Mobile Broadband

It is often common for smart phones purchased in the last few years, whether bought on contract or PAYG (Pay As You Go) to come with a minutes allowance, a text allowance as well as data allowance.

The data allowance will typically refer to a 4G connection where the average download speed is about 8Mbps (Mega Bits Per Second). The allowance represents how much data you can transfer from the internet to your device, whether that may be pictures, music, movies or browsing the internet for the latest news or train time information. Even your apps on your mobile phone chew up some of your data allowance as they are trying to sync with a server to obtain the latest information.

The latest mobile phones use an OS (Operating System) to offer you a nice friendly user interface so all you have to do is tap the screen or drag and drop icons and the device knows exactly what you want it to do.

The Operating Software basically sends instructions to the hardware in your handheld device and gets it to behave as requested. These instructions can be quite lengthy and complicated but as long as they work and do everything you want them to do, then you do not have to worry about what instructions they contain.

Common operating systems used on mobile handsets are Windows (used on Nokia devices) IOS (used on the Apple Iphone devices) and Android (used on everything else). This blog is MY blog so I can state my point of view whether it is factual or correct and so in my eyes, Android is the better OS simply because it isn’t licenced which means that you aren’t paying extra money for a polished turd and simply the fact that Android is a form of Linux so it is open source and you can therefore create your own apps and download them to your phone from any source as an APK file and then just install it. This cannot be done on Iphone as you have to get files from the Apple store so you have to register them first which is a lot of hassle if you just want to test a simple app that you have developed. This was also the same issue with the Blackberry phones but I haven’t mentioned them as I am not even sure they are still making phones any more and if so, their app store isn’t brilliant so has quite a lot of limitations.

Anyways, you will be surprised to learn if you didn’t know already that you can use your phone as a mobile hotspot. which means that you can tether devices to it like you would with your wireless internet at home.

You would turn the hotspot on using the network settings on your phone and then you can change the network name which may be known as an APN (Access Point Name) or the SSID (Service Set IDentifier) name. This is the name that shows up when you search for wireless networks available in your area and how you can distinguish which one is which. You can also set up the network passphrase or network key. It is known by many different names. This typically has to be at least 8 characters long and seeing as you are using this code to connect numerous different devices at different times, why make it too complicated for yourself? Why not just set it to a simple date of birth or something memorable like 11223344.

Once your device is connected, devices such as a laptop, tablet or even another phone will start using the data package you currently have in place.

I am writing this blog in Hull which at present has one main service provider – Kingston Communications, also known as Kcom. They pretty much own the monopoly in Hull and even have different colour phone boxes rather than the traditional red ones.

Majority of their customers found on forums comment that the prices are extremely high as there is no other competition and the quality of the internet is poor and people have experienced issues. Please notice that I have not stated how many people and not stipulated that this is a recurring issue, just an observation that has been brought to my attention through the means of social media.

On this information I have realised that in most areas of Hull, the only available network service to a property is ADSL (ASymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) This is what a lot of people just refer to as broadband or “The Internet”. The key word in all of this jargon, if you were to remember any of it, would be ASymmetric. This means non-symmetrical. So in other words, your download speed will be faster than your upload speed.

When you want to connect to a website, you type the web address into your web browser, it will then knock on the door of a DNS (Dynamic Name Server) and returns an IP (Internet Protocol) address. This is like a physical postal address you have for your property and it will give you the address to where the big computer or server is that stores your website that you want to visit. It will hold all the pictures, the text and the format of how they want the page to look on your screen.

When you hit the return key on your Google search, you are then sending your request along the network to knock on the front door of that IP address and say “Please Mr Computer, may I see the site that you are sharing”. You will also send a few of your credentials as well to that server such as your internet IP address so it will know from which country you are wanting to view from (This is useful if you want to purchase something so it will show a price in the correct currency for you). Then the server decides that it will share the information with you and send the data back down the network and to your computer for your browser to decipher. This is a good example of why you need an upload and download speed. Another would be downloading files such as music from the internet or uploading all your newest photos on to Facebook.

