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T-Mobile introduces new data plans…and does it right!

Today, I logged into my T-Mobile account to check on my usage and pay my bill and I noticed that pretty quietly changed their data plans.  They went live on July 24th but still looks quite different then most other carriers.

T-Mobile has seriously upgraded their networks with their 4G coverage.  Yes, there are people arguing as to whether it is actually 4G or 3.5G or something else but quite honestly, does it really matter what it’s called?  I’m interested in exactly how everything works on different carriers.  But I have heard (and read) about how some people say that one carrier is better then the other because it has “real 4G” and T-Mobile does not.  That’s kind of ridiculous to me.  I’m more concerned about the end result and speeds I’m getting from my network and whether I can do what I want to do or not.

I hate overages just like everyone else in the world.  Some carriers have chosen to charge more when you go over but honestly, I’d rather be throttled down to a slower speed and not get a surprise on my next bill.  That’s the path that T-Mobile has opted for.  They now have these options:

-Unlimited Simple = 200 MB of full speed data for $10 per month
-Unlimited Plus = 2 GB of full speed data for $20 per month
-Unlimited Premium = 5 GB of full speed data for $30 per month
-Unlimited Ultra = 10 GB of full speed data for $60 per month

After you’ve reached your quota for the month, you can either choose to upgrade to the next plan, or be throttled down to 2G speeds (roughly 300kbps peak speeds) for the rest of that billing cycle.

I’m totally cool with this for the time being.  I will be using the 5 GB per month plan because I like to stream music.  While, I’m driving, streaming music is basically all that I listen to with apps like Google Music Beta, Tinyshark, Audio Galaxy and occasionally Pandora to name a few.  Typically, I hover around 2-3 GB of bandwidth each month.  So, I  should be good and it’s still fairly affordable…more so then Verizon or AT&T.

If you feel like you are a user who will eat up more then 5 GB per month, you’ve actually go an option rather then being charged an overage based on how much you go over.  You can actually “plan” to use more…up to 10 GB to be exact.  And if you’re going to use more then 10 GB?  You’re nuts and need to get on WiFi more often.

Although, with the announcement of AT&T throttling their “unlimited” data plan holders who were supposedly “grandfathered in” makes me wonder a little bit about what’s going to transpire if and when AT&T closes the deal on the acquisition of T-Mobile USA.  I am very pleased with the speeds that I get on T-Mobile around the city in Washington DC around the Capitol as well as southeast DC and northeast where I live.  I’m even more satisfied with the speeds when I visit my family back home just outside of Philadelphia.  Hopefully, AT&T won’t ruin it…but they probably will.

Comments?  Questions?  Feel free to comment below or email me a jason@jasoncastellente.com.

Droid-themed XBOX 360 announced by Microsoft

I am a nerd; there’s no getting around that.  I’m also an Xbox guy.  This past week, Microsoft revealed a special edition of the new 360 design.  It’s got a matching Kinect sensor and is paired with the new Star Wars Kinect and Kinect Adventures game.  The console is designed like R2-D2 and the controller has the same vibe as C-3P0 as well as some Star Wars sound effects to go with it.  The tech specs also include a 320 GB hard drive and will retail for $449.  It’s consistent with the pricing that has been set with the latest 360 design but is still the highest priced Xbox currently on the market.  It’s cool if you’re a Star Wars geek, but since I’m more of a tech geek, I won’t be picking it up.  Still, it looks really cool.  Check it out!

Jason Yost Band and the New Rhythm Project

I just want to take a quick second to share an inspiring ministry started by one of my fellow co-workers at National Community Church.

Jason Yost serves in cultural ministries and music on staff at NCC .  Over the past eleven years, he has been privileged to travel and play music.  As God burdened his heart, he began to write music from the past eleven years of experience.  He has always wanted to record an album of his music and recently, everything fell into place.  Right now, you can support his CD recording process which, when released, all proceeds will go towards his recently launched an organization called the “New Rhythm Project” which is a child advocacy and adoption consulting group.  This ministry helps to fund adoptions and orphan care projects.

