... in mobile computing

Punkt. Aus

This year I got myself a Punkt. MP02 mobile phone. I had been eying the Punkt. for a while as a secondary phone that I could use during periods when when I wanted to avoid the distraction potential that comes with my smartphone — vacations or an evening out at a restaurant or at friends for example. Sometime in 2021 the Punkt. — which is essentially a phone that can do calls, SMS and function as a 4G hotspot — gained the ability to send and receive messages over Signal — which given that I do my messaging over Signal and iMessage — made switching for periods of time feel like a viable option (unlike iMessage which will fall-back to SMS, Signal messages just stay undelivered if the receiving client is not active).

I got the Punkt. on xmas eve and while it is indeed a very nice piece of hardware, that feels nice in the hand I was disappointed almost immediately. Setting up Signal (via an app that is called Pigeon) was extremely cumbersome (mainly because is includes a step where you need to solve an image captcha, that is extremely buggy on the phone’s small screen) and once I had managed to set up Pigeon, the app kept crashing immediately after opening it. The other problem was that by signing into Signal on the Punkt. I was immediately signed out of Signal on my iPhone (which was kind of expected) but also on my laptop (i am a heavy signal user on the laptop and had not considered this).

At the time Punkt. had already announced that a new version of Pigeon would be released on the 27th of December so I boxed up the MP02, went back to the iPhone and waited a few days.

After installing the Pigeon update a few days later, I did manage to get Signal up and running on the phone (while suffering thought the same buggy captcha process again) and could receive and send (with all the drawback that come with suddenly being thrown back to T9 text input) Signal messages on the phone. A few days later we went on vacation to a remote corner of Denmark and I was determined to rely on the Punkt. for that week.

Punkt. MP02 + Laserwriter II on the table of our vacation house

During the week in Denmark week I tried to stay away from the internets and anything work related as much as possible and the Punkt. certainly helped with that. Still other limitations of not using an iPhone became painfully clear almost immediately. While I had bought the Punkt. primarily to avoid distractions and to be less reachable there are in fact lots of functions integrated into modern smartphones that are simply helpful without being distracting.

I had expected that I would miss things like recording my runs on Strava and listening to podcasts while running (both of which work perfectly fine on my non-internet connected iPhone which I took along for my runs) but some other limitations where less expected: the fact that the Punkt. does not support contactless payment (a la Apple Pay) means that I needed to carry a wallet with me for the first time in two or so years. But it was the fact that the Punkt. does have no ability to display an EU Digital COVID Certificate is what ultimately made me swap my SIM-card back into the iPhone and abandon the whole experiment. There was no printer in our vacation house in the remote corner of Denmark but more fundamentally — this being the 21st century — I am simply not willing to go back to carry papers around with me as a trade-off for having less distraction in my life.

Tomorrow UPS guy will come and pick up the phone under Punkt.’s Hassle-free 30 days returns policy and I will be a bit sad that this experiment did not work out. The MP02 is a really nice piece of hardware and I would be happy1 to give it another try if they manage to support Signal in a way that you can run it on multiple devices and switching SIM-cards does not involve silly captcha acrobatics anymore (assuming that by then COVID-19 will be endemic and there is no need to regularly show COVID certificates at random moments of the day).

  1. There is one thing that I am really disappointed with: One of the promotional shots of the MP02 on the Punkt. website shows the phone with a map based interface on the screen which I really liked. Turns out that this is simply a mock-up and that this particular interface does not exist for real. ↩︎

Paper maps as backup for when the network is down

10 Jun 2013 | 104 words | maps mobile computing mobile networks gps

Stumbled across this picture of a helicopter crew surveying flooding along the Elbe while reading the news this morning:

Helicopter cockpit with maps

As far as I am concerned this is a perfect illustration of the fact that paper maps have been relegated to being a backup solution for when the battery is empty or the cellular network is down (guess as a helicopter pilot you can’t really afford this). Also amazing how much the military (or paramilitary, not really clear from the picture if this a federal police or an army helicopter) seems to rely on of the shelf consumer technology these days.

My macbook had the lifespan of a hamster

10 Jun 2007 | 129 words | technology travel mobile computing

I had the sentence ‘this macbook has the lifespan of a hamster’ as my desktop background for a while now. had assumed that hamsters do have a lifespan of about two years. Yesterday Tamara mentioned that her hamster had died after one year when she was 10 and coinciditially my macbook died yesterday evening (after about a year of good service).

This happend while taking notes during the reflection group meeting of the ECF in Amman for which i am supposed to write up the report. So now i am stuck whith tareks 2nd powerbook which somewhat unfortunately has a french keyboard. If you type ‘this macbook has the lifespan of a hamster’ on a AZERTY keyboard you get ‘this ;qcbook hqs the lifespqn of q hq;ster’ very annoying…

Laptop/USA for Africa/textese/forgotten vegetables/NGOs

There are two articles about the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) in the spring 2007 issue of بدون/bidoun. the second one (‘let them eat laptops’ (p72ff.) – not available online) is a relatively serious email discussion about the merits of the project between a couple of academics. the other article ‘glory‘ by Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina) takes the OPLC project as a starting point for a fascinating exploration into how technology is appropriated. It’s one of the best texts i have read in a long time and starts like this:

I was twelve years old, in a small public school in Nakuru. One day, the whole school was called out of class. Some very blond and very serious people from Sweden had arrived. We were led to the round patch of grass next to the parade ground in front of the school, where the flag was. Next to the flag were two giant drums of cow shit and metal pipes and other unfamiliar accessories. We stood around, heard some burping sounds, and behold, there was light.

