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Cell phone blues - Arvind Narayanan's journal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

Cell phone blues [Mar. 16th, 2006|08:48 pm]
Arvind Narayanan
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The American cellular cabal is robbing me! I refuse to take it anymore.

Here's what I'm planning to do --

* Get a kick ass PDA with WiFi (I've wanted one for a long time anyway)

* Buy a skype/vonage subscription to use the PDA as a WiFi phone.

That covers perhaps 95% percent of the calls I make or receive -- WiFi at home, free WiFi all around campus, and free WiFi at most coffee shops/restaurants. To cover travel and emergencies while on the road, I think I'm going to get a prepaid cellular -- no monthly bill.

Unfortunately this limits me to PocketPC because neither skype not vonage supports Palm. I really liked the Palm TX.

Wake up, people! Don't sign that contract. Don't pay GSM/CDMA extortion fees. Go VoIP. It requires a little bit of technical knowledge, and is perhaps slightly inconvenient, but you will pay a lot less and have the satisfaction of knowing that you aren't get scammed.

If anyone has any experience at all with mobile WiFi VoIP (even FOAF stories), whether with WiFi enabled PDA or with dedicated WiFi-phones, I will be very happy to hear it. I can find nothing at all with google -- just articles asserting technical feasibility.

I guess the situation is a lot better in Europe?

From: (Anonymous)
2006-03-17 04:01 am (UTC)

By all means, experiment!

Arvind, by all means, try out mobile WiFi VoIP as an alternative and let us know how it goes. I'm curious about how well it works.

I'm afraid however that you may be overselling your case when you suggest that people should switch from their cell phones to mobile VoIP. I think using mobile VoIP as a principal means of communication is experimental and this is an experiment a good deal of people (including me) do not want to undertake. We want our phones to just work and we know there's a price attached to that.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2006-03-17 05:59 am (UTC)

Re: By all means, experiment!

I'm guessing you aren't another penurious grad student like me :)

Anyway, thanks for the advice.
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From: (Anonymous)
2006-03-18 08:03 am (UTC)

Re: By all means, experiment!

Actually, I am. :) But the idea of having to manage two mobile means of communication (the PDA using WiFi + the "pay as you go phone" when out of range of WiFi) does not appeal to me. I use my cell phone just about every day and I need to be reachable with a minimum amount of fuss.

I am very much in favor in finding ingenious ways to reduce costs or get our technological devices to do tricks they were not designed for but if doing so requires too much fiddling or if the resulting system is not robust, I bail out.

In another life, I used to be a solid software engineer. During that period of my life, I had more tolerance with having to fiddle with settings, configurations, upgrading libraries, etc. Probably, all of this felt close enough to my core activities that it usually did not feel like I was getting sidetracked. I got tired of engineering and went back to school: South Asia Studies and now Religious Studies. I've found lately that I have little patience for fiddling. If I sit down to translate a section from the Muulamadhyamakakaarika, for instance, I just want to sit down and work. If I have to track down bugs because the latest library upgrade broke this or that, I am extremely annoyed.

I'm afraid trying to use Skype as you suggest would require more fiddling than I want to handle now. It is a matter of trade off: do I want to experiment with Skype and spend precious time on something that provides no pay off in terms of my core activities (reading articles, writing papers, translating, planning the dissertation) or do I want to pay an extra price for the convenience of being free to concentrate on what matters towards my academic goals? While I'm unhappy about having to spend extra precious bucks, I chose the latter.

When I look around, I find few people among my family, colleagues and friend who would be able or willing to use Skype as you suggest. Most would get confused about how to set everything up properly or, like myself, they'd want something that just works easily and robustly. So I don't think the PDA+WiFi+Skype scheme is quite ready for general consumption but I am sincerely interested about finding out how it is going to work for you. Please experiment and pave the way for those of us who are not willing to spend the effort of pioneering what you propose.
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