Friday, September 30, 2011

OpenELEC XBMC for shuttle xs35gt v2

OpenELEC stands for Embedded Linux Entertainment Center. According to the developer, it was made from scratch and designed to do one thing only: run XBMC. So this distro is not for everyone. If you want to do anything other than run XBMC, don't use OpenELEC. If you want to run a lot of add-ons (that are designed for Ubuntu etc.), don't use OpenELEC.

I've been running OpenELEC for a few months now and really like it because it meets my very simple requirements: 1) fast boot, 2) play my media and DVDs, and 3) fully remote controllable from an Android handset (except for WoL due to hardware limitations of the xs35gt).

It worked pretty much out of the box. I didn't have to do any additional configuration for my SSD (unlike the XBMC 10.1 Live CD) or adjust too many settings. It is practically instant on. If I turn on my TV and my media center at the same time, XBMC is started by the time the TV fully powers on and I can switch the input to HDMI. Startup would be even faster, except there is no bios option for fast booting. I think it sits on the bios screen for longer than it takes to both boot and start XBMC. Shutting down takes not even half a second.

Similar to Android and other embedded systems, OpenELEC is a stripped down linux distribution that relies on BusyBox to provide some of the standard UNIX commands, though many commands and utilities are simply missing, like the shutdown command, as well as a disk partitioning utility. The system directory is mounted from a compressed image at boot and is read only. For example, no files in /etc can be edited, and the root password can't even been changed (unless you compile from source), so this means this server can never be safely placed on a public network.

Overview

Version: 0.99.5 (latest release candidate)
Root password:openelec (can't be changed)
Required filesystem storage disks: ext4 (FAT32 is OK for external media but is inefficient and has a 4GB file size limit
Very basic setup: OpenELEC settings add-on for networking etc.
Normal admin/maintenance: Remote access from second computer.
Remote access protocols: Samba or SSH (No NFS server but can access NFS network shares for storing media, etc.)
Configuration files location: Samba share called "config files"

General Files Structure and Usage

You will only need to be concerned with two directories, /Storage and /Media. All locally stored files are in /Storage, which contains standard subfolders such as "music", etc. USB sticks and external drives automatically mount in /Media and do not require the creation of mount points (volume label is used). External media can be easily ejected from the XBMC GUI, usually by hitting the "title" button on your remote control and then eject.

Openelec has an XBMC add-on that resides in "programs" that is used to configure OS options like networking, sound, etc. You'll need another computer to do advanced editing, either through SSH or by file sharing with Samba. It should show up on your network. By default Samba shares the following folders. Samba should be enabled by default. if not it can be easily turned on from within openELEC settings add-on. All the config files you will ever need to edit are in the Config Files share, so you don't even need to SSH in to make changes, but be sure to use a text editor not a word processor if you make changes.

Download and Installation

There are several different versions, each optimized for particular hardware. Because the my server has an ION chipset 64 bit Atom processor, I installed the ION x64 version. Installation was a bit of a pain because there are no ISOs that can be burned to disk. instead, you have to make a USB stick installer. This can be only done with a windows PC or a linux PC, which at the time, I had neither. (Good thing Nicholas has both). If your USB stick doesn't boot, check the boot order in the BIOS. After booted from the USB stick, installation is straight forward.

Configuration

1. Fix the splash screen. (I can't recall what was wrong with it. Perhaps it didn't display at all.)

SSH into the your server and do the following.

mount -o remount,rw /flash
nano /flash/extlinux.conf


Add this "vga=792" to the following line:
APPEND boot=LABEL=System disk=LABEL=Storage quiet

So that it becomes like this.
APPEND boot=LABEL=System disk=LABEL=Storage quiet vga=792

2. Configure HDMI Sound (follow the link for how to do it with the Samba share). I just used SSH and did the following:

cp ~/.config/asound.conf.sample/asound.conf_double-xs35gt.sample ~/.config/asound.conf

In the sound configuration settings in the openELEC settings add-on (located in "programs"), do the following:
  • Audio output = HDMI
  • Speaker configuration = 2 (appropriate for your system)
  • Audio output device = custom
  • Custom audio device = plughw:1,7
  • Passthrough output device = custom
  • Custom passthrough device = plughw:1,7

I then changed it back to the analog output and I get sound out from the HDMI at the same time. (Due to difference is latency, turn down the TV volume when using your stereo.

