Category Archives: Technology

Three “Feel at Home” Roaming Map

UK Mobile operator Three announced last week that their “Feel at Home” service would be extended to five new countries on 1st July, on top of their previous expansion in December 2013. When the service debuted in August 2013, it was available in 7 countries.

Although the Three website offers a map of the areas covered by Feel at Home, it uses a pin to mark each country. I wanted to visualise the actual territory covered, so I’ve quickly created a map using a Google Fusion Tables and publicly shared KML boundary data. This is complete except for Macau, which wasn’t in the boundary file – I’d be happy to include this if there is a more complete country boundary dataset available.

Feel at Home is now available in: Australia, Austria, Denmark, France, Finland, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Italy, Israel, Macau, Norway, the Republic of Ireland, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States (countries in italics are from 1st July 2014).

About Feel at Home

Feel at Home allows Three customers to use their monthly inclusive texts and minutes while abroad in participating countries to contact UK numbers as if they at home in the UK. There are some restrictions: if you have all-you-can-eat data, calls or text these are limited to 25GB data, 3000 minutes and 5000 texts respectively. The tethering/personal hotspot facility is also not available. In spite of these limits, it is a pretty generous deal.

I discovered just how much difference this can make with two visits to the United States in 2013. In July I accrued more than £20 of roaming charges through light use in a couple of days, while in December – when I stayed for longer – I was able to use data as much as I needed without incurring any charges. As Three’s plans are pretty good value anyhow (mine is less than £20/month), this is a bargain.

Other than brief calls to family in the UK, I don’t find myself using texts and minutes from abroad, but the ability to access mobile data without worrying about the cost when you’re in an unfamiliar environment is fantastic. You can also use services such as WhatsApp and iMessage for messaging, and Skype or FaceTime for calls if needed. I find Feel at Home invaluable when I’m visiting a country where it is available, and hope it is extended to other countries soon.

The European Parliament will abolish charges for roaming in the EU by December 2015, which is long overdue and very welcome, but in the meantime (and for the non-EU countries it covers) Three’s Feel at Home is a good start.

On Apple Macs

Apple Command Key by Fi20100, on Flickr
Apple Command Key by Fi20100, on Flickr

In late 2009, I finally purchased my first Mac. My five-year-old self-built PC was on its last legs, and I had coveted a Mac Pro for some time. Alas, this was somewhat out of my budget and I settled for a Mac Mini (since passed on to my parents when I purchased a MacBook Pro the following summer).

I had intended at the time to document the transition from Windows to Mac but never got round to it, so this will be a series of occasional retrospective posts on the practicalities of that transition.

Moving from a PC to a Mac did take some getting used to. As a power user, I found that re-learning keyboard shortcuts was most challenging – I continued to use a PC at work, and still do, which probably didn’t help. Most common shortcuts were pretty much the same, substituting  (Command) for Ctrl in shortcuts such as Ctrl + C (copy), Ctrl + P (print) and so on.

More challenging to commit to muscle memory were those that were more significantly different. The trickiest was getting used to ⌘ + O for open, rather than Enter/Return, closely followed by ⌘ + Tab to change between applications being distinct from ⌘ + ` to change between windows within an application. This is quite unlike Microsoft Windows, which makes no such distinction with Alt + Tab to cycle between all open windows, regardless of application. Other things such as the inability to cut files (only to copy/paste them) also initially threw me.

After a few months, this ceased to be an real problem – I guess my muscle-memory just adapted to using both systems on a daily basis. There are still moments when I curse that MacOS X doesn’t have something Windows has, or that Windows does something illogical when the equivalent is very straightforward on MacOS X. But generally I am well settled into the Mac world, which I generally prefer to battling with Windows, and when the time comes I suspect that this MacBook Pro will be replaced by a MacBook Air…

iPhone Developments

A pretty cool video presentation by Steve Jobs et al demonstrating the forthcoming iPhone 2.0 Software including Enterprise tools and the SDK.

I’ve held off the iPhone bandwagon so far. The main reasons were as follows:

  • iPhone cost (£269 + £35/month tariff on O2 with 200 minutes and 200 texts – very stingy).
  • Not enough storage – I would use it as an iPod as well, and 8GB does not cover my music collection.
  • No SDK, so unsupported hacks to run anything which isn’t a web application.
  • No 3G – ubiquitous Wifi is not a reality yet, resulting in slow web browsing… and web applications.
  • (Last, but not least) an existing phone contract that would need to be paid off.

Since its original release though, changes in O2’s pricing structure, a minor iPhone upgrade, and now the announcement of iPhone Software 2.0 have changed the situation significantly.

£35 per month gets you 600mins & 500 texts, in line with other phones. 16GB solves the storage problems for me, the initial extra cost of purchase being negated by the fact that it is useful as an iPod. The SDK opens the door to native iPhone applications which are not limited by the speed of the internet connection. The Apps store allows Apple to control the platform – and you cannot complain about the cost if you wish to release a free application! If you wish to charge, is a 70/30 split fair? Is it possible to make an app for personal use only – do you have to release it to the Apps store in order to get it onto your iPhone… and if so, will this stifle development?

I am still on my old tariff, so I won’t be getting a new phone just yet. If I did, the iPhone is now looking very attractive indeed – the only significant issue for me is its lack of 3G – without this, I’d be very reluctant to buy one. However, I am an optimist, so here are my wishes/hopes for the next hardware revision:

  • 3G – essential. If iPhone v2 has this and nothing else on this list, I am still likely to buy it as my next phone.
  • GPS – becoming commonplace in high-end phones, and with the SDK would allow some very cool applications.
  • More memory? Flash prices are falling and with (hopefully) lots of interesting applications being developed, a little more storage would be nice, though not essential.
  • Video camera? I’d not use it that much, but again a common feature on phones these days and nice to have now and again.

We shall see what happens… I think 3G is almost inevitable.