Idea: short-term unified group messaging enterprise

I was driving for 6 hours the other day and my wife was asleep, so what does one do: work out the details for a new kind of hosted communication service in my head.

If you are a user of AirBNB, you might have noticed that when you get messages from your hosts in the app, you also get an SMS/text with (the first 140 chars) of the message. The number you get it from, is not the phone number of the host. In my case it was more often a US number. So I started thinking: how does this work? Obviously this is not a phone number per customer, since that would be impossible/unaffordable. If they use N phone numbers to send these messages, when someone replies, how do they know who to forward the message to? It’s not rocket science.

A typical user has one ‘current’ transaction with AirBNB (i.e. ‘where do I sleep tonight?’). If that user (whose phone number we know) sends a message, we know it is concerning that transaction. In the worst case the person stays in a different AirBNB place every night, and you want the group chat to be available 2 weeks before until 1 week after the transaction. That can be managed with 21 different phone numbers. For the hosts that manage several apartments or rooms, they might have up to 100 group chats that are active at the same time. Still, 100 different phone numbers, that’s still doable.

So then I thought, what if you would have a service that allows any company to do this? They want to set up a temporary group chat with different channels (their own app, email, SMS, WhatsApp, Messenger, …) but not manage the details. So that idea crystallised into a short-term unified group messaging enterprise – STUGME.

Continue reading Idea: short-term unified group messaging enterprise

Reset your OnePlus One to factory settings

About half a year ago I switched from an iPhone to an Android smartphone: the OnePlus One. In the beginning it was splendid and super fast and everything. But recently it has become flaky. I suspect the apps ‘Swiftkey’ and ‘Atooma’ have something to do with it. Swiftkey seemed to drain the battery really fast (5hrs of battery life max – charging requyired 3 or more times a day), and when I started testing Atooma instead of Tasker (for automation), a lot of programs started crashing, including the essential ‘Messages’ and ‘Dialer’ applications. Even after uninstalling a bunch of other applications, I still couldn’t pick up phone calls half of the time. And I got the error message ‘Unfortunately, Google Play Services has stopped‘ once every 10 to 30 minutes. So I decided, I need to reinstall Android on my phone!

Continue reading Reset your OnePlus One to factory settings

Wifi in my car: proof of concept

Some drivers love fancy chrome wheel rims, some add a huge wing spoiler on their car, or fuzzy dice hanging from their rear-view mirror. Me, when I bought my new car, I decided that I wanted a Wifi network in my car. So that any passenger with a laptop/iPod could read his email. And I imagined driving to distant holiday locations while my passenger where watching movies streamed from a NAS disk built into the car.

This weekend I finished episode one: Internet in the car. I used the following components:

The important details here are:

  • The Huawei stick is compatible with the TP-Link router.
  • The Huawei stick can be configured with ‘Save my PIN’, so that when it starts up, it connects to the 3G network without any manual intervention.
  • The TP-Link router runs on 12V DC (which is what a car has)

For the rest, the exercise was quite straight-forward: I configured the Huawei stick on my laptop with the right PIN code, popped it in myTP-Link router, configured the right 3G settings for Telenet (see here). Then I took an old 12V power transformer, chopped off the connector and linked it up to an old car cigarette lighter type of plug (sometimes it’s good to have an archive of obsolete cables and power supplies). I then hid the router under the base plate of my trunk, where there is also the battery (the BMW X1 stores the battery in the back, where you would normally have the spare tyre). I switch on the car and 20 seconds later, I have a Wifi network “OnTheRoadAgain” that is connected to the Internet. Proof of concept is OK!

The next step now is to add a (Synology) NAS, which also runs on 12V, and hook up my iPad to the car Wifi to view my collection of backed-up DVDs from that disk. And maybe run some extra programs (e.g. MRTG for monitoring) on that NAS. To be continued!

iOS6 losing its 3G cellular data settings – fix for Belgium

I upgraded my iPhone 4S to the new iOS6 the day it came out. As I expected, I had to reconfigure the cellular data settings (‘APN’). For some reason they always get lost during major OS updates. However, I have noticed the last weeks that, every now and then, my 3G connection stops working, and when I check the APN settings, they have disappeared. My colleagues, with iPhones and iPads on different cellular operators also have this problem. So for them, for me, and for anyone else who has this problem: here are the settings for the Belgian operators.