Adding Media

I keep some media on the internal SSD, copying to which is as simple as dragging and dropping. Samba shares such as "Music" and "Pictures" by default map to the corresponding directories in /Storage on the SSD.

Because of the small size of my internal SSD, I have a 500 GB USB drive where much of my media is stored. It is formatted ext4, which creates incompatibilities with my mac (MacFuse doesn't work). I can't directly mount this disk directly to the the mac with a USB cable, nor can I copy files to it using Samba (see "Issues"), so I add media to it from the command line using scp. I could live boot a linux CD on my Mac and plug in the disk, but that is a pain. Here is an example of adding a folder to the USB drive when it is mounted to the OpenELEC box, assuming the folder you want to copy is in your home folder and called "music folder", the openelec box's IP is x.x.x.x, and the destination is the folder "Music" on the external volume "USBdrive":

scp -r ~/music\ folder root@x.x.x.x:/Media/USBdrive/Music

(Unlike Windows, Unix-like OSs are case sensitive.)

Issues
  • Not much documentation, though there seems to be an active group of people on the forums answering questions
  • No NFS sharing as a sever; can connect as a client to other NFS shares. This means Samba is the only option for GUI file sharing, which is clunky with other unix-like OSs
  • wireless driver is missing from 0.99.5 (not sure about later nightly builds)
  • Samba shares that are mounted in /media are read/write but show as being full (zero kb available)
  • last.fm should work but login fails because it seems to have issues saving the password

1. Wireless

My wireless router has a theoretical maximum throughput of 150 Mbps but try as I may, I can only get abound 30. Both my Mac and the Shuttle have gigabit LAN, so I am using the wired ethernet. I haven't even bothered to try and install the wireless drives. In the BIOS, I set Wireless Power Control to enabled, which I think shuts down the wireless when not in use saving power.

2. Samba

The problem is that shares from any externally mounted media are displayed as being full, zero kb available, so it is not necessarily due to lack of write ability.

There are two samba.conf files. one is in /etc/samba, is not writable, and is overridden by the one in /storage/.config. The latter file can also be edited from the Samba share "config files". Here is how it is set by default:

[Media]
  path = /media
  available = yes
  browsable = yes
  public = yes
  writable = yes
root preexec = mkdir -p /media

Notice it is writable. I tested it by deleting a file from /media while it was mounted as a Samba share.
  1. bypassing the symlink and specifying the real path
    path= /var/media
  2. creating a new symlink to /media that resided in /storage
    ln -s /var/media/ /storage/media
    and then setting the path as:
    path = /storage/media
  3. Tried all of the above in combination with deleting the last line all together (I don't think it is necessary since the directory exists)
I didn't think this would work, and it didn't permissions are fine, but since I can write that is not the issue. I have no idea why shares in /media appear to have no empty disk space.

Beware of FlashTools OPTIMIZE button with SO-01B (Xperia X10)


Do NOT press the OPTIMIZE button in FlashTools. I don't care how much you might want to, don't.

That damn little button should be renamed "self destruct". It is supposed to install JIT and should only be used with an Xperia X10 that is running stock 2.1 Eclair. However SO-01B users should avoid using it, even if they are using a stock Docomo ROM because I just spent the last (checks logs) five hours trying to recover from the mess it made of my wife's X10 (which is why I was fixing it instead of sleeping). From all I can find, this phone running 2.1-update1 build 2.0.1.B.0.19 is supposed to be compatible. I don't know what went wrong. Wait, yes I do. I pressed that stupid little button.

Backing up about about half a day, I finally got around to installing Windows in a VM, so I was able to root the Xperia. Everything went smooth as butter - until I got greedy and decided to install JIT. Even then, the install log appeared normal (see below), but after rebooting, the phone hung on the splash screen. I tried booting into recovery, but that didn't work. I could put the phone into flash mode - at least it appeared to be in flash mode - but FlashTool didn't recognize it as such.

I knew it wasn't bricked because the phone was actually booting, but ddms showed me that it was bootlooping. Surprisingly, I could actually get a shell with adb, but I couldn't switch to the root user (seg fault), so I didn't have sufficient privileges to mount the system partition as writeable and undo some of the changes, particularly to build.prop.

