Friday 24 September 2010

Gmail Spam Explosion

The normally very successful Gmail spam filter seems to have been overloaded with a new variety of spam in the last week or so. Initially it was spam emails with just the words "hello how are you" and no other information that were getting into our inbox without being filtered. It was unclear what the purpose of these messages was as there was no advertising, no links and no attachments and the sender address was also spoofed.

The latest messages that are defeating the Gmail spam filter are a series with contents as below

Please find attached below a copy of the document you requested.
Please find my CV and cover letter attached.
Greetings from

All have a file attached of the format below which may have some payload attached if run on your PC but on iPhone just shows as text.


The messages have all been reported to Gmail to improve their filtering but it is unclear what the purpose is when replies cannot be harvested for active email accounts and the email contains no payload.

Monday 2 August 2010

Volkswagen Passat PD TDI 140 Remap by Angel Tuning

I recently had my 2003 Volkswagen Golf Mark IV 1.9 PD TDI 130 remapped by Angel Tuning. The difference in the car is amazing, the car is far more responsive and smooth when driving. The economy is also improved by around 10%. The remap by Angel Tuning increases the output from 130bhp up to 175bhp and seriously increases the performance of the car. The acceleration when joining the motorway at a junction is immense and the TDI 130 engine just pulls effortlessly up to the speed limit.

I think the Volkswagen Golf Mark IV TDI 130 is one of the hidden gems of the motoring world. It has 160,000 miles on the clock but has been incredibly reliable in the two years we have owned it. There are very few cars that have the performance, comfort and economy that this vehicle has. 0-60 in under 8 seconds and 55+ MPG on a run is an incredible combination that very few other cars can match. Add in low road tax at £120 per year and you have an unbeatable car.

Feedback on the Remap by Angel Tuning: "Just wanted to update you on the Passat after the remap yesterday. I’d delayed getting this done due to the car being far newer than my Golf and wanting to make sure that was running fine on the Golf first but I wish I’d got it done sooner. Obviously it is still very early days but it does seem much smoother to drive and acceleration is effortless across more of the rev range without any flat spots. Best of all the economy shown on the car has improved by around 10%, today on the way into work it showed 57mpg whereas normally it is around 52-53mpg with the same driving style. As the increase in power was not as dramatic as the Golf I wasn’t sure what to expect or if it was worth doing, the answer so far is an emphatic YES! "

Monday 12 July 2010

Ecotek PowerBoost - VW Passat TDI Turbo Overboost Limp Mode Problem

I recently had a problem with my VW Passat TDI 140 that was going into limp mode with the error Turbo Overboost problem. It appears that this can be due to the VVT vanes of the turbo getting carbon deposits and sticking. By using the Ecotek PowerBoost product that is sprayed directly into the air intake this is meant to clean the deposits from around the engine components and restore power and economy.

So far the car has been running much more smoothly than before and the turbo overboost limp mode problem has not yet reoccured.

Monday 5 July 2010

Best Jailbreak iPhone Apps - PDA Net Review

With a jailbroken iPhone the option to install a much wider variety of iPhone apps is available. One of the best that I have seen is PdaNet which allows you to use your iPhone for tethering without paying the extortionate additional charges that mobile networks try to charge. Orange, O2 and Vodafone in the UK all charge various amounts from £5 to £15 per month to allow you to use the bandwith that you have already paid for to tether your iphone to your laptop.

The bandwidth included with my contract is 1Gb per month, I rarely use more than 500Mb so it seems totally wrong to be required to pay an additional fee to actually use this spare bandwidth on my computer.

PDA Net allows you to do just this. You need to download the iPhone app and also install the client on your laptop. There is a free version of the app that allows any website other than https. By paying for the app you can access any websites from your laptop.

I have been very very impressed with Pda Net and would highly recommend it to anyone with a jailbroken iPhone 3G or 3Gs.

Poor Web Design (Or How not to design a website)

I always dispair when searching for a product or service online and come across a website that is so poorly designed that it defies belief. It appears that web site designers completely lose sight of the purpose of a website and make it so hard for a potential customer to navigate the site to find out information.

Ultimately the question is this - what is more important - a pretty looking site that is impossible to navigate or a site that provides all the information for a customer.

