Just How Apathetic Are Irish Mobile Users?

Meteor, one of Ireland’s three mobile operators, started a new promotion some months ago: 5c per minute Meteor to Meteor calls – 24 hours a day 7 days a week until 2006. It is available to all existing and new customers on a pre-pay plan.

It piqued my interest. I was paying O2 an average of €110 per month on a post-pay account with the biggest outlay being the evening calls to my significant other. I figured if we both switched to Meteor we could save a fortune. I played around with the idea for a while and I mentioned it in conversation to a few friends and colleagues. They mostly scoffed with such pre-conceptions as “Meteor’s only good for teenage girls”, “their network is crap – you’ll never get coverage at home in Galway”, “they have crap phones” and so forth. And I have to admit – I held most of these opinions myself.

Instead of jumping straight in we decided to try Meteor out. We got Meteor’s free SIM with €100 credit (over ten months) offer. After trying it out for a couple of weeks I found that the network is fine and that the coverage is fine.

One other thing I needed to check before we made the switch – their prices for other calls and services. I didn’t want to find myself in the position of having jumped to Meteor, taking my number with me, only to discover that although the 5c Meteor to Meteor calls sounds great, they make it up by fleecing you on the other charges.

I was surprised. In fact, I was shocked. Not only do Meteor have better rates and promotions than the “big two”, O2 and Vodafone, but in fact they have extraordinarily better rates than O2 and Vodafone. At least in comparison between the three.

I put together just such a comparison below for what seems like a comparable pre-pay package: Night Owl from O2, Social Life from Vodafone and Leisure Time Plus from Meteor. As with all such comparisons in the mobile industry, it is difficult to do it in an exact and fair manner as some operators will charge a “call connection cost”, have minimum call charges, cheaper second and subsequent minutes on directory enquiries, etc. Also errors and omissions are to be expected.

O2 Vodafone Meteor
Night Owl Social Life Leisure Time Plus
  Peak   Off Peak   Peak   Off Peak   Peak   Off Peak
Own network 55c 15c 50c 15c 40c 13c
Other network 63c 19c 65c 30c 40c 13c
Landline 55c 15c 50c 15c 40c 13c
Voicemail 15c 15c Free Free Free Free
SMS to own network 11c 11c 13c 13c 9c 9c
SMS to other network 13c 13c 13c 13c 9c 9c
International SMS 25c 25c 25c 25c 15c 15c
GPRS (per KB) 3c 3c 2c 2c 2c 2c
Customer Care 14c 14c 15c 15c Free Free
1850 30c 30c 31c 31c 30c 30c
1890 30c 23c 50c 15c 15c 15c
1891 23c 23c 50c 15c 12.5c 12.5c
UK 95c 95c €1.02 €1.02 50c 50c
USA €1.90 €1.90 €1.02 €1.02 50c 50c
Australia €1.90 €1.90 €1.92 €1.92 50c 50c

So in trying to ensure that I wouldn’t be fleeced by Meteor, I ended up discovering that O2 was already taking me to the cleaners. These kinds of price differences can be found across all comparable packages – both post-pay and pre-pay.

When it comes to our opinion of Meteor, it’s time we all grew up and wised up. O2 and Vodafone are making more money per customer in Ireland than they are in most other European countries. They are ripping us off. In fact they are ripping about 90% of us off – that’s their market share.

Go and get a free SIM only pack for Meteor and try it out. Their network is fine. Their phone offerings are as good as the others. And, if you’re anything like me, you’ll start saving at least 50% of your current bill per month.

VoIP Client Twinkles Brightly on Linux

A question came up today on ILUG regarding Skype on Linux which then spill-ed over onto a conversation about VoIP clients. KPhone was mentioned which is what I have been using to date with my Blueface VoIP account. Unfortunately I can’t give KPhone a good review as I have always found it buggy, unintuitive and it crashes regularly.

The conversation reminded me of a news bite I read on KDE.news about new Linux VoIP clients that are gaining momentum. One in particular looked very promising: Twinkle. The first version of Twinkle, 0.1, was only released last month but it’s already a formidable application when compared with KPhone.

