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Old 10-03-2012, 09:06 PM   #41
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I've got an iPhone 3GS. I just ordered an iPhone 5 a couple of hours ago. When I got the 3GS AT&T had an unlimited data plan. When I ordered the 5 it looks like they are continuing my unlimited data plan.

I hardly ever talk on the phone whether it is wired or wireless. My smartphone is basically a portable computer/internet connection.
Well if you can use a lot of data without AT&T complaining, that would be a great deal. People are reporting speeds of 40-50 Mbps. That could be 10 times faster than your home Internet connection.

Now, if you can add the Personal Hotspot to your plan, you can connect your laptops at the fastest speeds.
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Old 10-03-2012, 09:59 PM   #42
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Cell bandwidth is also approaching full load. It's going to take a fundamental redesign of frequency management (which looks promising) before bandwidth gets cheap again. And when that happens, I'm a tad skeptical that monthly fees will drop-- until the entrepreneurs start undercutting the global megacorps.
Starting in the early 90s, when I worked with a start-up in this field, frequency rights were auctioned off by the FCC to telecoms who paid billions of dollars for the rights to very specific markets. Then, they had to build cell towers, which cost $500K each then. Recently, I was told the price was up to a few $million a tower. So, wireless internet has to be expensive.

Wireless links will always have a total capacity limited by the link bandwidth. Wired links are subject to bandwidth limit too for that matter, but one can easily add more wire, while broadcast spectrum, like land, cannot be created. Different modulation schemes are just ways of getting closer and closer to that theoretical Shannon limit. I am no longer working in that field (stopped not long after the debut of the 1G), so do not know where they are now, and how much room is left to exploit.

Another way of dealing with increasing traffic is by making a cell area smaller. Of course this costs more money for more microcell towers. It seems like more and more people are using their smart-phone for apps that used to be on the PCs, which get internet connection via land lines meaning cable modems, DSL, ISDN, T1 etc... Expanding these seems a lot less expensive, and indeed the amount of traffic that my household pulls through the cable modem would bankrupt me, if I were to pay wireless rate for it.

Anyway, the Navy guys should be happy with semaphores. What is its equivalent baud rate, I wonder? It could not be too far from the baud rate of their VLF link, right? And both, I am sure, are high speed communication relative to the smoke signal that the Indians used. Heck, wasn't that about 1 bit per 10 seconds? What would be the highest bit rate of a proficient Indian smoke signaler, under ideal conditions (good visibility, no wind, etc...)? And I mean an error-free bit rate, not that of an ambiguous message that would have to be retransmit due to lack of confirmation.

PS. Just had an idea. Has anyone thought of augmenting smoke signals and semaphores with extra signals encoded for parity error detection? And then, how about more advanced forward error correcting codes? Oooh, could be an area for research and then market development here.

PPS. My memory failed me. It was the ELF link that could really reach submarine depth. It has a speed of a few bits per minute! Now, that is slower than smoke signalling, I think.


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Old 10-04-2012, 10:03 AM   #43
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It shouldn't cost a couple of hundred bucks a month unless you're using it constantly, downloading data past your cap, using too much voice minutes, etc.
Could be the cost for the whole family. My in-laws certainly spend several hundred a month on their phones. Cell phones for 4 kids plus data plans isn't cheap.
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Old 10-04-2012, 09:52 PM   #44
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Semaphore flags, actually.
Bah! Pure affectations. I don't need maps, phones or flags. If I don't know where I am I just change where it is I wanted to go. And if who I want to talk to isn't around, I'll change who it is I wanted to speak to!
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Old 10-05-2012, 09:56 AM   #45
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It's always musing to see people declare on the Internet that they don't need fancy electronic gizmos.

Well, can these people do without the computers and the Internet connection service they use to post these neo-Luddite declarations?

How many of them can even go without being online for a couple of weeks?

Smart phones now are basically extensions of the computers we're all using to exchange these opinions. For decades, computer scientists have been predicting this process, as we went from mainframes to eventually personal computers for all, to "wearable computers."

The idea is that computing devices become more ubiquitous and weave themselves into the fabric of contemporary life. About 10-15 years ago, there were people saying computers and Internet are not for them. Companies tried to sell email boxes, so that the technophobic older generation could still be in contact with their friends and relatives.

But the sense is that a lot of people who were reticent to use technology have come to see the benefits of going online. Really not that different from when telephones were first widely adopted.

So this pooh-poohing of mobile devices by people who are already using technology seems a repeat of history. Now, if you want to say you can't justify the expense (and even then, there are growing options for people who don't want to sign onto another expensive monthly bill), especially on ER where people aggressively manage their living costs, that would be more understandable.

Regarding DSLRs, yes a cell phone camera will never be as good as a DSLR. But I don't carry my DSLR with me all the time. And to do the HDR and panorama photos which is now supported on iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S, I would also need to carry around a tripod.

