Archive for January 18, 2009

Assorted News 16 – Tassie Trip and Mobile Magic :)

Assorted News 16 – Tassie Trip and Mobile Magic 🙂

In this edition:

Generic News
Back from Tassie, with pics 🙂

Mobile Magic
How to make 10c untimed(ish) landline calls from a mobile.
How to check email on your phone cheaply.
How to send SMS for 5c from your phone.
How to turn your phone into an answering machine.

Post-it notes for your screen.
Windows 7 – looking good 🙂
Freeview? Bollocks!
Best Wishes for 2009.

Back from Tassie, with pics 🙂

As some of you know, I went to Tassie for two weeks around Christmas time. Since many of you have probably never been to Tasmania or might just be curious what it was like, I’ve taken about 5 hours out of my life to make you all a website describing the trip. There are photos, a few short video clips, and if you’re really bored there’s some cruise commentary too.

You can check it out by clicking here –>

Mobile Magic

During the holiday, I had plenty of time to muck around with the mobile phone and work out how to really get the best out of it for the least amount of money. Many people I’ve spoken to since have been quite curious about how I’ve been able to do it, so much of this newsletter is devoted to that process. I’ll try to make it as easy as possible.

How to make 10c untimed(ish) calls to landlines from your mobile.

By now, many of you are familiar with VoIP phones which allow you to ring landlines for 10c untimed anywhere in Australia. They were certainly a hot item for 2008. You may have received a phone call from a local friend where the number showed up on your phone as 02 8090 1234 or something like that – which usually means they’re using a VoIP phone. So… the next question is how to make it work ‘on the road.’ Here are three ways.

As I’m sure this will be confusing to some of you, feel free to ask questions either online or in person if you can catch me 🙂 The one certainty is you need reasonable coverage for it to work – at least one, preferably two bars plus.

I’ll also preface all of this by mentioning that some of the phone companies are a bit panicked about this new technology as it threatens their revenues somewhat. Normal Mobile calls use the same sort of technology anyway – they’re just charging much more for the ‘first class’ version. It is possible that they may try to prevent this type of service in the future; but the cat’s already out of the bag so it will probably be a losing battle.

Additionally, the technology of mobile phones is moving so fast that it’s quite likely new phones will be out soon that will make this sort of thing easier – particularly from the more open likes of Google (with the Android phones) and Palm (with their new WebOS phone) It’s hard to keep up!

Method 1 – Use a VoIP-Ready Mobile Phone.

Some Nokia mid-range mobile phones have a VoIP feature built in. I don’t know of any definitive list of such phones, but popular models such as E51, E61, E65, N80ie, N82, etc usually do. These phones are what are called “Symbian” phones. (Symbian being another branding, a bit like how there’s Apple, there’s Windows, etc.) Unfortunately some similar models such as N80, N96, N78, 6120c, 6121c have this feature deliberately disabled so it’s a bit hit and miss at this stage – method 2 works around this. (Another possible list is at )

Next step is to find out how much Internet access on the phone costs, and whether it’s fast enough. Here are some examples:

* NextG phone: $10 a month (for data) gets 150MB of fast internet, enough for about 6 hours of VoIP to use anywhere.
* Optus phone: Website broken at time of writing, supposed to be at – Speed might be a problem depending on handset and area.
* Exetel mobile on Vodafone network : Untested, but probably too slow in the New England.
* Exetel mobile on Optus network: $7.50 (for data) gets 150MB of fast internet, enough for about 6 hours of VoIP. Depending on handset, it might work in all places or only bigger towns.

If this is to be your main mobile phone and you’re in the New England, you’re probably best with a NextG phone on a $10 or $20 casual plan plus $10 Browsing Pack. Optus and Vodafone’s coverage is generally not as strong as Telstra’s in this area, and for VoIP to work this is a serious issue to consider. See and – assuming you want your phone to work in Coles or other concrete buildings 🙂

The next step is to choose a VoIP provider.

* If you have broadband with Exetel, you’re already set. ( )
* If not, you might want to try MyNetFone’s WhirlpoolSaver plan ( using code NC1753) , or ask me to set one up for you on my Exetel account as a trial, or possibly to keep in the future depending on further testing.
* There are other providers too, these are just the ones I am most familiar with.

Once that’s done, then comes the fiddly bit – typing all the details into the phone and possibly installing extra software on it. You might want my help with this as it can take about 15-30 minutes of button pressing to program some handsets! Alternatively, check the instructions at: for Exetel or for MyNetFone.

Method 2 – Use Fring?

There’s a program available Called Fring which you can load onto your mobile phone and then access VoIP, Skype, MSN, etc while on the road. The problem here is that Fring is a US based service and so this introduces a significant delay. Exetel is working on writing their own Australian version according to so perhaps method 2B is to ‘sit and wait’ 🙂

Fring will work on many moderately capable phones including some Nokia, Windows Mobile and Apple phones.

Before making any significant use of Fring, you need to also deal with the bits in green and probably the orange above.

Method 3 – Use your laptop.

OK perhaps all that above sounds too hard. Fair enough. Here’s another method. All you need is some form of broadband access on your laptop. This could be Exetel’s HSPA @ $5 per month plus usage, or it could be NextG, or it could be borrowing someone else’s internet connection while visiting them. You then just need a VoIP client such as x-lite and account as per the orange writing above; or use Skype.