Although Twinkleuses the cross platform application development framework known as Qt (which is also the foundation of KDE), it is only compatible with Linux’s audio system. Some of the features already completed include two lines, three-way conference calls, call redirection, DTMF sopport and the G.771 and GSM audio codecs.

Some obvious features that are currently missing but that the author plans to add include an address book, a history function to log incoming and outgoing calls, instant messaging and video support. So far I’m very impressed and I have already replaced KPhone with Twinkle.

The only negative comment I have to make, and it’s not really a reflection on Twinkle, is that although the author decided to use Qt it is really a shame he didn’t go the extra step and use the KDE application framework so that it would better integrate with that desktop environment and the other KDE PIM and networking applications. No doubt Michel de Boer, the author, has his reasons – perhaps he plans to extend Twinkle‘s compatibility to other operating systems.

Timing Work Periods with KDialog, DCOP and KAlarm

Mikolaj Machowski posted an nice example of using KDialog with DCOP to the KDE Developers mailing list a while back:


#!/bin/bash

PROGRESS=$(kdialog --icon kalarm --title "Short rest" \
    --progressbar "Take a break..." 30)

if [ $PROGRESS ]; then
  for (( i=0; i<30; i++ )); do     dcop $PROGRESS setProgress $i     sleep 1   done   dcop $PROGRESS close fi

The purpose of Mikolaj's post was to suggest a method of regimenting work periods - e.g. 20 minutes on, 5 minutes off - using the above script and KAlarm, a personal alarm message, command and email scheduler. But, more than that, it shows off one of the many hiddens treasures of KDE: KDialog, which allows shell scripts to take advantage of some of the KDE widget set, and DCOP, KDE's Desktop COmmunications Protocol.

More information and a tutorial can be found at:
http://developer.kde.org/documentation/tutorials/kdialog/t1.html

Software Patents – Kathy Sinnott Will Oppose

I got CC’d a reply to an e-mail from Ms Kathy Sinnott MEP today which asserts her strong opposition to EU Directive COD/2002/0047 which includes the issue of software patentability. Even in one small paragraph she shows a good understanding of the issue and I am delighted that such a hard working and articulate MEP is on board.

In her own words:

I am most certainly not [undecided on this issue]. In response to your concerns about software patentability, I would like to reassure you that I am wholeheartedly opposed to this legislation. It will stifle innovation and prevent SME’s and individuals from having the chance to compete equally with the Microsoft’s of this world. You may rest assured that we will be fighting this directive (again).

As it currently stands, we now have eight of our sixteen (inc. Northern Ireland) MEPs committed to opposing* software patentability with five yet to inform us of their position and three taking the matter under consideration. Optimistically, the final count could be as good as twelve or thirteen opposing this.

The next big task will be to ensure that all those opposing software patentability will actually turn up in parliament as an absolute majority will be required to defeat or amend the directive; this essentially means that any MEP who does not show up in parliament to vote will be effectively casting their vote in favour of the directive. What a wonderful democracy we have.

More information on the Irish campaign can be found at KDE.ie and at the Irish Free Software Organisation. The current status of the sixteen Irish MEPs is also available at KDE.ie and with more detail here.

* by oppose I refer to an MEP being against the patentability of software ideas and business methods; this does not reflect whether an MEP is against the directive itself or would prefer to see it amended.

Easy Listening – KRadio

I often listen to the radio in the background while working/coding and in particular I’m a bit of a news talk junky. Generally I use my TV/radio tuner card with KRadio so I can control the channel and volumes with a few simple keystrokes. Of course there’s no explaining why someone always rings during a good Matt Cooper interview or while Vincent Browne is berating yet another politician for giving an answer that’s at a right-angle to the simple question asked – but now there’s a solution on the horizon:

Ernst Martin Witte has just released KRadio 1.0 beta with a new feature that looks very promising – the ability to pause radio playback and continue it later. This is still a beta version which may explain why I’m having some difficulty getting it to work properly. While I eagerly await the final release, the good news is that the normal recording function works perfectly so I won’t miss those interviews; and it supports both Ogg/Vorbis and MP3.