The primary failings in websites I have seen recently

1) Missing or flash based navigation
2) Flash sites with extended intro that cannot be skipped
3) Entire sites that are "under construction" for many months even years in some cases
4) No easy way to go back to previously viewed pages or navigation that reloads flash intro pages if you click the "Back" button
5) Poor Google optimisation so site is effectively invisible.
6) Multiple Windows loading for pages on the same site

These are just a few examples but one site that sums up many of these points is Autosparx - I was looking for a fitter for a car audio system and they are in my local area. The website looks very flash - in Adobe Flash - so won't be visible on iPhone or iPad but is very slow and not easy to navigate round when the flash intro is so long and of no use to customers.

Leonard D Anklebiter has written some more design hints that may be of use to budding web designers or those that consider actual website users after everything else. You can view his web site design tips at LDA Design.

Wednesday 24 February 2010

What are the Best Free iPhone Apps?

The Best Free iPhone Apps that I have found so far are:

The Trainline (train times - doesnt cost unlike the National Rail version)
Met Office Weather
Road Trip Lite (car fuel stats)
Orange Weds (film reviews and cinema times) Not just for Orange iPhones

The best paid iPhone apps are:

Talking Carl (fun for kids and adults!)
The Guardian (News)

iPhone 3Gs comparison of O2,Vodafone and Orange

Apple App Store for iPhone 3GS Removes Adult Themed Apps from iTunes

I've been reading today about the furore that Apple have created by their arbitrary decision to ban certain apps from the iTunes app store.

As someone who has regularly downloaded iTunes apps and seen some of the content their decision to remove certain apps they deem to have adult content while leaving others seem absolutely ridiculous. If they have decided to remove all content they consider unsuitable for children then that is their choice but to make rules that allow Playboy to continue to distribute their apps while removing a bikini shop from showing their products appears crazy and having no logic.

One of the benefits of the Apple iPhone 3Gs is the wide range of apps that are available for it. The success of this strategy is demonstrated by the billions of apps downloaded over the last few years. However if developers now have no way of knowing if their apps that are approved will be removed at any whim by Apple then they are far less likely to invest time and money in the developement.

So come on Apple - get your act together. By all means limit the adult content to those who want to view it but be transparent, fair and open on the criteria you are using to determine what is acceptable or risk a backlash of disgruntled developers.

Mobile Phone Reviews

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Which is the best UK Mobile Phone Network for iPhone 3GS?

In my experience the best network for iPhone really depends on your location. I've tried all 3 (O2, Orange and Vodafone) over the last 10 weeks and only Vodafone works properly where I live and work despite the coverage maps for the other networks claiming they have 3G coverage only Vodafone has consistent coverage in my locations in Kent. O2 and Orange consistently displayed the Searching and No Service messages which I don't get very often at all with Vodafone.

It does mean that the only way you can actually find out is by getting the phone on each network as their coverage maps are meaningless. The O2 and Vodafone transmitters are adjacent to each other but O2 has no 3G coverage and Vodafone has 5 bars - try to figure that one!

To summarise in my experience Vodafone's claim of being "the network you can rely on" certain does stand up and is far more reliable in Kent.

Tuesday 16 February 2010

Mobile Phone Reviews

After the experiences with such a variety of mobile phones over the last few months I decided to create a dedicated site with information and real life consumer reviews of various mobile phones.

Mobile Phone Reviews - iPhone, Nokia, Orange

The site has reviews of the Apple iPhone 3Gs and Nokia E71 phones along with other information from this blog.

Review of the HTC Wildfire on 3 Network

Thursday 4 February 2010

iPhone Signal on Vodafone - The Network you can rely on?

As of today my number finally ported and the iPhone is now working on the Vodafone network. So far I have found the signal strength in the Medway area to be excellent, 3G coverage is extensive and certainly much better than on O2 and even Orange as well. This all tends to back up the Vodafone claim of having the "Network you can rely on" and hopefully my love/hate relationship with the iPhone is now going to change - loved the handset and features but hated the network with O2 and Orange!

The iPhone signal on O2 at home was exceptionally variable. O2 coverage maps and customer services claimed that there was full 3G signal at my postcode but in reality the signal was rarely 3G and almost always 2G even on the top floor of the house with line of sight to their mast. Vodafone signal is full strength 3G all around the house and does not vary in the same way that the O2 signal did. Strangely the O2 signal was variable in many other locations (and on other mobiles as well as the iPhone) switching between 2G and 3G repeatedly over the course of the day.

The only downside with the migration of my number to Vodafone has been the lack of information from Vodafone about the transfer process which appears to be quite common.

When you first register the iPhone via iTunes you get the message on the handset "Awaiting Activation" and Sim registration failed. It would appear that the handset will NOT activate until your number ports to Vodafone and the Sim then registers on their network. This is completely different to other networks and a lot of calls to their customer services would be avoided if they provided information about this process up front. Vodafone do not supply temporary numbers for transfers so you can only use the handset once your number has transferred which for me was 4 days later.

More info on Mobile Phone Reviews - iPhone, Nokia, Orange

Tuesday 2 February 2010

iPhone on Vodafone Sim Registration failed Waiting to Activate

I've finally managed to get an iPhone 3GS on the Vodafone network, hoping that I will have more success than with O2 or Orange. So far so good and Vodafone seem to be living up to their claim of being "the network you can rely on". The only problem so far has been that there was a complete lack of information about how their number porting service works which is different to other networks.

Other networks normally provide a temporary number to allow you to use your phone until your old number ports across from your old network. Vodafone do not offer this service but also do not provide any information that this is the case. Even Vodafone customer services were unable to advise that this was the case so my Vodafone iPhone was sitting there showing as Sim registration failed and an iPhone message of Waiting for Activation.

Fortunately I have another Vodafone SIM that I was able to try in the iPhone and as soon as that was done the iPhone sprung into life. I am currently using this temporary SIM until my number ports across but so far the Vodafone iPhone is showing a much stronger signal that either O2 or Orange.

One difference in the comparison between O2/Orange and Vodafone handsets is that the iPhone does not appear to show whether the signal is 2G or 3G; the handset just shows Vodafone UK and the signal strength.

[Edit - it appears that the 2G/3G indicator does not appear unless your SIM is data enabled. If you have purely voice contract the network shows only as Vodafone UK]

Wednesday 27 January 2010

Orange SPV M3100 Review - on O2 Network (HTC Hermes)

After my sagas with iPhones on Orange and O2 networks I recently obtained an Orange SPV M3100 handset which (fairly obviously) was locked to the Orange network. Thanks to some HTC Hermes/SPV M3100 online tools courtesy of I was able to unlock the phone to use any SIM card in it and am now using it on the O2 Network. This wasn't immediately straightforward as unlike with the Nokia E71 I tried last week O2 were unable to update the phone with mobile internet settings presumably as this handset was never supplied for use on the O2 network.

Unfortunately the O2 website doesn't seem to provide these details or make them easy to find but thanks to website FileSaveAs I found the settings to update the phone from the Orange defaults and get internet working.

Despite the phone being over 4 years old I am actually finding it a very nice device to use and far more friendly and easy to configure than the Nokia E71. In fact with a few minor niggles apart it compares extremely well to the Apple iPhone for usability.Clearly it is a much larger, thicker, heavier phone than the iPhone but as a mobile internet device and phone it hits all the right buttons! In addition the battery life is far better than the iPhone.

Nokia E71 compared to iPhone Review

Coming Soon - review of Nokia E71 smartphone compared to iPhone and Orange SPV

More info on Review of Nokia E71 Mobile phone

The Nokia  E71 is a smartphone from Nokia that has many advanced features such as push email and applications from the Nokia Ovi store. This is a consumer review based on a Nokia E71 handset that I was using on the O2 network in the UK. Unfortunately compared to the Apple iPhone 3Gs it does not perform as well and is far less user friendly to setup and use.
I work in IT so am familiar with software development and use. Configuring the Nokia E71 to use for email and basic functions was extremely tricky and even trying to use the manual to identify settings was not intuitive by any means.
The iPhone in comparision is a doddle to setup as all menus are very clear with easy to understand headings. Some of the Nokia E71 menus are very confusing, especially the tab menus which are not easy to see initially. Much of the problem with the Nokia E71 menu system seems to be due to the Symbian S60 operating system which is also used on other Nokia phones such as the Nokia 6120 that have similar issues with their menus.
Having come from an iPhone the mouse/scroll pad was quite clumsy to use for screen navigation and many presses were needed to move around the screen.