Today, his band website launched.  Check it out at http://www.jasonyostband.com/, read about what is going on, and prayerfully consider being a part of what God is doing through New Rhythm Project.

White iPhone 4

It’s been a few days since the White iPhone 4 has hit.  Sure, it was big news when the iPhone 4 initially hit and also big news when it it Verizon.  But, what’s up with the white iPhone?  Yeah, we had it before for other models such as the 3G and 3GS and everyone assumed that it would be available for the iPhone 4 but was it really worth the wait?  Quite honestly at this point, I think it wouldn’t be wise to sign a new contract and buy a new white iPhone 4 now.  Why would you do that?  How important is it that you have a white iPhone?

I am slightly intrigued that the phone is a little thicker.  Maybe it is some type of improvement in the antenna.  Although, I’m seeing stuff online about how Apple was making it more durable and able to stand up to UV better.  Did it really require 10 months to fix all of the problems?

But really, how important is this release?  Was Apple really not capable of making the device white back when the original black iPhone 4 was released on June 4th of last year?  Steve Jobs even had his picture taken with a white iPhone.  To me, the release of the iPhone 5 is way too close for any serious iPhone lover to buy the white iPhone.  I’d rather get the newer surprises on the iPhone 5 then have a white iPhone 4.

Anyway, what do you think?

T-Mobile mytouch 4G Powerskin case

Anyone who has owned an Android smartphone or knows an Android smartphone user, knows that they are not the greatest when it comes to battery life and power usage.  Android phones can use alot of data and power particularly if background sync is enabled.  Alot of times, I tell people who have issues with battery life that they may consider disabling some of their sync functions until they actually open the app or set the phone to sync certain apps less regularly.

Well, what happens when you’ve done that and you still have battery issues?  What if you use your phone alot because of work or you are simply an intense phone user?  Carrying around a charger gets old and almost defeats the purpose of having a smartphone.

This is the issue that I wound up having with my HTC Mytouch 4G shortly after I got it.  I use my phone alot for work especially when I am away from my computer.  I’m also new to the Washington DC area so I haven’t quite found my way around yet and need a little assistance from my GPS in my phone.  That’s pretty power intensive because it uses the GPS chip, the data network, the screen, the speaker also used for speaker phone as well as consistently using the CPU.  And of course, my car has a broken lighter so a car charger is out of the question for the time being.

So, I purchased a Powerskin made by XPal.  It is a rubber case with an extra battery built into the back of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basically, you take the case and put your phone in it connecting the phone to it by a small USB cable inside of the case.  That USB cable feeds the phone power while it is connected which charges the phone until the battery in the case is exhausted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the back of the case, it also has lights that indicate how much battery life is left in the case itself.  You can see the indicator by pressing the battery button on the back which activates the indicator.  Below is a picture of the case fully charged with four blue lights illuminated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have been really impressed by the performance of the case.  It has seriously extended my battery life.  I have had it for the past few weeks and one day, I got up at 6:45am and grabbed my phone out of the charger then.  I used the GPS in it for probably about 3 hours that day as well as texting quite a bit and making phone calls.  The powerskin died sometime around 2 or 3 PM and the phone switched to its internal battery for the rest of the day.  I finally got back to my condo at about 10PM and still had about 25% internal battery life remaining.  That’s pretty impressive in my opinion.

The only downside for me is that it makes my phone pretty heavy.  I certainly wish it was a little lighter but I guess that’s the trade off.  There have been times that I have left my case to charge and taken the phone out of it and when the case was fully charged and ready, I’d put the phone back in the case and it would charge the internal battery of my phone while using it.  Here are a few pictures of my phone with and without the case so you can get an idea of how much thicker the phone with the case is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While the phone is plugged into the case, the case charges the phone.  In the picture below, it displays the power charge LED on the mytouch because the phone is running off of the power from the battery in the case.

