HOWTO use an unlocked Android phone in Portugal

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Here what I used in my trip to Portugal in Jun2013, in case others find this helpful:


Disclaimer:

  • In the US, buying a cellphone “out-of-contract” is not the same as buying a cellphone “unlocked”. All of the following only works for an unlocked phone. Make sure your phone is unlocked before you get on the plane.
  • Different cellphone companies have different policies on this. AT&T declared that, despite my being a multi-year customer, with no contract, they would not unlock my phone per policy. T-Mobile said upfront that they would need ~40days from date-of-purchase of “out-of-contact” phone before I could ask to have it unlocked. On the 40th day, when I asked T-Mobile to unlock my phone, they sent me the phone unlock codes within 48hours.
  • Make sure your phone supports GSM. Sounds obvious, but still needs to be said, as most countries use GSM.

  • Buy a “LycaMobile” pay-as-you-go SIM card. I bought mine at the train station in Lisbon, but they are also for sale on most small street corner stores. While there are several mobile companies selling pay-as-you-go, I went with Lycamobile because they had the best price for all-you-can-use data at 4G speeds, great high speed coverage everywhere I went, and no hassle about using your cellphone as a hotspot. Oh, and comparable prices for voice calls and text messaging.
  • Disassemble your phone to swap out sim card, insert new LycaMobile sim card and power up the phone.
  • On the phone, enter “*#123#″ and press dial (typically, the green handset button). This connects you to an automated service that tells you your balance.
  • To find out what your lycamobile phone number is, dial “*#122#”
  • Assuming that all works, you should now attempt to call any local number. By habit, I call the mobile phone of the person at the store selling me the SIM card.
  • Cultural tip: I never setup voicemail – as discovered in my other recent trips, most people dont both leaving voice messages on cellphones anymore – if they cant reach you when they phone, they hangup and send you a text message instead.
  • Now that you can make/receive calls, to make my Android 2.2 phone transmit/receive data, I had to add the following APN settings:
    * on home screen, go into “settings”
    * go into “wireless & network settings”
    * go into “mobile networks”
    * go into “access point names”
    * if there is not already a “data.lycamobile.pt” APN, then create one as follows:
    ** Name = data.lycamobile.pt
    ** APN == data.lycamobile.pt
    ** Proxy == Not set
    ** Port == Not set
    ** Username == impt
    ** Password == impt
    ** Server == Not set
    ** MMSC == Not set
    ** MMS proxy == Not set
    ** MMS port == Not set
    ** MCC == 268
    ** MNC == 04
    ** Authentication Type == Not set
    ** APN Type == Not set
    …hit save, and go back to “Access Point Names”.

  • verify that this new “data.lycamobile.pt” APK is present, and is selected.
  • verify that “Use only 2G networks” is not selected.
  • Reboot the phone to see if that helps.
  • At this point you should be able to make/receive calls, send/receive text messages, surf the web, use your cellphone as GPS, and use your cellphone as a wifi hotspot.
  • To check your account balance dial “*122#”.
  • When you need additional credits, buy a one-time use scratch-refill “top up” card at almost any corner store, and follow the instructions on the back. You’ll receive a text message with the new balance when the credits are added to your account.

HOWTO use an unlocked Android phone in Malaysia

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Here what I used in my trip to Malaysia in Nov2012, in case others find this helpful:


Disclaimer:

  • In the US, buying a cellphone “out-of-contract” is not the same as buying a cellphone “unlocked”. All of the following only works for an unlocked phone. Make sure your phone is unlocked before you get on the plane.
  • Different cellphone companies have different policies on this. AT&T declared that, despite my being a multi-year customer, with no contract, they would not unlock my phone per policy. T-Mobile said upfront that they would need ~40days from date-of-purchase of “out-of-contact” phone before I could ask to have it unlocked. On the 40th day, when I asked T-Mobile to unlock my phone, they sent me the phone unlock codes within 48hours.
  • Make sure your phone supports GSM. Sounds obvious, but still needs to be said, as most countries use GSM.