So I was stuck. Even if it was not bricked, with a locked bootloader, no ability to flash, a non working recovery, and no root privilege, it might as well have been.

Eventually, I decided to keep fiddling with buttons to see if I could get it in recovery. That didn't work, so I removed the SIM and kept rebooting and fiddling. FINALLY it popped into recovery! The last series of things I did was roughly this (which is most likely just random coincidence):
  • SIM removed
  • Powered on while holding the back button.
  • Pressed the power and middle button at the same time
  • Then alternated between hitting one then the other 
  • Continued for about 10 to 15 seconds.
And then suddenly I was looking at the recovery screen, wondering if I should laugh or cry. I was able to flash the backup that I made before pressing the stupid OPTIMIZE button. On the bright side, it is good to be reminded sometimes why I religiously make backups.

FlashTool "optimize" log
29/055/2011 22:55:39 - INFO  - Remounting system read-write
29/055/2011 22:55:39 - INFO  - Pulling /data/local/tmp/remount.log to .\devices\X10\work\remount.log
29/055/2011 22:55:40 - INFO  - Pulling /system/build.prop to .\devices\X10\work\.
29/055/2011 22:55:40 - INFO  - Pushing ./devices/X10/optimize.tar to /data/local/tmp/optimize.tar
29/055/2011 22:55:42 - INFO  - Pushing .\devices\X10\work\buildnew.prop to /data/local/tmp/build.prop
29/055/2011 22:55:43 - INFO  - Running optimize  as root thru sysrun
29/055/2011 22:55:44 - INFO  - Optimize finished. Rebooting phone ...


That's 5 seconds that turned into 5 hours. おやすみなさい。

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Free data counters compatible with B-Mobile SIMs

A while back, after noticing unusually large data usage, I installed a few apps to keep track of my network traffic. Actually, I think I installed them all - all the free ones at least. Some are quite good. Others were useless. Here I'll describe the four apps that work very well on my Nexus One with the B-Mobile 1 GB prepaid SIMs (FAIR, and Flat Rate) in terms of both accuracy and compatibility with a 120 day quota.

Feature Comparison
3G
Watchdog
Mobile
Counter
PhoneUsage
My Data
Manager
Accurate
(for b-mobile)
O
O
120 day quota
(for FAIR SIM)
O
X
X
O
Export Data
O
X
X
X
Widget
O
O
X
O
Daily usage in Widget
X
O
X
X
Per app reporting
X
X
O
O

Unfortunately, none of the free apps has every feature I am looking for. Mobile Counter and 3G Watchdog are very accurate and both are spot on with my the usage displayed by the bcharge app and the mybmobile webpage. However, the free versions don't give a breakdown by application. PhoneUsage and My Data Manager do this, but they are less accurate. (MyDM has a persistent notification feature that is supposed to increase accuracy but it lags my phone and crashes the notification bar - even the latest version. Not to mention I don't like persistent notifications.)

By far I use Mobile Counter the most because the widget shows me accurate, real time data usage for the current day. It now sits prominently on my main home screen where I used to keep the Tepco electricity supply widget during the summer. I use 3GW for exporting data to a csv file. I use PhoneUsage to identify any app using too much data because it will break it down by the current day. MyDM is the least useful for me, but I keep it around because it allows a 120 day quota period.

Of course I could just buy 3GW pro and uninstall the rest of these, but I haven't because using all four doesn't take up much space and doesn't effect battery life.

Data by the Byte

I can now confirm that B-Mobile counts data charges by the byte, and doesn't do any fuzzy billing math. B-mobile displays your current remaining charge rounded to the nearest Megabyte. Over the past 36 days since I installed the traffic monitoring apps, B-Mobile indicates that I have used 149 MB (which is actually somewhere between 148.50 and 149.50 MB). 3GW reports I have used 150.27, which is very accurate.



Above is my daily usage exported as a csv file from 3GW (red stepped line) plotted on top of what B-Mobile says I used (blue dots with +/- 0.5 MB error bars). They are virtually indistinguishable. Not bad at all.


Monthly Usage Comparison

Here is how each of these four apps report my monthly usage as of this morning. The correct answer is 127 +/- 0.5 MB according to B-Mobile. (And yes, I realize that this is actually a very small amount of data to have used, but when you've got wifi for most of the day, I don't need to use a lot of data. So, I am saving it up for when I really need it.)