This is biogas, the Swedes told us. A fecal matyr. It looks like shit-it is shit-but it has given up its gas for you. With this new fuel you can light your bulbs and cook your food. You will become balanced dieted; if you are industrious perhaps you can run a small biogaspowered posho mill and engage in income generating activities.

We went back to class. Very excited. Heretofore our teachers had threatened us with straightforward visions of failure. Boys would end up shining shoes; girls would end up pregnant.

Now there was a worse thing to be: a user of biogas.

… and ends with this:

There are few useful “development models” for genuinely selfstarting people. I am sure the One Laptop per Child initiative will bring glory to its architects. The IMF will smile. Mr Negroponte will win a prize or two or ten. There will be key successes in Rwanda; in a village in Cambodia; in a small, groundbreaking initiative in Palestine, where Israeli children and Palestinian children will come together to play minesweeper. There will be many laptops in small, perfect, NGO-funded schools for AIDS orphans in Nairobi, and many earnest expatriates working in Sudan will swear by them.

And there will be many laptops in the homes of homeschooling, goattending parents in North Dakota who wear hemp (another wonderproduct for the developing world). They will fall in love with the idea of this frugal, noble laptop, available for a mere $100. Me, I would love to buy one. I would carry it with me on trips to remote Kenyan places, where I seek to find myself and live a simpler, earthier life, for two weeks a year.

In-between these two parts it covers all of the subjects in the title of this post and many more. my favorite part is probably the bit about Kenyan cellphone culture.

A guy called Njoroge has a business in Nairobi’s industrial area called “Lord of the Ringtones.” They digitalize and sell ringtones, 220,000 of them a month. Cellphones are the biggest business in Kenya.

And they are transforming culture, even as they spawn new markets. In Nairobi, a student paper caters to kids from across the city’s high schools; submissions are sent in by text message, with articles written in textesewords broken into their smallest possible lucid components. Every few months or so, rumors circulate, breaking some code or other and giving free airtime or texts. Some people have learned to communicate for free with their regular clients or family by coding their ringing: one ring, I am on my way; two rings, I have picked up the kids; three rings, I love you.

No more 4, R, F and V for now...

14 May 2006 | 560 words | mobile computing airtravel

My cuent tip to ancoue/san ancisco tuned into quite a compute nightmae. about two hous in the light om amstedam to ancoue i spilled ed wine oe my laptop (it was in the seat-pouch in ont o me and the wine went in quite elegantly ia the usb/iewie/netwok pots on the side o the laptop that was sticking out o the pouch. een i a m not stupid enough to wok on my laptop and dink wine at the same time while sitting in a cowded aiplane) so anyway the compute was dead i did not hae access to my pesentation (the whole eason o the tip) and the compute stayed dead een aet a 90 minute blow dye teatment once i had aied in ancoue. in act the compute stayed dead o 2 entie days and only stated poweing up on iday moning in san ancisco which caused me much happyness untill i typed the last lette o my passwod and discoeeed that the R key was not woking. niethe wee the 4, the F and the V, and no wee the USB pots so that i could not just plug in some USB keyboad. so what do you do in such a situation? apat om getting eally eally despeate?

you bette emembe that you hae a sepeate account o playing wold o wacat on you laptop which otunately has a passwod that does not inole any o the missing lettes. so again much happyness about haing a wokable compute in ont o you, but that still kept me away om my email account o my othe iles. so the next step was to go to the account peeences and change the passwod o the main account. this inoles typing the passwod o that account, but now that you ae inside the OS you can cut and paste missing lettes, ight? so cut an R, open the authentication dialogue box, type in the passwod minus the last lette and hit apple-V to paste but nothing happens, as you guessed it the V is among the keys that do not wok. no poblem though, why not use the menu ba instead? tuns out that access to the menu ba is disabled when a authentication dialogue box is open. the sult much unhapiness, bodeing on desperation :-/

now one o the ine things o OS X is that it is build on UNIX and the een bette thing is that you can alos change you acount passwods by using the temainal, swithcing to the desied use and execute the ‘passwd’ command. and the best thing? in the teminal you can use menu command including ‘cut’ and ‘paste’. so the passwod is changed, much happiness ensues and the day is saed. actually almost saed is moe pecise since (a) typing on a keyboad without 4, R, F and V is somewhat annoying, (b) in the meanwhile the compute got wam and stats to stink like glühwein and (c) the the passwd command does not aect the maste passwod o the keychain so i am still locked out o all my mail accounts and such things. last this is easyly esoled by deleting the deault keychain (much passwod typing joy ensues…) and the othe two issues i hae chosen to ignoe o the moment (hence the somwhat ucked up spelling in this post)

Pairing requests

06 Feb 2006 | 220 words | railways mobile computing berlin amsterdam

Seems like everybody and her mother have bluetooth enabled phones nowadays. In the last few weeks i have had repeated pairing requests from unidentified mobile phones while working on my laptop in the Train. For the uninitiated, a pairing request is a precondition for establishing a connection between two bluetooth devices: The contacted party has to agree to ‘pair’ her device with the requesting device in order to transmit files, interchange data or use it as an input or output device.

Apart from this technical aspect the fact that a window titled ‘pairing request’ pops-up out of nothing on your computer screen also has a romantic connotation to it (though nothing is more annoying than not to find out who send you that request. This can distract you for the rest of a journey). Now all feelings of romance are immediately lost as soon as you see that the pairing request is coming from someone called ‘nokia6820’ or ‘K750i’ or even worse ‘RAZR’ or ‘ROKR’. how lame is that?

If you insist to harass others on the train with your mobile phone it is your first obligation to invest a little bit of time and imagination and give your phone a proper sleazy name. As an example i have renamed my phone from ‘K750i’ to ‘Luigi'.

Pairing request from luigi

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: