the netbook is an extremely versatile device that I now found invaluable and I think it shows the future of mobile computing.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Another Reason to Not Use Internet Explorer

If you have read my photography blog I've recently upgraded my PC to a new Quad core machine with 8Gb RAM running Windows Vista 64. Unfortunately there are still a number of programmes that are not compatible with 64 bit operating systems like Vista. In particular the version of Internet Explorer 7 supplied with Vista is 64 bit which means many plugins such as Adobe Flash will not work with it.

Firefox 3 works perfectly so that is the route I will be taking for my web browser in conjunction with Google Chrome.

Looks like another reason not to use IE7 as more and more people move to 64bit Operating Systems to get the benefits of larger amounts of RAM.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Hoax Virus Warnings

I'm always surprised by the number of fake and spoof virus warnings that still circulate despite being well out of date and with very common themes that highlight that it isn't genuine.

If you receive an email from anyone claiming to be a virus warning that needs to be passed on to everyone in your address book then the chances are that it is a hoax and purely an attempt to clog email systems and propagate a myth. If the message also claims that the warning was issued by Microsoft, AOL or Norton then the chances of the message being fake are 100%. In particular Norton never issue virus warnings as that is purely a product name not a company which is actually called Symantec.

If you receive a message like this either delete it or copy part of the text into Google and you will find many pages outlining details of the hoax warnings.

Some of the best sites for checking the validity of virus warnings and hoaxes are as follows

Remember to check any warning before forwarding it to all your friends and propagating the virus hoax.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Graphics Cards - PC Speed

If your PC appears to be running slowly but has a good spec processor and plenty of RAM then it may be worth checking the graphics card.

My PC has dual core, 4Gb RAM with 22" widescreen HDMI monitor but I have been unable to play HD video clips from my new Canon 5D Mark 2 camera as frames kept dropping. Having replaced the graphics card today with a new ATI Radeon 3650 with 512Mb RAM it has made a huge difference. Images now display immediately when opening in Lightroom and video runs smoothly playing through Canon Zoombrowser.

So check your graphics card as first step! In Windows Vista the new card gets a score of 5.9 compared to a score of 2.2 for the previous nVidia 6200 model.