  • NOTE: You need to show your passport, or national ID card, when buying a pay-as-you-go SIM, or a phone, in Malaysia.
  • Buy a “HotLink” pay-as-you-go SIM card. I bought mine at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, but they are also for sale on most small street corner stores. While there are several mobile companies selling pay-as-you-go, I went with HotLink because they had the best price for data at 4G-LTE speeds, great high speed coverage everywhere I went, and no hassle about using your cellphone as a hotspot. Oh, and comparable prices for voice calls and text messaging.
  • Disassemble your phone to swap out sim card, insert new HotLink sim card and power up the phone.
  • On the phone, enter “*122#″ and press dial (typically, the green handset button). This will connect you to an automated voice service which will tell you your balance.
  • Assuming that works, you should now attempt to call any local number. By habit, I now call the mobile phone of the person at the store selling me the SIM card.
  • Cultural tip: I never setup voicemail – as discovered in my other recent trips to SEasia, most people dont both leaving voice messages – if they cant reach you when they phone, they hangup and send you a text message instead.
  • At this point you should be able to make/receive calls.
  • To make my Android 2.2 phone transmit/receive data, I had to add the following APN settings:
    * on home screen, go into “settings”
    * go into “wireless & network settings”
    * go into “mobile networks”
    * go into “access point names”
    * if there is not already a “maxis” APN, then create one as follows:
    ** Name = maxis
    ** APN == bbnet
    ** Proxy == 202.75.133.49
    ** Port == 80
    ** Username == Not set
    ** Password == Not set
    ** Server == Not set
    ** MMSC == Not set
    ** MMS proxy == Not set
    ** MMS port == Not set
    ** MCC == 502
    ** MNC == 12
    ** Authentication Type == Not set
    ** APN Type == Not set
    …hit save, and go back to “Access Point Names”.

  • verify that this new “maxis” APK is present, and is selected.
  • verify that “Use only 2G networks” is not selected.
  • Reboot the phone to see if that helps.
  • Now that the phone is configured correctly, I selected the 500mb-per-day data plan, as follows:
    enter “*100*9*1#” and press dialer
    read menu, enter “2″ and click “ok”
    read menu, enter “1″ and click “ok”
    …thats it.

  • At this point you should be able to make/receive calls, send/receive text messages, surf the web, and use your cellphone as a wifi hotspot.
  • To check your account balance call *122#.
  • When you need additional credits, buy a one-time use scratch-refill “top up” card at almost any corner store, and follow the instructions on the back. Alternatively, their website says you can topup using PayPal as well as credit cards, but I never personally tried that. Either way, you’ll receive a text message with the new balance when the credits are added to your account.

linux on a Boeing 777

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Last week, at SFO, while waiting for clearance to pushback from the gate, I noticed that the headrest entertainment system had crashed and was rebooting…and it was linux!

I couldnt read all the messages – the bootup messages scrolled by so quickly – but there was at least one error message about not finding a config file?!? They had to reboot the system a few times before it finally booted up successfully. And yes, once booted, it stayed up and running for the entire flight to LHR.

Here’s the best I could do with some rushed photos, in poor lighting, while they were telling me to turn off all electronic devices.

(click images for enlarged photos)

Oh, and while writing this post, I found someone else’s photo of linux booting on another Boeing 777.

linux on a Boeing 777

HOWTO use an unlocked Android phone in Ireland

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Here what I used in my trip back to Ireland in Oct2011, in case others find this helpful:


Disclaimer:

  • In the US, buying a cellphone “out-of-contract” is not the same as buying a cellphone “unlocked”. All of the following only works for an unlocked phone. Make sure your phone is unlocked before you get on the plane.
  • Different cellphone companies have different policies on this. AT&T declared that, despite my being a multi-year customer, with no contract, they would not unlock my phone per policy. T-Mobile said upfront that they would need ~40days from date-of-purchase of “out-of-contact” phone before I could ask to have it unlocked. On the 40th day, when I asked T-Mobile to unlock my phone, they sent me the phone unlock codes within 48hours.
  • Make sure your phone supports GSM. Sounds obvious, but still needs to be said, as most countries use GSM.