You would then probably want either a headset or handset to plug into your laptop. Your laptop then becomes a rather large mobile telephone 🙂 Some laptops have a built in microphone, so in a pinch you can talk directly at your laptop; but this gives an echo to the other person. It also looks funny 🙂

So there you go. If it works for you it can be a big saving. If you want a demo of any of these let me know. I use VoIP for almost all landline calls now, but also have an Exetel mobile for 15c/min calls to other mobiles as this is more convenient. I also have $25 VoIP adapter boxes for people with ordinary broadband who want to try VoIP using an ordinary home phone.

How to check your email on your mobile phone cheaply!

The majority of phones are capable of running small programs. There is a free one from Google that allows you to check your email from your mobile phone quite cheaply. For this to work you need to get yourself a free email address, and then ask your existing provider to forward a copy of your email to that new address as well which is usually free to do.

The mobile phone version of gmail is very data conscious and allows you to check your mail safely using very few downloads – quite possibly not even affecting your phone bill as many plans include a small amount of downloads per month. On some phones you can even leave it running in the background and it will alert you with a buzz if new mail arrives. And since it’s gmail, you don’t need to worry about spam; since gmail will filter it out of your mail even if you are forwarding it from another address.

To try it out or read about it, go to

How to send SMS messages from your mobile for 5c

OK sorry, this is another one of those Exetel-only services, but I don’t know of anyone else offering it publicly. If you have any Exetel service, and you have a suitable phone, you can install the ExeSMS program on your phone and use it to send SMS messages with the usual 20 free a month then 5c each after.

For Windows Mobile phones:
For Nokia Symbian phones, log in to the Exetel website, then look on the left for SMS; send sms via mobile.

If you know of any other providers offering a similar service let me know and I’ll pass it on. It may be possible to buy an Exetel SIM card to establish an account and then just use your existing setup for sending SMSes or using VoIP – this workaround is currently untested.

Turning your phone into an answering machine.

This was actually covered in the last newsletter. The main reason you’d want to do this is to avoid paying MessageBank deposit and retrieval fees. I previously mentioned a program called Advanced Call Manager which will run on most Nokia Symbian mobile phones. However, I decided to shell out a little more for “Interactive Voice Call Manager” because it had scheduling functions and also the option of having ‘To do this press 1 to do that press 2’ type stuff; which may potentially come in handy if I decide to set up an afterhours chargeable support line, etc.

It’s been working brilliantly for me – dropping the last phone bill to $30 from the $70 one before it, and being much more convenient than having to hurriedly scribble down the messages since they’re saved on the phone ready for playback at any time.

There’s also a free one for some Nokias at which might be all you need 🙂 (I haven’t tested the free one since I don’t want to break the one I already have!) I’m pretty sure there are similar programs for hi tech phones like iPhones, Windows Mobiles, etc; but since I don’t have one I haven’t yet gone looking…

Post-it notes for your screen.

Some people claim that the Paperless Office is a myth. I disagree. It just took 30 years to get there. A years worth of filing for my business takes about the space of a phone book. I pay everything electronically where possible, and almost all my suppliers issue electronic invoices so my paper trail is almost completely electronic. But I digress… has a nice little free program that allows you to put virtual sticky notes on your screen. This is handy for those short term things you need to remember. You can make them stick on top of everything else by clicking the arrow on the note. Quite handy for little stuff.

Windows 7 – Looking Good 🙂

Windows 7 is not far away now, and is available as a free beta download if you want to try it out. (Beta means that it’s still being tested for possible glitches.) It’s a big improvement over Vista in performance which is great news. I think we’ll find Vista was a bit like Windows Millenium edition – a temperamental experimental transitional version of Windows. Windows ME was the crossover from 98 to NT/XP, and Windows Vista will probably be the crossover from XP to Windows 7.

Freeview? Bollocks.

OK, so we’ve all seen the ads. 15 channels. 2009. Well, according to what I heard on ABC radio the other night, all the channels are now allowed to be doing their extra broadcasts, but none have bothered.

Those of you with digital TVs or set top boxes have probably noticed that when you installed them, there were multiple channels with the same stuff on – like ABC, ABC1, ABC2, ABC3, ABC HD, Prime Tamworth, Prime View 1, etc.

Each of these stations is now allowed to broadcast multiple shows at the same time using these extra channels, but they aren’t. Either they can’t be bothered, or they’re scared that by having more shows on at the same time they’ll lessen their ratings for individual shows. So, don’t hold your breath or rush out to buy a digital tele just yet. So far, only Channel 10 (TCN) has made noises about having a 24 hour sports channel.

This leaves me puzzled as to why they’re paying for ads, and who’s paying for them!

Best wishes for 2009

Anyway, that’s the end of another newsletter for now. There’s bound to be things I meant to write about but forgot to include in this one. Slowly getting back into ‘work mode’ 🙂

The GFC (Global Financial Crisis) appears to be having a small impact on the prices of some items – laptops are back up around the $700+ mark and the wireless routers I was getting wholesale for $45 are now $52; but otherwise it’s life as normal here. I guess a true metric of problems is the numbers of closed shops so perhaps it’s time to start counting ’em.

Oh, and I wonder if there is really truth to the rumour I overheard that Bunnings is on it’s way to Armidale? 🙂

I guess there’s good and bad in that – you know ‘shop locally’ and all that. I guess it means more employment for a while at least irrespective of their eventual impact on the established stores.

Cheers, Mike