Current Monthly Usage
bcharge
127
3G Watchdog
127.82
Mobile Counter
127.18
PhoneUsage
116.4
My Data Manager
117.9

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bmobile Talking 1GB flat rate SIM


スマートフォンをご利用のお客様のうち、85%の方々のひと月あたりのデータ使用量は1GB以下です。しかし、残りの15%の方、特に上位2%の方がモバイル網の50%を使用しているのが今日の実態です。これは即ち、85%を含む圧倒的多くの利用者は、携帯電話事業者に、高額な定額使い放題料金として、払い過ぎの状態が続いていることを意味します。
85% of smartphone users use less than 1 GB per month. However, the remaining 15% of users, especially the upper 2%, collectively consume half of the total available network capacity. This means the overwhelming majority of users overpay for data every month because they are being charged for unlimited data they neither need nor use.
Or, to take it a step further, 85% of smartphone users are subsidizing the data costs of a few heavy users.

This is how JCI introduced their Bmobile Talking 1 GB Flat rate SIM, available from 9/22 [J press release]. Honestly, I really couldn't agree more, as a recurring theme on this blog is doing things cost effectively and efficiently.

If you have been following Bmobile products lately, you can likely guess the details. As always, voice SIMs in Japan are limited to residents and are not available to tourists. In total, to start service from scratch, the first month will cost ¥7,920 (activation charge and first data charge), with each additional month costing about ¥4,400 (including universal service charge, etc.)

  • Full size and micro SIM
  • ¥3,150 activation fee
  • ¥1,290 for 32.5 minutes
  • Additional airtime at ¥21/30 seconds
  • 1 GB/30 days at ¥3,100 (initial 1GB charge is ¥3,480)
  • MNP is possible
  • Any Talking SIM can be converted to a 1 GB flat rate plan (data-only SIMs are not compatible with Talking plans)
  • 1 year contract required with no automatic renewal (unlike everyone else)
  • 10,500 early termination fee

Monday, September 26, 2011

Gingerbread 2.3.6 update for Nexus One came and went


5.3 MB downloaded (over 3G with the Bmobile Fair), but once I clicked "Restart & Install", the reboot count down started but after a few seconds it jumped to a screen showing that "Your system is currently up to date." After later rebooting, I can confirm that I am still on 2.3.4 and my system still shows as "up to date." :(

So rather than wait for it to try and download another 5.3 MB file, only to fail again, I just did updated it myself. Which is how I figured out that:
  1. The reason it probably failed was due to me messing with the build.prop file and
  2. That I can edit the system partition from ADB if I boot into amon_ra recovery.


Here's how it went: Before anything I took a backup.

[UPDATE: forgot to include the link to DL the update. Here it is.]

First I tried to flash the update and got a signature error, so I then disabled signature checking and tried to reflash. Then I got the following error:

assert failed: apply_patch_check("/system/build.prop"...

So while booted into recovery, from my computer, I went to the directory where I kept a copy of the original build.prop file and did:

adb push build.prop /system

For safety, I took another backup. Then I rebooted back to recovery and when trying to flash, got the same signature error. This time, disabling the sig check worked.


Now I'm rocking 2.3.6, for whatever that's worth.


UPDATE: forgot to add what I did to regain root privilege, which I lost when updating. I still had the necessary files that I used to on 2.3.4. There may be updated ones available. I didn't check.

Booted into fastboot and flash Amon_RA recovery.

fastboot flash recovery recovery-RA-passion-v2.2.1.img

I rebooted to recovery and made yet another backup. Then I flashed these two files from recovery. The first removes the files that will overwrite custom recoveries and the second gives you the ability to use the command su to become root.

flash remove_stock_recovery_files.zip
flash su.zip

The update did not remove the superuser permissions app or busybox, so I didn't need to reinstall these.

Forcing HTC handsets to use only 3G networks

EDIT: Yup, this is what kept the OTA 2.3.6 update installed. FWIW, I ran this config for several weeks and noticed no real change in battery life. I've since reverted back in order to update to 2.3.6.


DISCLAIMER: As far as I can tell this makes a negligible difference in battery consumption, and could cause you problems if you forget to change it back before traveling somewhere that does use 2G (GSM). For example, this phone (US T-Mobile version) currently won't work at all on AT&T. I am simply posting this so that I don't forget I did it ;-)

AND, I also think it is keeping me from updating to 2.3.6.

