BLU Samba W (Q170W) Quad Band GSM Phone Review

Continuing on my cheap GSM phone binge, I’ve acquired a BLU Samba W.

The Samba W
The Samba W

There is very little information on the Samba W out there (of which some of the information is just downright incorrect) so I’ll try to start from the ground up. Even BLU’s website displays the phone but doesn’t let you click on it, nor does it appear to have a similarly named page as its other phones that you can’t guess the URL. Continue reading BLU Samba W (Q170W) Quad Band GSM Phone Review

Aiek M3 Credit Card Sized GSM Phone Review

Freshly arrived from it’s Chinese eBay padded mailer, behold the Aiek M3


The Aiek M3 is a quad band GSM phone which is exactly the same size as a credit card (but significantly thicker). It is the next generation following the older “real button” versions (M1 and M2) and instead uses some sort of capacitive touch key design. Continue reading Aiek M3 Credit Card Sized GSM Phone Review

Bypassing T-Mobile User Agent Tether Filtering

I showed up at my university to discover, to my dismay, that the building I’m in this year doesn’t have a university LAN connection yet and the unionized university employees had left for the long weekend.

Thankfully, I have a T-Mobile sim with 5 Gigabytes of 4G data! But wait, after a few hours of use I was redirected:

The T-Mobile "buy this package to use the data we already sold you" screen
The T-Mobile “buy this package to use the data we already sold you” screen

So naturally, I said WTF and proceeded to my friendly neighborhood forum and confirmed that T-Mobile filters on User Agent Strings. Continue reading Bypassing T-Mobile User Agent Tether Filtering

iPhone vs Android: What is the best phone/carrier for you?

I’ve now had my iPhone 5 for several months after a two year stint with Android (first with 2.3 and later 4.1-4.3). I have reached several basic conclusions about the benefits and drawbacks of each from a purely “user experience perspective.”–I define this as a broad category relevant to the average consumer and tech geeks alike.

The two phones, side by side. Notice the Nexus 4 charging on the Qi inductive charging mat.
The two phones, side by side. Notice the Nexus 4 charging on the Qi inductive charging mat.

In this article I’ll be comparing the iPhone 5 (Verizon CDMA/LTE/GSM, iOS 6) with the Nexus 4 (GSM/HSPA+42, Android 4.3). For all intents and purposes, these phones are approximately equivalent within their own ecosystems. Continue reading iPhone vs Android: What is the best phone/carrier for you?

VoIP HOWTO: Asterisk, SIP, FreePBX, and geekery

This HOWTO’s complexity level is Moderate. You’ll need some experience dealing with networks, a basic grasp of network technology, and the desire to muck around a little bit with configuration.


A year ago, I decided that I wanted to learn VoIP. I’d seen some very interesting examples online and I wanted to try it myself. Those who have tried to do VoIP before have probably noticed the one minor hiccup that comes in tow: nobody wants to teach you how to do it. All people want to do is charge you money to do it for you and provide “support.” This is a pretty good business model, but not very helpful to people like me: the “do-it-yourselfers.”

So as to spare you, the reader, the pain which I experienced gleaning the information from this tutorial from various online forum posts and poorly written outdated howtos, I am going to change that and actually write a post that will get you up and running with a simple VoIP system for your house or small business (or large business, if you’re intrepid).
Continue reading VoIP HOWTO: Asterisk, SIP, FreePBX, and geekery

FlowRoute Wholesale VoIP Review

My VoIP trunk of choice (after admittedly trying few others) is FlowRoute. They have a number of advantages over pretty much everything else:

  1. Cost of minutes: Basically $0.01/minute in or out within the US. A little more to accept Toll-free calls.
  2. Cost of DIDs: Basically $1.25/month + activation.
  3. Ability to purchase DID blocks (a range of numbers) for cheap (even though those blocks might put your business somewhere north of eastern Sasquatch-uan).
  4. Ability to tell you EXACTLY how much money you have left…down to the 1/1,000,000th of a cent. As of this writing I have $25.92119295 of credit.
  5. Pay as you go, with automatic top-off available.
  6. E911
  7. Caller ID CNAM pushing (after approval of CNAM)

I have heard their support is not stellar, but they don’t do that much to warrant you wanting support.