As data allowances grow, they are still quite limited in size at present due to the fact that 4G is newer technology and so they do not want to give away too much allowance as it will strain bandwidth connections so some mobile phone providers only offer as much as 20GB of 4G data per month and even if you contact them asking how much more data would be, they wouldn’t sell it as a standard package and so every month, for extra data you would have to top up with a booster or a bundle or whatever exclusive name the provider has created for the purchase of additional data.

I do not use a phone line any more. I am always out and about and so prefer to give out my mobile number and also the fact that line rental costs money. I only ever had one previously as a donor line for my ADSL to run on.

Although Fibre broadband is now available in some areas, including small areas in Hull, which means faster connection speeds and no need for a PSTN phone line for it to run on. The downside to a Fibre connection is that people learn to expect that speed and also willingly accept the cost that is involved and so are paying at least £50 a month for this “treat”. I was sat here thinking carefully as to how to word the privilege and I can really only think of it as a treat because it isn’t essential, you could get by with ADSL for what most homes use the internet for, the cost in my eyes is not justified and also you have to weigh in the factor that you may have an extremely faster connection and you can download X amount of Mbps but what if the server you are getting the data from has poor bandwidth, has a low upload speed or numerous requests so it can only remain stable if it sends data out at a slower speed?? It then wouldn’t matter what spec you have as you are reliant on a third party resource and I cant see you offering to pay their bill too!

So back on to the subject of mobile broadband… There is now a device called MIFI and it is provided by numerous different phone service providers.

The MIFI is a small box (Sorry no free licenced images available to add to my site) that has a SIM card installed, just like your mobile phone would and then it will connect to your service provider and establish a network connection.

The MIFI device will then project its SSID name (as mentioned above) for you to be able to pick this network up on your mobile phone, tablet or laptop.

The MIFI I have is an EE one, it also has a network port in the back so that I could connect a device directly to it which should in theory, make my connection faster, as it would be hard wired and therefore not be susceptible to the flaws or problems that can be experienced whilst using the 802.11 WIFI protocol.

My contract is currently £44 a month and includes the free device which meant all I needed to do when it arrived was insert the SIM card which also came in the same box. The device itself needs to have a mains plug connection, I could have got a device that’s more flexible and could be operated by batteries but then I assumed that even with Lithium-Ion batteries, they wouldn’t last that long and the lack of power may contribute to the lack of signal. Plus I am using this device for my laptop which eventually needs to be plugged in so this was a trivial issue for me and saved money.

So as soon as I plugged in my device it took seconds to establish a connection and the small little card that came in the box told me what network name to search for and also the password to enter. Then Hey Presto! I was connected and able to search the internet and stream videos and do anything I wanted to with my 50GB of data that got replenished every month.

Being a geek, the first thing I did was a speed test. I wanted to know exactly how fast my data was travelling. I went to www.speedtest.net and got quite a quick ping reply (that’s the response to the knock on the door I mentioned). I then got a download speed averaging 11.32Mbps and an upload speed of 7.74Mbps This was quite impressive seeing as though service users using the local ADSL service were commenting on their connections losing sync all the time and their download speed being as low as 2Mbps.

Going further into the geek dimensions, I didn’t want to stick with the classic MIFI**** SSID I was set up with by EE and I also didn’t want to have to keep going to find this little card to find the WIFI credentials every time someone wanted to connect to my internet.

The following information can also be followed for your router at home, even if you have ADSL or Fibre and you are using a WIFI connection.

These instructions are for Microsoft Windows users as this is the Operating System I use on my laptop and Microsoft was my choice for certification back in the days.

The following will allow you to change your WIFI name and also your WIFI password:

First of all, on your laptop/computer keyboard, you will see the space bar, to the left of that you will see an ALT key and to the left of that, the Windows key (seen as the Windows symbol). Hold down the Windows key and push the R button on your keyboard at the same time. This will open up the RUN box on your computer. Then clear anything in that box and type in “CMD” and hit the return key or click OK. This will then open the command dialogue box which has a black background and text that looks like its written in the old MS DOS format.