  • Buy a “Three.ie” pay-as-you-go SIM card. I bought mine at a stall in a shopping center in Dublin, but they were also for sale in any of the countless newsagent stores across the country. While there are several mobile companies selling pay-as-you-go, I decided to go with Three.ie because they have unlimited(yes, really!) data at 3G speeds, no hassle about using your cellphone as a hotspot and unlimited text messaging. Oh, and comparable prices for voice calls.
  • Disassemble your phone to swap out sim card, insert new Three.ie sim card and power up the phone.
  • On the phone, enter “1744″ and press dial (typically, the green handset button). This will connect you to an automated voice service which will tell you your balance.
  • Assuming that works, you should now attempt to call any local number. A good example is the mobile phone of the person at the three.ie stand who sold you the card. Specifically, you should do this because the first call made on the new three.ie account will not be connected until you are verbally prompted through the remaining setup steps. This includes setting up an access PIN (for later topup/account activity calls) and also setting up voicemail, all of which I did.

    (Cultural note: While some people would leave voicemail, most people would instead send text messages. However, I found it interesting that even people who didnt leave a voicemail would still want to hear my voice on my voicemail greeting, to confirm they had reached the correct number, before they would hangup and send me a text message.)

  • At this point you should be able to make/receive calls.
  • To make my Android 2.2 phone transmit/receive data, I had to add the following APN settings:
    * on home screen, go into “settings”
    * go into “wireless & network settings”
    * go into “mobile networks”
    * go into “access point names”
    * if there is not already a “smart” APN, then create one as follows:
    ** Name = 3 services
    ** APN == 3ireland.ie
    ** Proxy == Not set
    ** Port == Not set
    ** Username == Not set
    ** Password == Not set
    ** Server == Not set
    ** MMSC == Not set
    ** MMS proxy == Not set
    ** MMS port == Not set
    ** MCC == 272
    ** MNC == 05
    ** Authentication Type == Not set
    ** APN Type == Not set
    …hit save, and go back to “Access Point Names”.

  • verify that this new “3 services” APK is present, and is selected.
  • Reboot the phone to see if that helps.
  • At this point you should be able to make/receive calls, send/receive text messages, surf the web, and use your cellphone as a wifi hotspot.
  • To check your account balance call 1744.
  • When you need additional credits, buy a one-time use scratch-refill “top up” card at almost any newsagent, and follow the instructions on the back. Alternatively, you can buy additional credits by calling 1744 from your phone, enter your PIN and recharge using a credit card. Either way, you’ll receive a text message with the new balance when the credits are added to your account.

HOWTO use an unlocked Android phone in Cambodia

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There are now 9!!?! different mobile phone companies in Cambodia and a great summary of them all is on khmerbird.com. They all offer different pay-as-you-go SIM cards, and of course, there are lots of different Android phones, but here what I used in my recent trip back to Cambodia, in case others find this helpful:


Disclaimer:

  • In the US, buying a cellphone “out-of-contract” is not the same as buying a cellphone “unlocked”. All of the following only works for an unlocked phone. Make sure your phone is unlocked before you get on the plane.
  • Different cellphone companies have different policies on this. AT&T declared that, despite my being a multi-year customer, with no contract, they would not unlock my phone per policy. T-Mobile said upfront that they would need ~40days from date-of-purchase of “out-of-contact” phone before I could ask to have it unlocked. On the 40th day, when I asked T-Mobile to unlock my phone, they sent me the phone unlock codes within 48hours.
  • Make sure your phone supports GSM. Sounds obvious, but still needs to be said, as most countries use GSM.

  • Buy a “Smart Mobile” pay-as-you-go SIM card, with the “Fresh Internet+” plan. I bought mine at the airport in Phnom Penh, but they were also for sale in any of the countless green “Smart Mobile” stores across the country. While each of the 9 cell phone companies in Cambodia have different voice prices, this company seemed to have the best data plan, which is what I cared about most. Oh, and the staff at their booth were great fun and their ad for “Fresh Internet+” data-plan looked fun!

  • Disassemble your phone to swap out sim card, insert new SmartMobile sim card and power up the phone.
  • On the phone, enter “*888#” and press dial (typically, the green handset button). This should send you a text message within a few seconds containing:
    * your mobile number
    * remaining balance on your SIM card
    * expiry date of the credits on your SIM card
    * whether or not you have a data plan set up (the default is “not”).