I’m pretty happy with the case over all.  If you check out amazon, you can get the case for about $40.  It’s not a bad deal.

If you have a mytouch are are struggling to get more usage and battery life out of it, the XPal Powerskin might be the solution for you.  Check it out!

Questions?  Comments?  Feel free to comment below or email me at jason@jasoncastellente.com.

Birth of the iDroid – How to dualboot your iPhone with iOS and Android

For the past year and a half, I have been using an iPhone unlocked and jailbroken on T-Mobile.  It started when my old Motorola W490 flip phone started acting up and I decided to go for it and bought a brand new iPhone 2G off of eBay.  It was a good deal and I used it for a while but eventually sold it and upgraded to an iPhone 3G.  Unfortunately, the 3G data hardware in the iPhone is not compatible with T-Mobile’s 3G network, so I was confined to the bubble of T-Mobile’s edge network.  Although, the benefit to this was that since the iPhone was limited on their network, they let it go as a regular phone instead of a smartphone since it was limited to edge only.  I have only been paying $5 a month for unlimited data since I got it.  Not too shabby.

My problem now is that I am bored with it and I am tired of the limitations.  I have seriously considered going to AT&T but I got freaked out along with everyone else when data was recently capped at 2GB per month for $25.  I have gone over 2GB per month with only edge access; I think I would probably sail through that 2GB of bandwidth even faster if I had faster data.

I have been thinking about going Android on T-Mobile because I can still get the unlimited data that I really want and kind of need while still having a pretty nifty HTC smartphone.  Anyway, I was googling around and happened to find a way for you to dual boot your iPhone running firmware 3.1.2 jailbroken with the Android 2.2.1 ROM.  What the heck?  Why not try it?

So I investigated it a little further and found out that you can do this hack completely through Cydia using an app called bootlace.  This app basically creates “bootcamp” on your iPhone (similarly to running multiple OS’s on you Mac) where you can select your iOS, terminal, or Android when you power up your phone.  This is great because you can leave your current phone and everything on it in tact while you give Android a whirl.

Basically, you open up Cydia and look for the “Bootlace” app which is hosted by “Bigboss”.  Install the package and run the program.  It then checks to make sure you iPhone is compatible and makes sure your baseband and firmware will support the dual boot.  If it checks out, you just tap the “Openiboot” option and then tap the green “install” button.  It prompts you to continue at your own risk, which is your choice.  If you so choose to continue, you risk bricking your phone and having to do a full restore on it or restore from a back up.  It’s up to you, but I did it and it worked.  Just follow the steps and let the installer go.  Then, reboot your phone.  When you turn your phone back on, it will prompt you to choose your operating system.  Navigate with the volume rocker on the side and press the home key to select either, iOS, terminal, or Android.

I played with Android 2.2.1 on my iPhone for a little while and even made a call with it.  It seems to work fine for basic phone functions but is quite slow.  Maybe it would be faster if you had only Android on there instead of iOS as well.  The GUI was the same as any Android phone I have ever used and I was able to look through the options and settings.  I have to admit, I was pretty impressed that an OS like Android, that was not developed for the iPhone could run pretty decently on there and not really cause any issues with the existing iOS install.  You can tell that this is obviously a beta thing that is still being developed by open source developers all over.  That is simply the beauty of Android; the fact that it can be developed by all kinds of people wherever and then shared.

For the time being, I am running the normal iOS 3.1.2 for the time being.  I will probably be playing with this a little more in the next few days.  Overall, I do like the Android OS and would probably like having an Android phone.  I love the iPhone and have absolutely nothing against Apple or the iOS.  I just like to get my hands on new things and try things out.  That is one of the biggest reasons I am probably going to go Android.  The other issue is pricing and rates for the iPhone whether it is with AT&T or Verizon.  We will see what phone and provider I end up with after I take the plunge and move to DC.  Ultimately, service is the biggest deal so if I don’t have service where I live, work, and play, I’ll drop that carrier like a hot potato.  We shall see how things pan out.