A common problem with b-mobile data-only SIMs is heavy battery usage by the cellular radio looking for a signal, even though it has one. Unfortunately I don't know how to fix this but I thought of a way to perhaps minimize the effect. I am guessing that since the phone thinks there is no 3G connection, it is also searching 2G networks as well, which we don't have here in Japan. Perhaps if I set my Nexus One to only use 3G, battery life might just get a little better.

Then again, perhaps not, since 3G uses much more power than 2G and it is the search for a 3G signal that is killing the battery.

From what I can tell, the following values set the default network in the build.prop file FOR HTC HANDSETS.
0 = WCDMA Preferred
1 = GSM Only
2 = WCDMA Only
3 = GSM/WCDMA (auto mode, according to PRL)
4 = CDMA / EVDO. Preferred
First I pulled the file from my phone.
adb pull /system/build.prop

Find this line.
ro.telephony.default_network=0
As set, it allows GSM, though it prefers WCDMA

I changed it to allow only WCDMA:
ro.telephony.default_network=2

Then I pushed it back to the phone's SD card (because my phone's boot image has security on and I can't mount /system as read write from adb).
adb push build.prop /mnt/sdcard

Next, I opened a shell on the phone, switched user to root, and mounted /system as read write from within the phone.
adb shell
sumount -o remount,rw /dev/block/mtdblock3 /system

Finally, I made another backup copy of build.prop on my SD card, replaced the original with the modified one, and rebooted the phone.
cd /system
cp build.prop /mnt/sdcard/build.prop.bak
rm build.prop
cp /mnt/sdcard/build.prop build.prop

reboot

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Docomo USA data plan: 250 MB for $203.84!


NTT Docomo recently started an MVNO in the United States, Docomo USA, that is using T-Mobile's network. Docomo USA are targeting overseas Japanese who lack confidence in their English ability to start a contract and are too naive to know that they can get a prepaid plan without a SSN, credit card, and credit history.

There are five individual voice plans with standard Japanese-style naming. The terms aren't so bad. No contract required, roll over minutes, and free calling to Japanese landlines included in the anytime minutes. Extra lines can be added to the four larger plans for $15 per handset.

  • Talk SS ($15 for 100 minutes)
  • Talk S ($30 for 250 minutes)
  • Talk M ($50 for 500 minutes)
  • Talk L ($65 for 750 minutes)
  • Talk LL ($125 for 1500 minutes)
With the news that they plan to introduce the Nexus S, I thought I'd look at their current data prices. It is such a ripoff it should be criminal. First they charge a $15/month "ISP" fee, which is completely unnecessary and blatantly taking advantage of naive customers that are accustomed to paying meaningless charges.

There are currently three data plans:
  • 15 MB for $10
  • 25 MB for $15
  • 50 MB for $25

Overages are charged at $0.0008 per kilobyte, which works out 82 cents per Megabyte, and woud cost $203.84 for 250 MB. A new plan is coming with the Nexus S that will have 500 MB for $20/month ($0.12/MB). This would only cost $95 for 1 GB of data, which is still ludicrous ($15 ISP fee, $20 for 500 MB, $60 for additional 500 MB). 


Finally, if you've got nothing better to do, browse the site in English. It's horrible. Expanding the FAQs overruns the content into the footer. I challenge you to find the data plan pricing in less than 5 clicks. I think the translation was done by a high school dropout: "Have other Carrier?" "Reason to choose" "Is phone lost or stolen?" "Needless to say it’s convenient when you are on the business trip", though it is better than the English wikipedia article, which is gibberish.
It goes in the United States around sales of service "Nami mail" that centers on the Japanese localization mailer for BlackBerry for the overseas representative including the marketing research business of the cellular phone commission sales service for the Japanese in the U.S. and MVNO service "Docomo USA Wireless" and the Japanese in the U.S. for a long-term business traveler to the United States and NTT Docomo and the United States and Wi-Fi connection service "Namikiteru".
Um, can you say that again? (Yes, that was one single sentence.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Will the Docomo prepaid data plan for game consoles be priced like SMS?


The quick answer is I'm not yet sure, but this certainly has the potential to be just as bad a value as sending SMS. On the other hand, it could be a good deal for gaming.