Username: (empty)
Password: (empty)
APN: APN: iphone.mobistar
Username: (empty)
Password: (empty)
Username: base
Password: base
Username: web
Password: web
Username: (empty)
Password: (empty)
Username: (empty)
Password: (empty)

These are the most common ones.

The procedure is: goto General/Cellular/Cellular Data Network, verify they are all empty, fill in the correct values, leave the Cellular menu, switch your phone to “Airplane Mode” for 10 seconds, and then switch that back off. You should see the 3G logo appear again.

Nokia Trends Lab @ AB

This Friday in the Ancienne Belgique: Nokia Trends Lab with Shameboy. There was a remix contest for a Shameboy song and it was won by Pieter Santens. I also downloaded the tracks last week and thought I’d use Acid Express to make a quick remix. But I quickly realized that I was so used to using the full version of Acid that going back to Express was like stepping from a Saab onto a scooter and still trying to hit the highway. So I stopped. Unfortunately I can’t find the winning remix on the Lab site.

Nokia Trends Lab is a cutting-edge event which combines mobile phone technology with creative and experimental art. Shameboy will look for local talent to remix their single, ‘Splend It’ from their Heartcore album. As an exclusive to Nokia Trends Lab, Shameboy has allowed samples of ‘Splend It’ to be temporarily featured online. The participant who creates the most memorable and original remix will be invited by Shameboy to record the track in the studio on 4 May. The remix will debute at the Nokia Trends Lab event which takes place on Friday 9 May at the Ancienne Belgique in Brussels. The music video for the remix will be shot during the event, by young talents using Nokia N95 8GB. These young talents will also be selected through a Film Lab on the Nokia Trends Lab website. The music video will then be aired on JIM.

If you still want free duo-tickets: send an email to with as subject “Shameboy tickets”. It’s also on Facebook!

The Barcamp video saga: background

I’ve had a number of requests from attendees of the Barcamp Brussels 3 event. “The speeches were recorded on Nokia N95 phones, right? How come we haven’t seen them yet on Youtube/Google? What’s taking so long?” Well, here’s the answer.

The reason is purely me. I received the N95 video’s (3DVDs, about 12GB in total) from Fré quite soon after the event. At the time, I was ‘just going to throw them’ on Google Video, maybe with a title image before the movie that included a Barcamp and Nokia logo. How hard would that be, right? Well, slightly harder than I thought. The files were huge, so had to be transcoded to something smaller, there were too many files to do things manually, so I needed to start scripting, and the tools I used for it, ImageMagick and FFMPEG are powerful but tricky. That combined with my tango activities, a holiday, a girlfriend abroad and the non-negligeable fact of having a day-time job made for this delay of over a month. Mea culpa. But the wait is over.

These are the first videos. Feedback on video, sound and other details are welcome! I will then proceed with the conversion of the other ones. I will also do a post on what tricks I used to do the video rendering of the title, the transcoding and the merging of video files.

Jeroen De Cock – “Online communities & offline events”

Will Moffat – “Introduction to Freebase

The Nokia N95

Nokia 019
I am one of the blogger-testers of the new Nokia N95. I received one of the first phones two weeks ago and have been using it now as extra phone. As I was also one of the beta-testers of the Nokia N91, I’ll concentrate on the differences between these two high-end smartphones.