Saturday 9 January 2010

iPhone 3GS Missed Calls/Phone not ringing/Calls go to Voicemail despite full signal

Further to my post yesterday about the iPhone 3GS calls going to directly to voicemail without the phone ringing despite the phone showing a good signal I have now done some more testing myself to check how this works and why it might be happening. My findings are as follows:

1) If your iPhone is using an app that connects to the internet AND your phone is connected to 2g (o or E symbols) then all calls will go direct to voicemail for the duration of your connection to the web. Once you close the application then the phone will ring again.

2) You may have no knowledge of these calls happening unless the person leaves a message. The iPhone 3Gs does not show any record of the calls being received.

3) If your iPhone is using 3G then you can receive calls as well as using the internet at the same time.

Despite this scenario being denied by O2 iPhone support who should know better (they claimed that a phone call will always interrupt a data call - my testing proves this is not the case) and lots of reports across the web show that EDGE/GPRS connections do not support voice and data at the same time.

Other people have also reported this with the iPhone and experienced similar problems with the signal being much worse on the iPhone than other handsets.

Friday 8 January 2010

Orange iPhone 3GS Missed Calls/Calls Straight to Voicemail / O2 iPhone Full strength signal

I've read many reports that people with the O2 iphone or Orange iphone have found that calls are going direct to voicemail when they are in an area with full or very high strength network signal.

It appears that what is happening is that when the iphone is connected to the network in 2G mode (GPRS/EDGE) it is only able to handle either a voice call OR a data call but not both together. So when your phone connects to check your email,Facebook status, Ebay app updates etc it is then not able to receive calls. As this is happening in the background you have no real way of knowing what you phone is doing unless you are watching it all the time. And as the 2G network is so much slower than 3G it means the data connection will take that much longer and therefore mean you are out of contact for an even longer period of time.

This only happens when the phone connects on 2G (GPRS/EDGE) not with 3G connections which can handle both voice and data connections at the same time.

Monday 4 January 2010

iPhone 3GS Comparison - Orange compared to O2 for signal and reception problems

The iPhone saga continues! I have now had my O2 iPhone 3GS for 3 days and am finding some rather interesting differences between the Orange iPhone and O2 iPhone; I have also been able to check signal strength for the iPhone and standard handset on O2.

1) O2 seems to use a different algorithm for switching between 2G and 3G compared to Orange. I found with Orange that the iPhone 3GS would try to maintain a 3G signal for as long as possible even if it dropped to 1 bar. The O2 version seems to be rather different and mainly appears to be sticking to the 2G GPRS network that has full coverage even if a low 3G signal exists. 3G signal only tends to appear if it is 4 or 5 bars strength. It is possible that this is a design consequence of O2 having lower claimed 3G coverage than Orange.

2) Battery seems to be used much faster on iPhone O2 than Orange. An 8 hour day connected to 2G (GPRS) took the battery from 100% down to 20%. This didn't happen with Orange iPhone which implies it either has better power management unless the O2 iPhone possibly has a faulty battery.

3) Testing the O2 Sim in a standard Nokia handset showed that a 3 bar 3G signal existed at the testing location. When the O2 sim was replaced in the iPhone it showed only 1 bar and immediately switched to GPRS 2G network. This would tend to backup other reports across the internet that show the iPhone doesn't  hold a mobile signal as well as other phones.

4) You cannot receive calls when your iPhone is connected to the 2G network using the internet - the call will go straight to voicemail.

Sunday 3 January 2010

Nokia 1661 Review - Consumer field test of the Nokia 1661 Mobile Phone

Whilst waiting for my mobile number to be ported to my new iPhone I needed a temporary phone on Pay as You Go to ensure my number was retained. The cheapest option was a Nokia 1661 for the princely sum of £10.

Review of Nokia 1661 mobile phone

For such a cheap price the phone is an absolute bargain. It is very slim and light and has incredible battery life. Obviously for such a low price there are some compromises - this is primarily the keypad which isn't very sensitive but for a basic phone - for phoning and texting people it is probably the best value out there. It uses a standard Nokia charger so can be easily recharged should the need arise, although with a battery life estimated to be 20 days this won't be needed very often!! In 7 days of use the charge has dropped to around 60% which seems exceptional - the iPhone needs charging every day!

More info on Mobile Phone Reviews - iPhone, Nokia, Orange