When this popped up in my twitter stream, I was cautiously excited. The idea of prepaid data straight from Docomo is appealing. While this is only for use with the upcoming PlayStation Vita (other products to be added), it shows that Docomo actually understands there is demand for something other than a one-size-fits-all data plan.

This plan will be billed by the hour, which almost makes sense for a gaming console. You turn it on and play for an hour and you know exactly how many units got ticked off your charge. However, determining the value of this plan requires a guess of not only the amount of bandwidth gaming consumes, but also of how long will the connection sit open but idle? Data usage will not be limited to just gaming.

The cheapest plan offers 20 hours of usage over a 30 month period for ¥980. This works out to playing online for 40 minutes every day. Speed is limited to 128/64 kbps, which I am assuming is enough to play games. I calculated the theoretical maximum amount of data consumable if max up and downlink throughput were sustained for 20 hours.

The answer is 1687.5 Megabytes*, which there is no way in hell that Docomo is going to allow that much data to be used for only ¥980. That would be about ¥0.6/MB. For comparison, the b-mobile 1 GB Flat Rate SIM is priced at ¥3.1/MB. Is Docomo counting on only 10 or 20% of that theoretical maximum bandwidth being consumed?

Either way, this would be ridiculously stupid for use in a smartphone, but it might just fly with a game console. But only if the 3G data connection is active when gaming online - using this for twitter or facebook would be a mistake.

Here are the main points from the announcement.
  • ¥2,100 contract fee
  • Available from 12/17/2011 (simultaneously with the PSV)
  • Prepaid
  • 128/64 kbps down/uplink
  • Two plans
    • 20 hours for ¥980 valid for 30 days
    • 100 hours for ¥4,980 valid for 180 days (with an additional 3 hours at full FOMA hi speed (14 Mbps)
  • SIM becomes unusable if not recharged within 14 days of expiration
*calculated as (128 kbps + 64 kbps) = 192 kbps / 8 = 24 KBps * 3,600 = 86,400 KBph / 1024 = 84.375 MBph * 20 hours = 1,687.5 MB

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Docomo flat rate Xi LTE plan makes sense, stepped plan is still stupid


Today Docomo also announced a new pricing plan for Xi LTE service that will be introduced with the upcoming tablets. 7 GB will be available for ¥4,410 in a flat-rate plan if signing up during the campaign period (until 4/30/2012) for a 2-year contract. After exceeding 7 GB, it appears that you have a choice to either 1) live with 128 kbps data for the rest of the month, or 2) pay ¥2,625 per additional 2 GB.

[NOTE: I need to clarify with a Docomo shop the cost of additional bandwidth during the campaign period - confusing and conflicting information abounds. Notice the orange arrows in the above graphic. UPDATE: figured it out. saw this tweet. Xi is unlimited until 10/1/2012, likely subject to change.]

In actuality, there will be very little change. The flat-rate plan will save a total of ¥525, over the stepped plan for 7 GB. The stepped plan is just stupid. Why Japanese carriers continue to structure stepped plans based on decade old data usage habits is beyond befuddling.

The minimum fee of the stepped plan will be raised from ¥1,000 to ¥2,500 which will include EXACTLY 9,524 KB. After which the the price will by ¥0.2625/KB until EXACTLY 24,800 KB are used. Then ¥4,935 will carry you to 7 GB.

LET'S ENJOY DOING MATH

Xi is theoretically capable of 75 Mbps. Of course we'd never get this in the real world, but since the carriers like to throw around their theoretical yet unattainable maximum throughput, let's use their numbers.

75 Mbps is 9.4 MegaBytes per second. Rounding to the same number of decimal places, the initial cost of ¥2,500 buys exactly 9.3 MB of data. So this means that the stepped plan is structured to give you exactly ONE SECOND of full-throttle usage before the price starts going up, theoretically. Realistically, you'd probably only get a quarter of that speed, so let's be generous and give 'em 4 seconds.

The full price for 7 GB is reached after consuming only 24 MB, easily done in a day with normal FOMA usage, or about THREE theoretical seconds with LTE (12 seconds, realistically). Unless you expect to not use your handset for an entire billing cycle, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to even consider getting the stepped plan.