They provide very straight-forward instructions for configuring sip trunks within FreePBX or Asterisk. Overall, not much to dislike about this company or the service they provide.

You can also read my full VoIP tutorial.

Why iPhone is better than the competition

UPDATE: Read my final say on which device is better!

I wanted to elaborate briefly on the “network integration” comment I made when I was justifying the purchase of the iPhone over Android. While I prefer the UI of Android, the “network integration” of the iPhone has impressed me. I will attempt to explain what I mean.


At Tufts this past year, I needed to access a web page as I walked into the dining halls. This was always a disaster. The Galaxy Nexus used the following approach to orchestrating data connections between multiple sources. Continue reading Why iPhone is better than the competition

Why I bought the iPhone 5

UPDATE: Read my final say on which device is better!

I’ll start this piece off with a cliche (notice that I’m too ignorantly American to find out how to put an accent on that letter, another cliche):

“Back when I was a boy, cell phones used to last all day!”

So yesterday I went out and purchased an old standby: the iPhone 5 for Verizon, on contract. I got the cheapest one they made, the 16 GB in black. Most of you who know me would note my long-held hatred of Apple in general. And this is true. I used Windows for the longest time. I further appreciate open source software (if not primarily because I fall into the category of people who are paid to make open source software work properly). I had a dumb phone up until my senior year, when I finally upgraded to a smartphone, the then-fancy-shmancy-new Verizon Droid Charge. It was in fact one of the first phones that worked on Verizon’s not-actually-4G LTE network, giving me speeds faster than most home wired connections from my telephone.

That was awesome. My phone was 10 times as fast as my Grandmother’s DSL. What could possibly be bad about this?

One word: Battery Life. On my first day the Charge had dramatically discharged by the end of the day and died. Suddenly I went from having a smart phone, straight through having a dumb phone, all the way to a paper weight. Many people joked about it’s name being the action which it was doomed to function most of the time.


  1. Verizon, are you inept? Stupid? Well…
  2. Why would anybody sell a phone that didn’t last all day? That defies the point of being a phone… Phones are used to make calls when we need to make calls, not only for the first few hours of the day until it dies.

So after a great bit of hemming and hawing and rooting and de-bloating and buying a huge 3.5 amp-hour battery, I finally had a phone that could last nearly two days. It looked hideous. Then one of my friends advised me to the fact that VZW had since abandoned the Charge and I would be forever stuck on Android 2.3. My friend showed my Stock Jelly Bean on the Galaxy Nexus and I was hooked. I bought one used off of craigslist. Why was the man selling it, you ask? “Poor battery life.”

How I love the Galaxy Nexus. The GSM version has beautiful battery life, HSPA+, completely stock un-VZWucked up Android, a thin profile and a nice screen. The VZW version is similar, excepting of course the fact that Google Wallet has been tragically disabled. And one other thing: the 4G modem current draw is sufficient to drain the standard battery in less than 6 hours. Turn on the screen and download a web page and you could cook something on the top half of the phone.

So I got the long life battery. Finally my phone would last 12-14 hours (at best). And I truly loved the phone…but it always seemed to die at inconvenient times.

It was mostly anger. The imbeciles who would release a phone to the open market where the LTE modem current draw was >150 ma. The battery would dip below 80% before lunch. So after many months (and a rogue glass of water on the Nexus) I purchased an iPhone yesterday.


  1. Excellent network integration — visual voicemail without monthly stipends to VZW, text messages received exponentially faster than the Nexus (why???).
  2. Battery been unplugged for six hours. Current battery status: 91%. Will it be dead at the end of the day? Nope.
  3. Thin. No screwing around (did get the otter box for safety).
  4. Built in Quad-Band GSM modem. Phone ships GSM unlocked!!!


  1. Poor Google account integration.
  2. Interface is worse than stock Android 4.2. Still feels like Android 2.3.
  3. Apple meow meow bullshit

To me, a phone should be, first and foremost, a phone. While we may not see smartphones approach the power efficiency of the dumb phones for some time, the iPhone is a step in the right direction. (Ah the days when we could just not bring our charger on a weekend outing…)