The often-repeated adage is that the best camera there is is the one you have with you to capture shots that are unanticipated. That's probably why iPhone is probably the most widely-used camera in the world.
Nothing wrong with having the convenience of an Iphone or other smart phone. But today it seems like people have taken it to the extreme. I have friends that can't seem to put their phone down for more than 10-15 minutes. They're constantly checking their email, phone msgs or just viewing websites for entertainment. When I'm with them, it's just annoying to me...I think, can't you put that damn thing away for awhile? Also, every time I drive my car I see several people talking on their phones and driving at the same time. Just what is so important anyway? (probably just BS'ing with their friend because driving SAFELY is just too boring!) I actually tell friends and family not to call me when they're driving because I don't want to be partially responsible for any car accident resulting from their inattention to the road when they might be talking to me.

So while I think smart phones are great when used in moderation, they've become like an addiction to many people.
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Old 10-05-2012, 09:59 AM   #46
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Bah! Pure affectations. I don't need maps, phones or flags. If I don't know where I am I just change where it is I wanted to go. And if who I want to talk to isn't around, I'll change who it is I wanted to speak to!
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Old 10-05-2012, 10:03 AM   #47
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Old 10-05-2012, 10:17 AM   #48
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PS. Just had an idea. Has anyone thought of augmenting smoke signals and semaphores with extra signals encoded for parity error detection? And then, how about more advanced forward error correcting codes? Oooh, could be an area for research and then market development here.
OMG! You must not be working anymore. You have WAY too much time on your hands LOL!
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Old 10-05-2012, 12:00 PM   #49
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Anyone using a US smartphone in Europe or the UK to do map usage while walking in a city? Or GPS when driving a rental car?

It would be nice to have a cost effective solution while on vacation.

---------
P.S. Was in Paris recently and just used a map plus a tour book. The city is very walkable. Had hoped to use my Kindle Fire with a map app but the Kindle is just too heavy (around 1 pound) to justify that. Plus in daylight there is a lot of glare.

One can rent a GPS with a car in Europe and UK but I don't know what the pricing is nowadays. In 2007 we just used maps but GPS would really have been nice -- now that I use it in the USA, I know what I'm missing.
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Old 10-05-2012, 12:25 PM   #50
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I bought a Mifi device and so when I go overseas, I look for prepaid data SIM plans.

I've used the Maps on iPhone when there were some locations I couldn't find and it helped to track my relative location in real time.

Otherwise, the maps that you get from hotels and tourist offices are usually good enough.
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Old 10-05-2012, 02:05 PM   #51
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OMG! You must not be working anymore. You have WAY too much time on your hands LOL!
At a place I've worked, there was an engineer who constantly came up with hare-brained schemes to make money on the sideline. At first, I would listen politely, then made some suggestions, but he kept talking about it even though I was not really interested. Eventually, another engineer pulled me aside, and privately told me "Watch this guy in his work. Do you see him do anything other than talk?".

I then realized that he was taking Steve Jobs as a model, and was looking for a Steve Wozniak to do the work.

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Anyone using a US smartphone in Europe or the UK to do map usage while walking in a city? Or GPS when driving a rental car?

It would be nice to have a cost effective solution while on vacation.
Like most visitors, I have never felt the need for more than a tourist paper map while wandering around European cities.

But, in 2007, as I planned to drive from Paris to the Loire Valley, in fact going all the way to the sea down the Loire River, I thought a GPS would be good to have. As I already had a Garmin (bought in 2005 and ridiculously outdated by now), I bought a European street map from Garmin on a CD. The map was then downloaded from a laptop to the Garmin.

It worked OK, but what was bad about this was that the GPS then had so little user-accessible flash memory that I could only download a small section of the map at a time. In my trip, a chore every night was to make sure that the area that I would be the next day would be downloaded to the GPS.

I cringed when I paid $120 for that CD. I think one can buy a GPS preloaded with European maps for that much now.
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Old 10-05-2012, 03:26 PM   #52
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...(snip)...
Like most visitors, I have never felt the need for more than a tourist paper map while wandering around European cities.
That's what we've done too. I was hoping to load the Rick Steve's guide onto a Kindle Touch but then read that the map formatting and stuff was just not good on the device. So we wound up carting the book around -- it was pretty light though as they've gone to thin paper.
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But, in 2007, as I planned to drive from Paris to the Loire Valley, in fact going all the way to the sea down the Loire River, I thought a GPS would be good to have. As I already had a Garmin (bought in 2005 and ridiculously outdated by now), I bought a European street map from Garmin on a CD. The map was then downloaded from a laptop to the Garmin.

It worked OK, but what was bad about this was that the GPS then had so little user-accessible flash memory that I could only download a small section of the map at a time. In my trip, a chore every night was to make sure that the area that I would be the next day would be downloaded to the GPS.