In this section you need to type in “IPCONFIG” and hit the return key. This will show your internet protocol configuration details. You will see a lot of gumpf that you really don’t need to worry about but one bit of information you are trying to find is something that says default gateway and then it will be followed with an IP address. Usually this is something like 192.168.1.1 or something like that. Please make a note of this as this is easily forgotten when you get distracted and then you have to repeat the method again.

The default gateway opens up access to your home router as you will see soon.

If you then close all the boxes and open up your internet web browser, this could be either Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer or anything that suits your browsing needs.

Once your browser is open, where you would usually type in a web address to go to, instead, clear that box and enter the default gateway information you previously wrote down: 192.168.something.something and hit return.

This will take you to your router settings and depending on who provided your router, you may be prompted to enter login username and password details to access these settings. On the EE router, these credentials were also provided on the card which was extremely useful. If you have a Sky router then typically the defaults are as follows: username: “admin” Password: “sky”.

You can usually find these credentials written on a sticker on your router or they can be easily found via Google so don’t panic too much.

So once you are in the default gateway, you can even change those initial security details to a suitable username and password that you will remember.

Make sure you go to the wireless LAN or WLAN tab and then change the SSID to anything you like.

You can then do the same with the password key and then once you click apply, your wireless connection will drop out.

You will then need to search for available wireless networks in your area again and then enter your new password if you changed it.

That’s it! You have now got a customized broadband router which will be easier to connect future devices to.

One thing I will mention on here, which is not totally relevant but I was asked this question by a gentleman at the last Raspberry jam I attended – he said that IP addresses have sections so go as high as a certain amount. If there are a limited number then how can his home printer have an individual IP address.

This was a really good question and I am glad he asked me it.

I was able to explain to the gentleman that IP addresses at present use IPv4 which means that they have 4 sections. These sections are known as an “octet” which means a group of 8 things. In computing and the use of Binary, there are 8 bits to a Byte and when calculating, the highest number they could reach is 255 but there are only 254 combinations, which means that in each octet, you can have a number combination going from 0 to 254.

As there are only 4x octet’s this means there are limitations on the amount of IP addresses you can have and the max amount will be 254x254x254x254.

If you have read a few IT/Networking journals then you may have heard of IPv6 which adds another 2x octet’s and therefore adds a lot more numbers available in the list of available IP addresses. I think a journal that I read stated that every human in the world population can have about 13 IP addresses.

Another thing that I had to explain to the gentleman is the different between a public and private IP address. Companies like Coca-Cola, which is a huge company only own about 6 public IP addresses and they are extremely expensive. Instead companies use one IP address and then can do clever things on servers to split domain names, hosting and key words so that you can find exactly what you are looking for within one IP address.

When you connect a device such as your laptop, tablet, mobile phone or wireless printer to your router, you are connecting it to your private network and so therefore it still has a unique IP address, otherwise information being sent back and forth would become scrambled, but the router itself assigns an individual IP address for each device and typically routers give out a 192.168.something.something IP address (does this look familiar to the format of your default gateway). If you turn your wireless router on for the first time and then try and connect your phone, it will use DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol). This means that it will assign an IP address to it, typically 192.168.0.1 and will send across the network details including a DHCP lease time. That means that if after a certain period (stated in minutes) a connection isn’t established with the device given the original IP address then this allocation with expire and the IP address will then be back on the list of availability.

The alternative to DHCP is static IP addressing. When you set up your wireless router, it may not be on all the time, just when you want to print something so it could be that the device lays dormant for longer periods of time and therefore a DHCP IP address would expire. This wouldn’t be good when you have configured your printer to send print information to a specific network device when you click on the print button. Its like sending postal mail to a caravan that keeps moving plots so you would establish a static IP address that it would keep and then you would instruct your computer to keep sending the print data in that direction.

The last question the gentleman asked was, if he has security cameras in his house and he can connect to them using their IP address, then doesn’t that make them vulnerable to other viewers. The answer to that would be that in purchasing the cameras, he has paid for a subscription to the company server where he will be able to live stream the cameras images on a laptop or mobile device and it asks for his camera IP addresses so it can establish the route it needs to take to make a secure connection to allow him to view his cameras from anywhere in the world. The security behind it would be as much as you can assume from a company who transfers data over the internet and allows its customers access to relevant cameras by a username and password which the credentials would be stored on an SQL database on a different partition of the server.