Docomo announces two Xi LTE Android tablets

Today, Docomo announced two new Xi LTE tablets, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 LTE and the Fujitsu ARROWS Tab. Both will be available in October, run Android 3.2 Honeycomb, and are capable of tethering (no mention if tethering is allowed only on LTE or also 3G).

The Fujitsu is going to be water resistant and usable in the bath tub and have some funky "hand gesture control" function that will let you "slide the screen without touching the screen" (画面に触れずに画面をスライドできる「ハンドジェスチャーコントロール機能」), that will be useful for checking recipes while cooking. Judging from the picture you can wave your hand in front of the tablet for input. I can already see an opportunity to annoy friends.

Battery consumption is nearly twice as high with LTE than 3G!

Both tablet will include the following preinstalled bloat: Hulu, JOOKEY, Qik, and G CLOUD. (If we want it, let us download it.)

Hulu
  • hulu.jp
  • Recently released Japanese version of popular US streaming service
  • ¥1,480/month
  • Free 3 months for signing up between 9/8/2011 and 2/29/2012
  • Xi tablets and Android smartphones at 2.2 or higher.
JOOKEY
  • Some domestic video service with news and popular shows 
  • ¥315/month
Qik
  • Skype video for Docomo
  • basic service free
  • premium service $4.99 (WTF, dollars? I though Skype traded in Euros?)
  • 1 year premium service free if signing up by 3/31/2012
G CLOUD
  • Some online gaming service
  • Pricing varies by game content
  • ¥3,000 worth of coupons for some game I've never heard of if you are one of the first 5,000 people to sign up by 3/3/1/2012


Fujitsu ARROWS Tab LTE F-01D

  • Android 3.2 Honeycomb
  • micro SIM
  • LTE/FOMA 3G
  • 1600/900/1200 hours (3G/LTE/GSM)
  • microSD slot
  • Water resistant (IPX5, IPX7)
  • 10.1 inch screen
  • 262x181x11.3 mm
  • 597 grams
  • Front and rear facing camera (1.3/5.1 Mpixels)
  • OMAP 4 dual coare 1 GHz
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 16 GB ROM
  • Wifi b/g/n
  • Tethering
  • bluetooth
  • one seg
  • GSM 900/1800/1900; WCDMA 800/1700/2100; LTE 2100MHz (Frequencies via juggly)

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 LTE SC-01D

  • Android 3.2 Honeycomb
  • Touchwiz UI
  • full size SIM
  • LTE/FOMA 3G
  • 10.1 inch screen
  • 257x175x8.6 mm
  • 565 grams
  • Front and rear facing camera (2.2/3.2 Mpixels)
  • MSM9200 dual core 1.5 GHz
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 16 GB ROM
  • Wifi
  • Tethering
  • bluetooth
  • GSM 900/1800/1900; WCDMA 800//2100; LTE 2100MHz (Frequencies via juggly)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

B-mobile 1GB Flat Rate SIM


Following the addition of a 1 GB/month recharge option for the FAIR SIM, JCI is adding a  1 GB Flat Rate SIM (1GB定額) as a base plan. It will go on sale online and at retail stores from September 10th for ¥3,480. Recharging is the same as a FAIR on the 1 month flat rate plan, ¥3,100. A micro SIM will also be available.

Here are the key features:
  • Data only
  • ¥3,450 purchase, ¥3,100 recharge
  • 1000 MB/30 days, which ever comes first
  • Data consumption calculated per byte
  • Private IP address (behind a proxy)
  • Residency not required
  • Skype, VoIP, you tube, streaming, tethering allowed
  • Best effort Docomo FOMA speeds but may not be as fast as the FAIR*
  • SIM cannot be charged beyond 10 days from expiration
  • SIM cannot be converted to a FAIR (1000/120 days) plan
*According the FAQ (J), there are cases when the FAIR data plan will have better performance because it is completely open and unrestricted.
当社のサービスの中では、b-mobile Fairが最もパフォーマンスが優れた商品です。 b-mobile Fairとb-mobile 1GB定額は、最大通信速度の技術規格値は同様ですが、b-mobile Fairの場合は速度制限する条件が一切ないため、より快適にご利用できるケースがあります。
In addition, the standard Docomo FOMA restrictions apply. No P2P. Temporary throttling if 300 million packets (~ 360 MB) is exceeded over three consecutive days. Whenever possible, try to confirm that your phone works with b-mobile data-only products before purchasing. Visit Tokyo's Yodobashi Akiba to test a SIM on the weekends.

