Reviews

I test and review equipment and devices in real-world scenarios and only publish a review after having decent time to evaluate things. I do not work for a vendor, nor am I paid for any of my reviews. I pride myself on having accurate, in-depth, and straightforward reviews for others to benefit from. You can read my Review Policy for details on how I conduct things.

T-Mobile G2 WiFi calling and hotspot first impressions

T-Mobile released support for WiFi calling and hotspot a week or so ago.  I’ve been waiting for this for quite some time since the two biggest problems I’ve had in recent months have been cell signal coverage, and being able to use a hotspot when I’m out and about. I’ve had the update for a bit over a week, and it’s working very well on both counts. WiFi calling has been tried before using UMA, mostly for BlackBerry phones.  T-Mobile had the Hotspot @ Home service that allowed you to use your internet connection to make phone calls from your cell phone. To setup WiFi calling is very simple.  A new app shows up called WiFi Calling, which allows you to turn the feature on.  Once it’s on, and if an appropriate wifi network is available, it logs into T-Mobile’s site remotely and you’re done. I’ve noticed a few things…

Permits gone wrong

For the last 2+ years I have been trying to get permits to repair the bulkhead out at our Vashon Island place.  It’s been an exercise in futility at just about every step. When I first started, I was trying to do it all on my own without any help.  I figured it couldn’t be too much harder than applying for a grading permit.  Boy was I wrong.  Because we were repairing a bulkhead, and it was on a beach, we were screwed. Besides the county, 6 other government agencies wanted my money and for me to fill out reams of paperwork.  Here in Washington, they’ve at least consolidated it to a process called JARPA for Joint Aquatic Resource Permit Application.  Unfortunately, it’s hundreds of pages of detail, much of which I couldn’t figure out.  On top of that, contacting any of these agencies referred you to the others in…

Collinite – magic stuff for boats

I’ve been through a lot of different waxes and treatments for boats that always seem to take forever to apply, or have some catch.  I recently had my boat out of the water, and the cockpit and rest of the deck really needed some help after having been exposed to the elements for a year without much other than the usual wash down. Enter Collinite – I saw this stuff at Fisheries Supply and read a bunch about it online.  I started with Fiberglass Boat Cleaner No. 920 and then applied Paste Fleetwax No. 885. The Boat Cleaner is designed to strip away any discoloration and restore the gelcoat – it was nearly instantaneous, and very easy to do.  I started by using a paper towel to apply it, and then a clean one to wipe it off, which brought with it a lot of dirt and cleared out the…

Simrad NSE12 + BR24

For a while I have been planning a new system on my sailboat for navigation.  I started out back in 2007 with a Garmin GPSMAP 5208 which worked great at the time.  It was a touch screen system, and a bit on the small size for the display.   Over time I found many errors with the charts, problems with it keeping up with the amount of AIS targets I had (the fan would spin up and the UI would slow to a crawl) plus a few other things. I have been watching the developments of broadband radar via panbo.com and other places online, and wanted to add that to my boat for safety reasons.  After a lot of research, I choose the Simrad NSE12 multi function display, and BR24 radar. One of the reasons I’m writing my thoughts up here is that while there is a lot of info…

Living on a houseboat?

I’ve been thinking off and on for a while about moving from my current 1 bedroom, 900sf apartment into something a little more unique, and a little larger.  Friday, a new rental came up on an RSS feed I have for SeattleRentals.com – a house boat on Lake Union in the Eastlake neighborhood.  In fact, there are at least three for rent in the same general area. I love the water – sailing on it, being near it.  I own a place with two other friends out on Vashon Island right on the sound, and I love getting out in my sailboat as often as possible.  I think it would be amazing to live on the water.  I’ve considered living on my sailboat, but that requires a significant lifestyle change, plus it’s hard to find liveaboard slips around the area. So the big question is – what should I be…

ACR Nauticast Class B transponder

Update Early 2015:  I have since moved to a new boat, and have a Vesper XB-8000 AIS unit.  The ACR Nauticast unit failed in 2012, and was replaced with another Vesper model. The final piece of my navigation and safety additions to my sailboat finally came in – an AIS Class B transponder.  I chose the ACR Nauticast-B kit which includes a bunch of different things.  This post contains a lot of information on unboxing and initial playing of the unit. I sail primarily near Elliott Bay in Puget Sound, Seattle, WA.  My sailboat currently has an AIS receiver that I have had for over a year, and it has proven well worth the investment.  I have it connected to my Garmin GPSMAP 5208 chartplotter, and shows a lot of details on ships moving around me.  Elliott Bay is very busy – two major ferry routes terminate here, and there…

Favorite G1/Android stuff

I’ve had the G1 for a while now, and have found a few things that are must-haves both in hardware and software. First, the Innocell 1400mAh Extended Life Battery from Seidio is a must.  The original stock battery would not get me through a day unless I plugged it in at least once at my desk during the day.  If I turned WiFi or any other options (location, Bluetooth, GPS) on during the day, and did a moderate amount of surfing in meetings, I was done.  This new battery seems to last a lot longer, and allows me to use the phone off and on throughout the day, with WiFi, and without any problems.  Much happier.  Too bad T-Mobile didn’t ship this with the phone… Next, for work email, the K-9 mail application.  This app works far faster with remote IMAP servers than the default one, and has a lot…

Switched to T-Mobile G1

A few days ago I got a call from AT&T saying that I was likely going to have an increase on my cell phone bill due to the amount of SMS’es I send and receive.   I had upgraded to the iPhone 3G shortly after it came out, and had an unlimited SMS plan. Unlimited, to AT&T, doesn’t mean unlimited.  Apparently if you go over some threshold that only they know, they consider you using this service beyond what “normal” users would, and as such, they would like to charge you more than even the unlimited amount. After a few calls back and forth to AT&T and working my way up the chain, it was obvious that even without this increase in my plan, that there were other increases coming to iPhone customers, especially anyone who uses them for business reasons, as I did. So at ~$120 a month after…

Strange iPhone icon – SOLVED

SOLVEDUpdated 10/13/2008 I finally found out what the icon is – it’s for TTY access. Apparently I either turned it on by accident, or it came on by itself… I have searched a bunch on this one, and haven’t found an answer.  I’m using the new 3G iPhone, and the newest firmware (2.1) and today a strange icon appeared in the top bar that I can’t find anything about. It’s the second from the left in the close-up above – the keyboard and phone thing. Here’s a bigger version showing the whole screen… If you know something, please post a comment….

EVDO update – Sprint vs Verizon

I’ve had some time to play with the EVDO options out there – I ended up getting a Sprint card in addition to the Verizon one I had as well. The Sprint card is a Novatel Wireless EX720, and I have the usual 5GB monthly plan. Both Verizon and Sprint have similar UI’s for their management applications.  I like Verizon’s statistics graphing capabilities, but I much prefer the Sprint application for everything else – it seems to be better adapted to deal with Windows Vista. The actual service is far better on the Sprint network than Verizon.  Based on my testing thus far, here’s some comparisons: VerizonLatency: 138msDownload: 756KbpsUpload: 182Kbps SprintLatency: 101msDownload: 1094KbpsUpload: 435Kbps This is from the same location, the same night.  The Verizon towers seem to be pretty consistently slower than Sprint.  I’ll do some additional testing over the next week or two to see if things stay…