I guess the more you know about technology, the scarier it can be but then you also have to remember that you are a small fish in a big pond and if you are not doing anything sinister then you should have nothing to worry about, including paranoia.

If you have any further questions or queries about what I have written in this article then please feel free to contact me.

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Hull Raspberry Jam Saturday 10th September

https://www.raspberrypi.org/

Why not join in on the fun and learn more about the Raspberry Pi and how to code by attending a Raspberry Jam.

The next event takes place on Saturday 10th September and starts at 10:15 until 13:15.

The venue for this event is Malet Lambert School – James Reckitt Avenue, Hull, HU8 0JD

This is a free to attend event – tickets plus more information is available from the Eventbrite website.

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Todays Adventure

So I decided that it was time to upgrade from my Samsung Galaxy S4 LTE to the new shiny Galaxy S6 which may I add, is totally amazing as it has a decent amount of internal memory so hopefully won’t keep telling me it is running low!

Anyways, I decided that as my S4 was still of value, I would see if anyone was interested in the purchase. To my luck someone was but they didn’t have an O2 sim card and didn’t know how much it would cost to unlock the phone.

As some of you may have picked up from my previous blogs, I sometimes class myself as a tech person and if something can be done, I want to know how to do it rather than paying money for someone else to do it for me.

So I went online and read a few tutorials about unlocking a phone, specifically the S4 I9505 LTE. It said that if I was to dial *#0011# then it would come up with a service menu, which it did. It then said that if I was to use the menu and select the key input “1” then it would take me to a different menu – Sadly this did not happen. So I then went down the path of downloading some flash software called ODIN and some software so I could root the phone. I had never done this before so it did seem a little scary but I thought I would give it a try nonetheless.

I managed to root the phone. I was even able to find the setting for the second menu as a root Super User and change it from hidden to not hidden, not that it made any different as it was still not allowing me to get to the menu that I needed to change in the first place to unlock this handset to allow access for sims on alternative carriers.

So I looked into things further and downloaded software that would back up my existing ROM on the phone (REMEMBER TO ALWAYS BACKUP). I then transferred this backup data from my SD card to my laptop to allow space for a custom rom on the SD card as this was how I wanted to install it.

As I was using the wiping software I was very sure I wanted to wipe the cache as well as the System as this is what all my helpful websites that I read had told me to do. So when I went to then install my custom ROM, which failed in seconds, I was in a bit of a panic as I now had no OS on my phone so it wouldn’t boot into anything and the backup ROM that I made was on my laptop and I couldn’t even get the laptop to recognise the phone or the SD card as a mass storage device.

At this point I had two options: to either cry in a corner and admit defeat or try and find a stock ROM that I could then flash to the device. I managed to find such ROM and it flashed fine, optimized all my 200 something apps and then I was able to root it again.

The phone now is back to how it was previously although I haven’t got the right size sim to test it at the moment but I will do tomorrow when it isn’t 2am in the morning.

It certainly has been a learning curve and I am quite sure it wont be my last experience with mobile phones as these are the things that will be in our future for quite some time.

Once I have established a way to unlock this phone without having to pay, of course I will share this knowledge with my readers.

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Ooops my bad (2)!

So sadly it didn’t take long at all for episode 2 of Ooops my bad!

I treated myself to an android smart watch and I was really impressed that you could sync it to your mobile phone via Bluetooth and send/receive calls as well as texts and you could even add a micro SD card and a SIM card and it would work as a standalone device and make calls and texts without the phone connected. It even had a 3g connection so although slow, I could still use data. The downside was that although it had a Facebook and WhatsApp icon, they were in fact just shortcuts to a webpage and the built in browser was pretty lame (yeah I know you can’t expect too much from a cheap gadget).

So my idea was to “hack it”. I wanted to get into the watch, seeing as it didn’t have a play store or a simple way to install new apps, even when I tried to download an APK file directly from my cloud storage it didn’t know what to do with it.