According to the guidelines regarding MVNOs using Docomo's FOMA network, MVNOs pay a significant fee to Docomo for any live SIM that is in the wild, even if it is currently uncharged and unused. Given the relatively low cost of this SIM, the change in terms from 60 day expiration in the case of the FAIR data plan is understandable.

The following concerns only converting a FAIR SIM to a 1 GB Flat Rate

A FAIR SIM can be converted to a 1GB Flat Rate, and then back to a FAIR data plan. The expiration date after which the SIM can no longer be charged depends on the last data plan. If a FAIR is purchased and the initial charge consumed, you have 60 days to recharge. if on the 59th day, a 1 GB Flat Rate charge is added, you will then have 10 days to recharge once the second charge expires. If the third charge is back to a 120 day FAIR plan, then once that expires, you again have 60 days to recharge.

The newly updated bcharge app contains a disclaimer, that is displayed in English (based on your system language) related to the FAIR SIM. Here is the important excerpt.
  • This service uses a Private IP address. Therefore, it does not support Internet services or applications that require a Global IP address.
  • The Charge Period after plan expiry is 10 days. After 10 days, it will no longer be possible to charge your SIM

Friday, September 2, 2011

Police shake down juggly.cn for source of Docomo info leaks


It's been said here more than once that @juggly is a machine. Not literally of course, but he is a very prolific blogger. His blog is where I often go to get information. He is obviously some sort of insider with contact(s) currently (but likely soon to be past tense) inside Docomo. Docomo's smartphone releases have tended towards lackluster handsets that have languished with outdated Android versions. News of future handsets that aren't going to suck would likely have a negative effect on sales.

Yesterday, this tweet popped up.
警視庁から電話があって、うちのブログの内容に対してドコモが不正競争防止法違反だと訴えているそうだ。情報開示を断ることができるのか?と聞くと、「じゃあ、差し押さえで取り扱っても良いですかね?」と警察からある意味脅されている。
The cops called, and it seems that Docomo has filed a complaint that the content of my blog violates the Unfair Competition Prevention Act. When I asked if I have the right to refuse to provide information, the cop's reply was startling, "So then, you wouldn't mind if we just came and seized it, right?"
This reminds me of the infamous "theft" of the "invaluable" iPhone 4 prototype.  In the Apple case, prosecutors have decided not to charge Gizmodo employees, given protections to journalists (a term applied loosely where Gawker is concerned), though the criminal case against the kids who found and sold it perhaps gives Apple more civil litigation options.

Apple calling in the cops when someone is dismantling and posting pics of their Next Big Thing© shouldn't have surprised anyone even remotely familiar with Apple's corporate culture. However, Docomo doing it is a bit surprising. There's been no physical theft here. @Durf provided a link to an English translation of the Unfair Competition Prevention Act. This most likely runs afoul of "disclosing a trade secret," as defined in Article 2.

Getting back to Juggly, it seems that Docomo has been trying to squash product information leaks for several months now.
とりあえず、ドコモは6月から第三者機関使って情報の流出元調査を行っている。
For now, it seems that since June Docomo hired an agency to investigate the source of information leaks.
I've had a brief discussion with friends regarding this, and I honestly don't believe this is some scheme to bump Juggly's street cred. If you follow his blog, you'll understand that he's already got plenty. Juggly also felt the need to point out that this is not BS, preceeded by a warning to anyone else leaking Docomo information.
情報を流しているドコモ関係者さんは注意したほうがいいね。というかもう遅いか
Any Docomo employee/contractor leaking information should be careful. Though I guess it's a bit late now.
Apparently, his cell phone number was obtained from this hosting service, sixcore.ne.jp. (Remind me to scratch them off my lists of potential hosts.) I seriously doubt that the cops showed up at the hosting company with a court order. It's more likely the cops simply asked and the host readily handed over Juggly's information. If he had a juggly.blogspot address that was hosted on google's servers, it would have definitely taken a real warrant for a real crime, not just a threat of a lawsuit, to get his information.

This doesn't look like it will work out well for the source, especially if the cops are serious about raiding Juggly's servers for information. Finally, I'm left with one question. What exactly are the protections to journalists here in Japan and to what extent, if at all, are they extended to those outside of the kisha club?