N95 vs N91

  • GPS: this I have never experienced in a phone before. The phone came with maps for Benelux on its 1GB card. The mapping functionality is free, the routeplanner too, but if you want the phone to read you the instructions (“in 500m, turn left”) you need to pay: per year, per month or per week. Interesting business model. TomTom e.g. charges you for extra countries, but the instruction reading is always included. To be honest, you cannot compare the N95 GPS to the TomTom One (of which I am a very happy user). The GPS sensor is not as strong, so you need more time to lock into the satellites, and you lose them more easily. But it’s still an impressive feature, certainly when combined with the camera function (geo-tagged photos on Flickr). As more and more location-based services will become available for mobile devices, a built-in GPS might become a more common feature. Strictly speaking, just a GPS sensor (not the map data, not the route planner) is already worth quite a lot.
  • Internet: the N95 uses the same browser as the N91, but the screen is much better, certainly when you switch to landscape mode. I also have the impression that Proximus Live! is a faster and robuster way to connect to the Internet than Mobistar’s “Orange World” which I’m using now. I’m switching to Proximus soon anyway.
  • Camera: quality-wise it’s a big step: from 2 megapixels to 5 megapixels, with better contrast and better focus. But while the N91 is a slow photo camera, the N95 is super slow. There are easily 2 to 3 seconds between the moment you push the button and the actual photo. You won’t be using it for sports photography. But the image, even after maximum digital zoom, is still way better. There’s also the option to upload your pictures to Flickr right away. On the N91, you still needed Shozu (excellent program by the way), with the N95 that functionality is built in. To be honest, Shozu is still better: it also supports uploading videos to YouTube, geotagging and upload queuing. Shozu is free and works on the N95, so no worries.
  • Wifi: I’m spoiled, I’m already used to this on the N91. But the N95 can scan continously and connects automatically. And the adding of new access points is finally more intuitive. Wifi on a mobile phone opens a whole new world of applications. The browser benefits from it, obviously, but also the photo uploading, RSS reading … There should be more applications for the wireless network, or if there are already, Nokia should promote them more.
  • Gallery: the application that lets you browse the photos and videos you made is much slicker than the N91.
  • Storage: the Nokia N91 has a 4GB of 8GB hard disk inside, which takes up a lot of battery, and it obviously cannot be removed. The N95 uses these itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny Micro-SD cards, which now go up to 2GB, but 4GB soon. The N95 has the better future ahead.

Continue reading The Nokia N95

Fallen in love again with my N91

naomi campbellI have an ambiguous relationship with my Nokia N91. When I received it for testing, it seemed to be all a mobile tech-savvy user could wish for. But time and time again, something happened that pissed me off: battery life, application crashes, losing data, and 2 months ago: refusing to boot. I got fed up with giving it a second chance, and a third …, and threw it in a drawer. In girl-terms, the phone was a Naomi Campbell: really pretty, but independable on the verge of bipolar. She might work, she might not. Impeccable behaviour or a slap in the face, no way to predict.

britney spearsThen I bought myself a medium priced SonyEricsson V600 and was not really satisfied with it. Everything about it felt wrong. For some reason, I like the Nokia user interface much better, or even the Samsung one. The V600 buttons felt toy-like, not sturdy. Its USB interface did not have a full or mini USB connector, but something proprietary. In short, it might be an OK phone, but not for me. In girl terms: more like a Britney Spears. Predictably boring and styleless.
Continue reading Fallen in love again with my N91

Mobile etiquette: Caller ID

On the Internet no one knows you're a dog
photo by uncle buck

Do you remember the days before mobile phones? When being on the road meant that you could not be reached? When curly phone cords entangled in a sort of DNA structure? When you had to type the number without screen feedback and when you missed one digit, you had to start over? And when you received a call, you had no idea who it was? Nowadays we’re all used to Caller ID (or CLI), some of us even have pictures of callers popping up. I don’t know about you, but I like Caller ID, and I don’t like it when people turn it off (for some reason a lot of ‘sales’ people seem to do that). If I didn’t have this one customer who blocks their numbers, I would never answer the phone on a ‘Private number’.

Five reasons why you should NOT switch caller-ID off:

  1. the called person can screen your call. That is not necessarily negative, there is such a thing as ‘a bad time to call’.
  2. the called person can easily call you back. No need to spell out your phone number twice on the voice mail.
  3. if you called 5 times without getting through, both of you know that. Without Caller ID, those 5 missed calls could be from anyone, and so you have no reason to complain if it is not treated as an urgent call.
  4. disabling your Caller ID makes you look like a telemarketing agent or stalker. No one likes getting calls from those.
  5. a lot of people don’t like getting anonymous phone calls (that includes me). You’re starting the conversation with one participant already annoyed.

I don’t think I’m the only one: on the Nokia forums, most discussions on Caller ID are about how to enable it, not how to get rid of it. This is how you switch it ON:
Activate Incoming (CLIP): *30# [SEND]
Activate Outgoing (CLIR): *31# [SEND]


How about you? Do you also think switched off caller-ID is impolite?