So I searched online and realised that I could use a flash tool which I have never had the pleasure of using before. All I had to do was install the drivers for the watch first and then I could set the flash tool so that it backs up a copy of the ROM, then lets me alter it and then it on to the watch.

This is where it all went horribly wrong…
First of all I was using Windows 10 which, in the device manager, did not show the ports section so I couldn’t setup and distinguish which COM port was my USB in the flash tool software.

I did try installing the drivers by using the legacy hardware option but then when they did show up they had an exclamation mark against them. I was getting absolutely nowhere and Microsoft were telling me that its a manufacturer issue as its drivers needed for their MOBO (Motherboard) and HP were telling me that this laptop, which I had only purchased in 2014, hasn’t been tested with Windows 10 and basically couldn’t be bothered to provide any updated drivers for it and I went between the two for about 3 days.

It concluded that I would just have to take the hit and recover back to Windows 8 which HP do provide the drivers for. The problem with this is that since my upgrade, I decided to clear the previous version files to save space. All HP could then tell me is that I needed a recovery kit and it would cost just shy of £35.

I went to Microsoft online support chat again and got someone to remote into my laptop who set off 2 downloads – one being software to burn a bootable ISO to a flash drive or DVD and the other was an ISO for Windows 8. He actually stated that they not longer had the Windows 8 available to download from Microsoft so I assume that he must have got the ISO file from a 3rd party site, which I am sure hasn’t been tested and for the paranoid out there, who would agree that getting Operating Systems from a 3rd party source or places like torrent sites can also install a virus in the background, a Trojan or key logger software so it is ALWAYS recommended to use genuine software from a reliable source.

As I went into the BIOS to change the boot sequence I faced another struggle – as my SSD it classed as a flash drive and so was the flash drive with the ISO on, the bios could not distinguish between the 2 and that wasn’t going to work.
I then decided to burn the ISO to a bootable DVD and try and set the boot sequence for that to run first. Finally I had some success, right until I got to the point where the laptop couldn’t recognise my SSD and this is about the point I am ready to cry myself to sleep but I DID NOT GIVE UP!

I put my old HHD back in my laptop, I spoke with Microsoft again (for the 4th time) and got to the point where they actually became useful – they gave me a link to a tool that would directly allow me to add a bootable ISO directly to my flash drive and I could choose the version of Windows I wanted to install and it downloaded it. I was then able to change the boot sequence back to flash drive first and then the HDD and this worked! I was able to go through the motions and after a slow hard drive I got my Windows 8.1 installed.

Now I was making progress I decided to bring back my original issues with my smart watch, downloaded all the drivers and tools again and opened the flash tool. It now recognised the COM port I Was using through the USB connection to the watch. The downside at this point was that it said my phone must have turned on too quickly for it to step in on the start-up so I turned it off and tried again but then the touch screen froze so had to pull the battery. I tried one more time in a different USB port and it was exactly the same.

So just to confirm at this stage, I have my old HHD in my laptop now with Windows 8 to use for the purposes of this flash tool software which doesn’t even work.

I have now put in my SSD drive again and have decided that I really don’t need my smart watch to be all singing and dancing now.

I did however find out on my quest that Windows 8 is being supported by Microsoft until 2032 and always make sure that your device has been tested with Windows 8 and whether the manufacturer will support Windows 10 and the drivers you will need.

And seeing as though I am on the subject of Windows 10, it is actually a good operating system and the likely hood is that you might not even need to use it for the things I try and do with my gadgets so you will be fine. The free upgrade to Windows 10 does actually run out at the end of July 2016 though so if you still haven’t upgraded yet then it would be recommended to do so.

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What is a Raspberry Pi?

https://www.raspberrypi.org/

Imagine you have a computer at home and on that computer you connect a mouse, a keyboard and a monitor to get a full setup.

This is exactly the same with the Raspberry Pi but instead of it being a large case to rest your feet on, it sits in the palm of your hand.

Typical home computers are build with an Operating Software installed such as Windows XP, Windows 7, 8 or Windows 10. This is licenced software which means that you have to pay for the use of it.