If you are interested in learning more about Android on the iPhone or making an iDroid, check out the iDroid Project Wiki at the link below.

http://www.idroidproject.org/wiki/Main_Page

Also, feel free to check out my website at www.jasoncastellente.com

The iPhone vs. Android is a continual debate and I am sure after reading this, you’ll have something to say!  Feel free to comment or email me at jason@jasoncastellente.com

Android booting on my iPhone 3G

Home Theater Systems – Part 2 Linux running XMBC

The Linux platform has huge potential for development of media center entertainment options. It is open-source so basically anyone who wants to develop software can make something sweet run on there. Making a media center is either more complicated or less complicated depending on your experience. If you have the ability to build or modify the hardware of a computer, then you’re probably in good shape. If you can’t, you can always just pick up another system built with the specs you want. It is important to make sure you have some way to output HD video and a processor with RAM enough to make sure the computer can play video well.  The capacity to store a lot of data would be good if you have alot of movies, DVDs or TV shows that you want to archive on a hard drive.

There is software available for free to organize and display your video on whatever screen you might have. XMBC is a great program with a slick GUI.  You can check it out at http://www.xbmc.org.

XBMC is some pretty sweet software and is actually available for Windows, Mac, on Linux.  You can use it to manage your media library of music, pictures and videos.  It even has a weather widget within the software and an RSS reader so you can keep up to date on what is important to you.  The software offers settings within it so that you can use virtually any source for your data.  You can store your data on an internal drive, on another computer or even a network storage device.  This allows you access to all of your media all through one easy to use program.

Another interesting fact about Linux is that the file format used by Linux, is readable and writable through both Mac and Windows operating systems.  So, in other words, sharing files across other platforms is much easier and also giving your Linux media center access to all of your media is easier whether the media data is stored on Windows, Linux, or Mac file formats.

Anyway, at some point in the future, I plan on talking about different software I have tried for media and entertainment on various platforms.

If there is anything that you might think is interesting for me to know about, consider or think about, please feel free to comment or email me at jason@jasoncastellente.com.

Home Theater Systems – Part 1 The MAC MEDIA CENTER

So, entertainment is a huge part of our society today.  TV watching, movies and stuff like that take up quite a bit of our attention.  I’ve always been interested in making technology work for you whether it was on a consumer level or a professional level.  Right now I want to focus on more of a consumer level because technically, that’s what watching TV at home comes under.

I’ve always been interested in media center options that are on the market and you’ll often see the PC side of media center computers.  You never really see any major Apple stuff on the market other then the Apple TV which is more of an iTunes extender rather then an actual media center PC.

So, I have been searching along with my friend, Sean Noble, over the past few years to find some way to make a truly Mac based media center.  Here’s what I came up with:

 

1) A simple cable/satellite set top box or DTV converter would do

2) Mac Mini base (I’m sure the base model would work great with a network hard drive or external to back up to)

3) Elgato EyeTV (if you so feel the need to DVR and your Mac Mini will certainly need the external then)

4) Your TV w/HDMI input

5) Surround sound receiver if you feel so inclined (I certainly do!!)

The set top box, you will probably need because most providers encode and encrypt their signal in such a way that you need to have their own set top box for things to work properly.  Although, you may get lucky and find a TV that has a QAM tuner that works but for this media center, you are probably going to want to have the set top box anyway.

Then, get your hands on the Mac mini.  The HDMI out helps keep cable clutter to a minimum while still yielding great video quality.  That will go straight into the back of your TV.