I cringed when I paid $120 for that CD. I think one can buy a GPS preloaded with European maps for that much now.
Interestingly we were driving around France in 2007 too. I preplanned the route and bought Michelin maps before we took off. Also downloaded the route suggestions -- I think from the European Michelin site. If you do that on your trip you need to either store it on a laptop on more bring a little printer along. Not very convenient.

I think renting loading your US Garmin GPS with a European map makes sense. Has anyone used a GPS while walking to navigate the city streets? Haven't tried it but seems like it would be OK assuming the Garmin US unit can get European satellite reception.

Getting back to the Iphone, if it could do this stuff outside the US that would be really great.
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Old 10-05-2012, 03:44 PM   #53
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On the same trip, we also did some walking with the GPS, but it was not really needed.

By the way, because GPS satellites are not geo-stationary like DirectTV satellites but encircle the earth about twice a day, and the full constellation is up (been since around 2000), the system has a true global coverage. Well, except for the poles which have poor coverage due to the orbit inclination. But I am getting too technical.

Russia has had its system called GLONASS, which is supposedly in full operation. China has been putting up its own, but has launched only a couple of satellites. The EU has been talking about its own for a long time, called Galileo. The last I heard, they have not launched a single satellite. Probably never will. No money nor priority.

Why other countries want their own GPS look-alike? Well, in war time, GPS signals may be denied to hostile countries and reserved for US military operations. There is plenty of unclassified info about this in the public domain, but it is too technical to talk about here.

PS. The above systems have different signal characteristics, and are not interchangeable. Receivers could be built to receive them all, but with more hardware and software complexities.
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Old 10-05-2012, 04:20 PM   #54
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I just saw on Amazon a GPS with North American and European maps preloaded.

Price? A mere $142. Darn! Buy, buy, buy...
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Old 10-05-2012, 05:07 PM   #55
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On the same trip, we also did some walking with the GPS, but it was not really needed. ...
Suppose you are in a big city like Paris, the Marais district with confusing streets. Getting a location might help a bit, but you still might need to know which way was north. You might feel a little silly with a GPS + compass.

It's just that if you are walking and standing all day, it helps to not have to go too far out of the way. On our last trip we walked an average of 7 miles per day, plus stood a lot looking at stuff.

Sorry to beat on this so much. Some day maybe we will all have reasonably priced navigator electronics.
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Old 10-05-2012, 05:10 PM   #56
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I just saw on Amazon a GPS with North American and European maps preloaded.

Price? A mere $142. Darn! Buy, buy, buy...
Never had a GPS. Never wanted one. Don't travel. Never get lost. Looking for ways to spend more, and love electronic gizmos, but this and the iPhone 5 leave me cold...
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Old 10-05-2012, 05:17 PM   #57
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Never had a GPS. Never wanted one. Don't travel. Never get lost. Looking for ways to spend more, and love electronic gizmos, but this and the iPhone 5 leave me cold...
When we were traveling to LA and San Diego to see our son, the GPS was really helpful. Particularly on the San Diego freeway system. Even around home there are occasions where it comes in handy, though mostly it's turned off.
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Old 10-05-2012, 05:33 PM   #58
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Suppose you are in a big city like Paris, the Marais district with confusing streets. Getting a location might help a bit, but you still might need to know which way was north. You might feel a little silly with a GPS + compass.

It's just that if you are walking and standing all day, it helps to not have to go too far out of the way. On our last trip we walked an average of 7 miles per day, plus stood a lot looking at stuff.
It is true that we spent more time looking around while walking than staring at the GPS, just as visitors should be doing. Inside cities, satellite signals tend to be blocked by buildings on both sides of narrow streets, and GPS often does not work anyway.

But about complementing GPS with a compass for direction, it is not really needed. When you have good signals, just take a few steps, and GPS will show your direction of travel.

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Some day maybe we will all have reasonably priced navigator electronics.
As stated in the earlier post, I just found out that a GPS with all of US, Canadian, and European maps costs but $142. That's cheap!

You want even cheaper? My gosh, if I were a GPS receiver maker, I would throw in the towel and quit. They have to eat too, you know?
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Old 10-05-2012, 05:37 PM   #59
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Never had a GPS. Never wanted one. Don't travel. Never get lost. Looking for ways to spend more, and love electronic gizmos, but this and the iPhone 5 leave me cold...
Well, I travel and hike plus ride my motorcycle through the forest. I do not want to get lost. One only buys what one needs and can use, that's for sure.
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Old 10-05-2012, 05:48 PM   #60
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Well, I travel and hike plus ride my motorcycle through the forest. I do not want to get lost. One only buys what one needs and can use, that's for sure.
Ride your motorcycle through the forest? Wow, I know nothing about it but that sounds dangerous.
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