  • At this point you should be able to make/receive calls, and check your account balance.
  • Dont bother setting up the voicemail. Like in Hong Kong, no-one seems to use voicemail; if you dont answer the phone, callers simply try again later or send you a txt msg.
  • To enable your phone for pre-paid data, you need to setup “Fresh Internet+” plan, as follows:
    * To verify data plan status, enter “*093*0#” and press dial. It should tell you that you have no data plan.
    * On the phone, enter “*093*3#” and press dial (typically, the green handset button). This cost me USD$5, and gave me 2GB data limit for 30days. (Click here for list of codes for different prices and different data limits.). All the SmartMobile plans are 30day duration, the only difference is how much money you want to prepay, and what data limit that gives you.
    * You should receive an SMS confirming the amount paid, and the data plan.
    * To verify data plan status, enter “*093*0#” and press dial. It should tell you that you have a data plan, days to expiry, and how much of your data plan allowance remains.

  • The following APN settings were enabled automatically on my Android 2.2 phone, so I did not set these manually. However, I’m listing them below in case it helps others debug problems transmitting/receiving on their data plan:
    * on home screen, go into “settings”
    * go into “wireless & network settings”
    * go into “mobile networks”
    * go into “access point names”
    * if there is not already a “smart” APN, then create one as follows:
    ** Name = smart
    ** APN == smart
    ** Proxy == Not set
    ** Port == Not set
    ** Username == Not set
    ** Password == Not set
    ** Server == Not set
    ** MMSC == Not set
    ** MMS proxy == Not set
    ** MMS port == Not set
    ** MCC == Not set
    ** MNC == Not set
    ** Authentication Type == None
    ** APN Type == default
    …hit save, and go back to “access point names”.

  • verify that this new “smart” APK is present, and is selected.
  • Reboot the phone to see if that helps.
  • When you need additional credits, buy a one-time use scratch-refill card at almost any roadside stand (they are literally everywhere, and all have the distinctive green “Smart Mobile” logo or beach umbrella!).

HOWTO use an unlocked Android phone in Hong Kong

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While there are different pay-as-you-go SIM cards available in Hong Kong, and a multitude of different Android phones, here what I used in my recent trip to Hong Kong, in case others find this helpful:


Disclaimer:

  • In the US, buying a cellphone “out-of-contract” is not the same as buying a cellphone “unlocked”. All of the following only works for an unlocked phone. Make sure your phone is unlocked before you get on the plane.
  • Different cellphone companies have different policies on this. AT&T declared that, despite my being a multi-year customer, with no contract, they would not unlock my phone per policy. T-Mobile said upfront that they would need ~40days from date-of-purchase of “out-of-contact” phone before I could ask to have it unlocked. On the 40th day, when I asked T-Mobile to unlock my phone, they sent me the phone unlock codes within 48hours.
  • Make sure your phone supports GSM. Sounds obvious, but still needs to be said. Also, while in Hong Kong, I could only find pay-as-you-go SIM cards that supported 2G or 3G. The only 4G or faster that I could find were as part of monthly contracted plans; if you know of any that I missed, please let me know.

  • At any 7-11 store in Hong Kong, buy a China Mobile pay-as-you-go SIM card. In my case, I bought the “IDD Talk Card“. It looks like the “Super Talk Card” has better rates but they were sold out.
  • Disassemble your phone to swap out sim card, insert new ChinaMobile sim card and power up the phone.
  • On the phone, enter “*#130#” and press dial (typically, the green handset button). This should send you a text message within a few seconds containing:
    * your mobile number
    * remaining balance on your SIM card
    * expiry date of the credits on your SIM card
    * whether or not you have a data plan set up (the default is “not”).

  • At this point you should be able to make/receive calls, and check your account balance. If you dont get this text message, go back and check your work.
  • Dont bother setting up the voicemail. No-one seems to use them; if you dont answer the phone, callers simply try again later or send you a txt msg.
  • Once you have verified that basic calling works, the next step is to setup “Mobile Data & WiFi Package”, as follows:
    * On the phone, enter “*#130#” and press dial (typically, the green handset button). This should send you a text confirmation prompt asking what duration you want the data plan.
    ** for 1 day, press “1″ and hit ok
    ** for 7 days, press “2″ and hit ok
    ** for 30 days, press “3″ and hit ok
    * to verify data plan status, enter “*#103#” and press dial.
    * to cancel data plan, enter “*103*02#” and press dial.
    * Note: be careful of letting data plan expire, yet continuing to use data, because the usages fees jump significantly.
    * (I found these, along with a full set of commands, on www.hk.chinamobile.com).