On the Raspberry Pi, your hard drive (where you store all your files) is a small memory card and the Operating Software you use is a development of Linux, which is classed as “open source” software.

Open source means that instead of hiding all the code that is used to create the user interface that you are met with when you turn on the pc, you are allowed access to it and they encourage that you change the code to suit your needs.

If you are new to computing then don’t be afraid of this idea as you can easily download a version of Linux for the Raspberry Pi without the need to worry about any code.

If the Raspberry Pi that you purchase does not come with a memory card with the software installed then you can download it for free from the Raspberry Pi foundation.

There are numerous distributions available to download for the Raspberry Pi but if you are starting off then its probably best to try Raspbian.

Once you have everything setup and the Pi is up and running with your Raspbian operating software you can have a play around and get yourself familiar with the feel of it. It will look different if you are used to using Windows but the concept is the same.

Raspbian also comes with Scratch pre-installed which is what the children learn in the first term at Code Club so it allows them to explore further.

If you wanted to get creative with the Raspberry Pi, you can also create games and numerous other projects by using code called Python.
Python is the most commonly used code for the Raspberry Pi and if you search the internet as well as YouTube, you will find many different tutorials.

You will notice that on the top of the Raspberry Pi you will have lots of pins running along the side. These are called GPIO (General Purpose In/Out) pins.

These are used for projects such as making an LED (Light Emitting Diode) flash on and off. You would wire up one side of the LED to one of the pins for example: pin 8 and the other end of it to the ground pin.

Then you will need to write a bit of Python code to state you wish for pin 8 to go HIGH and you can state how long for and then go LOW. This is basically telling it to turn on with the HIGH command and off with the LOW command.

**Please remember that the Raspberry Pi will give out more power than is needed for an LED so make sure that you connect a resistor to this setup so that you do not burn out your LED**

There are different types of LED which can handle different values of power but as a rough guide, you would provide enough protection for your LED if you were to use a 220ohm resistor. It does not matter if you connect the resistor before or after the LED as it will still have to run through the resistor so will still offer protection.

The Raspberry Pi also has a camera that you can attach to it for instance if you would like to create a CCTV network for home or a dash cam for the car.

Here are a few other projects that people are using the Raspberry Pi for:

• Home Automation – turning lights and circuits on and off in the house.
ALWAYS be careful with electricity.
• Light shows using LED strips.
• Building robots that have sensors that can move towards or away from
lights.
• Music media centre.
• Digital photo frame.

Trust me, the list is endless and is only limited by your imagination.

For even more details about the Raspberry Pi then visit https://www.raspberrypi.org/ and why not visit a Raspberry Jam, an event to learn new things about the Raspberry Pi.

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Arduino IR LEDs

IR LEDs

So first of all I needed to connect the IR sensor to the Arduino and then  view the serial monitor so that I could see the code entered for each button pushed on the remote control. I then had to convert this from hex to decimal which was something a simple Google search could help with.

From there I just needed to write the code so that each LED would turn on and off in turn with the push of the assigned buttons from the remote control.

I have added a link to a ZIP file which contains 2 folders – one with the Arduino sketch file and the other with the library that I added and used.

 

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The happiness of post

Ok so I know how people often dread when the next bill comes through in the post but this week so far I have received 20x blue LEDs, 20 jumper cables, a relay, an IR receiver and 3x shift registers. Plus the added bonus: I purchased it from @proto-pic so it even comes with a free bag of sweets!

Still waiting for my China purchases, possibly only another month and a half to go…

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Hardware Meeting

After a visit to C4DI in Hull last night for a hardware meet up, I am now even more inspired to build a lot more with my arduino.

I met and spoke to some really interesting people who pointed me in the direction of shift registers which are used for 7 segment displays (digital number displays).

After much thought I have decided that my next project will be a small cluster of LEDs on a breadboard that can be controlled using a remote control and an IR receiver – watch this space!

 

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First Nano Experience

Arduino NanoMan make wheel. Man make fire. I make a flashing light!

Today at college we had a workshop where we had to use an arduino nano with a breadboard and wire up a circuit with a sensor.

The objective was to make a light turn on if the sensor read above a certain level otherwise a different LED would be lit.

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