Now here is where the magic happens…the ElGato EyeTV is the major part that ties this thing together.  You can output your set top box directly to your TV for a “bypass” in case you don’t want to have you Mac Mini on all the time but, using the ElGato EyeTV, you can record the output of your set top box on your Mac Mini effectively making your Mac Mini both a computer and a DVR.  The EyeTV accepts composite in with the ability to record up to 1080i!  Not bad!  It can even dual encode…meaning that it can record a regular TV version as well as an iPhone version at the same time!!  Sweet!  But it gets better.  The EyeTV also comes with an IR blaster and can be synced with your set top box.  That means, you can record something on whatever channel you want, and then have the EyeTV change channels and record something else.  It encodes the video it records with it’s own software on your Mac Mini in H.264.  Even if you don’t want to record with the EyeTV, it still gives you the ability to control live TV from your Mac.  You can pause and rewind live TV, search their program guide, set up regular recordings, and then share then through iTunes.  You can even stream live or recorded TV to your iPhone or iPad.  (Except now that AT&T’s data plans are terrible, who would want to do that?  It could cost you a fortune!)

Pretty sweet set up right?  And, as an added bonus, if you want to be able to control everything and have the extra money to spend, pick up a Logitech universal remote.  The Harmony Series is a pretty sweet line of universal remote.  The basic model, the Harmony 300, would easily control all of what I have outlined above.  The only issue is that you would be maxing it out.  And if you are like me, you’ll buy something else and want to control that too!  As the price goes up, so does the number of devices the remote can control.  The price gets pretty steep pretty fast but still, they make some really cool gear!  For what I want to do, I would probably wind up with the Harmony 700 or the Harmony One.

Anyway, that’s my Mac media center!  I may add to this later but that’s what I have right now.  If you have any ideas or things you’d like me to explain or if you have ideas to make it better, feel free to comment  or send me an email at jason@jasoncastellente.com.  I’d love to hear from YOU!

2011 Graphic – I know who holds the future

Hey everyone!!  It’s a new year…well, it has been for the past 4 days and I’m sure you were already aware of that!  Something I have been pretty interested in over this past year is graphic design.  I had no prior experience in Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign or Adobe programs of that sort.  But, last year I started getting into it as a hobby and a way of being creative while still de-stressing.  You can check out some of my graphics and things on my website at www.jasoncastellente.com.

I was thinking a few days ago that I would try to challenge myself to make backgrounds for my computer and for a few other computers once a month.  For me, I want it to be good or else, I will get annoyed and bored with looking at it and change it to something else.  I want it to be relevant and meaningful.  The meaning does not necessarily have to be super spiritual or anything, it could just be significant.  Anyway, I made one a few days ago and I figured I would post it here for everyone to use if they would like.  I made a few different resolutions so hopefully you can pick one that works for you…

 

2011, January – I know who holds the future  1024×768

2011, January Background - 1024x768

 

2011, January – I know who holds the future  1200×800

2011, January Background - 1024x768

 

2011, January – I know who holds the future  1920×1080

2011, January - I know who holds the future  1920x1080

 

Enjoy the backgrounds.  If you have any ideas of things you would like me to try to make in future months, comment on this post or send me an email at jason@jasoncastellente.com.

Sprint data on Apple iPod touch

Sprint announced earlier last week that they would be releasing the ZTE Peel for the Apple iPod touch on November 14th.  It is almost like a “case” that fits on the outside of the iPod touch that connects you to Sprint’s 3G data network.  I have to admit, it is a cool concept.  But I can’t help but feel like Sprint grasping at AT&T’s success with the iPhone and iPad by creating a sort of a mini-iPad or limited iPhone.  The data plans are decent but still not worth it.  They give you 3GB of transfer for $29.99.  It’s slightly better then the AT&T data plan but still, compare the networks.  Sprint vs. AT&T?  Really?  It simply is not competitive price wise.  The only really cool thing about it is that you can use Facetime anywhere without jailbreaking your iPhone or iPod touch. But then again, you are limited on data transfer.  So if you use it alot, you are sure to be paying fees for overages.

You be the judge.Check it out here:

http://newsroom.sprint.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=1714

As always, feel free to comment or email me at jason@jasoncastellente.com

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