  • Next, to make sure that your android phone is correctly configured for 3G data, I had to do the following manually on my Android2.2 phone:
    * on home screen, go into “settings”
    * go into “wireless & network settings”
    * go into “mobile networks”
    * go into “access point names”
    * if there is not already an “cmhk” (peoples.net), then create one as follows:
    ** Name = cmhk
    ** APN == peoples.net
    ** Proxy == Not set
    ** Port == Not set
    ** Username == Not set
    ** Password == Not set
    ** Server == Not set
    ** MMSC == Not set
    ** MMS proxy == Not set
    ** MMS port == Not set
    ** MCC == 454
    ** MNC == 12
    ** Authentication Type == None
    ** APN Type == default

    …hit save, and go back to “access point names”.

  • verify that this new “cmhk” APK is present, and is selected.
  • In my case, I had to reboot my phone one more time, but that was it.
  • When you need additional credits, buy a card at 7-11 (they are everywhere!) or online at http://www.hk.chinamobile.com.

Aikido in Hong Kong

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After 15hours non-stop in an economy row seat from SFO -> HKG, some Aikido training seemed like a great way to help fix the jetlag, and also get moving again.

There’s a few Aikido dojos in Hong Kong, but after searching the internet, and then sending some emails in advance, we decided to train at http://www.aikidodoyukai.com. (If you are curious, use google translate to read the “training diary” written by Hitoshi Nagai Sensei after every class.).

Students had a wide range of skill levels, all the way from multiple adult yudansha to young children with white belts. There was no way to fit a gi into the carry-on-only bags, so we went to class in borrowed sweatpants and tshirts. It was really great to see how everyone, from a wide range of ages, races and cultures all intermixed, enjoyed learning together and everyone was very welcoming of the jetlagged strangers. The influence of the personality of the Sensei was obvious, the class was great exercise, fun and educational.

This turned out to be one of the highlights of Hong Kong for me. In fact, we made time to go back for another class later in the week, bringing friends who live in HK to introduce them to the art. Only while chatting after the 2nd class did I discover that Sensei had spent a lot of time training at Hombu dojo in Tokyo – another place where I’d enjoyed visiting to train!

If you find yourself in Hong Kong, even for just a few days, I highly recommend this dojo. I’ll definitely be going back again next time I visit Hong Kong.

Food experiments in Japan: continued in California

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(long overdue post; found these photos while writing another travel post for my website.)

Immediately after I returned from Japan last year, I was really happy to find these fruit flavoured, gummy chews also available in SF. Weirdly addictive, and I’ve made specific trips out to buy more from the only shop I know that sells them in SF.

In the same week that I returned to California, someone else (who shall remain nameless by request!) brought the following back from his trip.

These tasted awful, and the flavour lingered for hours, despite vigorous toothbrushing :-(

Anniversary of San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake

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105 years ago today, at 5:12 a.m. in the morning, San Francisco got hit by “the big one”. The devastation is well documented here. The earthquake was bad, but the fires afterwards did most of the damage – a bad combination of broken gas pipelines causing fires, and most fire hydrants not working because of the broken water pipelines.

Just around the corner from my home is one hydrant that DID work. Because of this hydrant, refugees in Dolores Park were safe, and houses beyond this point were protected from the inferno, so the neighborhoods have lots of houses from before 1906. More details here. Nicknamed “the golden hydrant”, it gets a new layer of gold paint, and some flowers, in a ceremony at 5.12am every year on this day.

Japan: two weeks later

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Still having a hard time grasping the scale of the earthquake in Japan. Most of the news in California is focused on the nuclear power plants at Fukushima, but the following struck me about the earthquake:

Its great to see Wikipedia and GoogleCrisisResponse spreading timely information, which is really important in situations like this.

This is two weeks later.

We get earthquakes here too, which raises the question: if an earthquake happened here in the bay area, could you be fully self-sufficient for at least 72hours? San Francisco Dept of Emergency Management has setup http://72hours.org to help people prepare.

UPDATED: added today’s story about the dog. Searching building wreckage is dangerous, more so when its floating at sea, so I’ve lots of respect for the people continuing to do this day after day. joduinn 02apr2011.

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