Feature Review – Nexus 6 & Project Fi Part Two

Service

As I mentioned earlier, Project Fi is Google’s MVN (Mobile Virtual Network) like Virgin Mobile or Boost Mobile or Cricket is a MVN. All of those companies rent towers and service from either AT&T, T-Mobile or Verizon and then resell it to the general public. Project Fi does the exact same thing but with service from Sprint and T-Mobile.

The service from Project Fi is unique, however, in that it offers service from two very distinct and different service providers. Sprint is a CDMA mobile broadband provider. T-Mobile is a GSM service provider. Individually, each services don’t provide great coverage. Some of their coverage areas overlap. Some don’t. However, together, they provide a much better coverage area than they do alone.

Project Fi Local Coverage

At the very least, they provide a much better coverage area where the two services overlap. When you don’t have good cellular coverage, and when you have access to Wi-Fi, you can do everything – make and take calls, surf the internet – via that Wi-Fi network.

Everything is supposed to switch seamlessly between all of the different components without any loss of service. I’m still testing this, and will likely have more on this in the coming weeks.

Service Plans

The service provides unlimited domestic talk and text, unlimited international text messages, low-cost international calls, Wi-Fi tethering and coverage in over 120 countries, world wide.

PF-01

PF-04

Everyone that subscribes to Fi gets these “basic” services and these things grouped together are actually called, The Fi Basics. All of that is $20 bucks a month.

PF-05

Project Fi data is an additional $10 bucks a gigabyte, a month. You want 3GB of bandwidth, that’s an extra $30 bucks (plus the $20 for Fi Basics), so a total of $50 bucks a month. Google charges you in advance for the service.

If you don’t use all the data that you’ve budgeted for, then Google will credit your bill back for the bandwidth you don’t use, next month.

Given all this, let’s take a look at how well the service actually works in the wild.

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Voice Performance

I’m using the Nexus 6 as a backup device and not as a daily driver. With the deprecation of Google Voice (see below), I can’t use my GV number as I used to. The Google Voice app for iOS won’t function as it used to and allow me to use my iPhone 6 with both numbers.

PF-07

However, I’ve really liked what I’ve seen from the voice and data coverage in my area. Calls are clear and apparently transfer from tower to tower without issue. Areas that are known to be dead spots or weak coverage areas perform without issue. Areas where known tower transfer issues occur (on a single service) don’t seem to be an issue with Project Fi.

Provided you have decent Sprint or T-Mobile coverage in your area, and provided you have a @gmail.com, AND provided you can get an invitation and are looking for new cell service, Project Fi might be a decent option for you. But…those are a lot of “ifs.”

PF-08

Data Coverage and Performance

I’ve been pleased with the speed of Project Fi’s data network up to this point. As long as there’s decent mobile broadband coverage, I haven’t really run into any real challenges with slow network performance. Because the service has two distinct mobile signals to choose from – one from Sprint and one from T-Mobile – the Nexus 6 (always) has a (potentially) fast mobile signal to choose from.

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The best thing about Project Fi and its data coverage is that it’s always receiving all voice and data signals from every service at all times. It is intelligently able to choose the best signal and tower/ service to use for the tasks you’re trying to complete. I’ve actually really liked the way the data service has performed so far.

The only issues I’ve had with any data related speeds have been on the Wi-Fi networks that I’ve been using. That, however, has more to do with those networks than with the Wi-Fi adapter or antenna in the Nexus 6.

PF-10

Google Voice Deprecation

If you’ve ever had an Android phone, of any flavor or version, then you’ve likely used Google Voice with your cell service. When coupled with an Android phone, its an awesome feature. However, there are issues with Voice when it comes to Project Fi, and if you’re going to use the two of these together, then you need to be aware of them.

Under Project Fi, Google Voice is completely deprecated. What you used to know as your voice mail, is, like, gone, man. Its history… splits-ville… erased… and I do mean TOTALLY ERASED. For me, that’s a huge problem. I lost my dad a few years ago, and I had four messages from him that I was able to save from the trash a number of years ago, and every now and again when I needed a bit of cheering up, and I needed to hear his voice, I’d play one.

Well, now, those are totally gone; and I have no idea how to get them back, or if its even possible. Project Fi completely replaces Google Voice, even on the desktop; and once that’s done, it can’t be undone. If it weren’t for those four saved messages from my father, I wouldn’t care; but…

Depending on how much you use Google Voice – I haven’t much since making the move to the iPhone as a daily driver – then this may or may not be a road block for you. With Voice gone, you’ll have to switch to Hangouts for texting and other communication services, outside of voice mail. This may or may not be a problem for you. I’m not a huge Hangouts user, but from what I’m reading on the web, it’s a poor substitute for what you got from Google Voice.

Conclusion

I started this review out with the clear intent of really only reviewing Project Fi. I’ve tried to remain true to that.

The Nexus 6 is a decent device, but boy is it big. Its difficult to work with, with only one hand. The screen is clear and bright. The device has a decent camera and the performance of the hardware is really great.

Android Lollipop 5.1.x is ok. Honestly, I’m not an Android fan, so there really isn’t any chance of me moving to the Nexus 6 permanently. However, if Android is your cup of tea, then the Nexus 6 is a decent device.

Project Fi is a decent network, provided you live in an area that has decent coverage. Nationally, the picture isn’t all that great.

Project Fi National Coverage

While Project Fi could potentially make use of any cellular network (with the right agreements or contracts between Google and a carrier) to increase the 4G or LTE coverage, but currently the best coverage seems to be in the Mid West US.

However, if you are in an area with coverage and you can get on the service (as I previously noted…) its not bad. The fact that everything works, including voice calls, on all of the network towers that it works with, is kinda cool. The coverage is decent in my area, and the prices are definitely good. If this gets implemented a wider range of coverage, this could be a decent service for everyone… provided that it works on a larger array of devices.

Working on Android only and then only on the Nexus 6 is kind of a bummer, and an expensive one at that.

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Microsoft to Shut Down TechNet Subscription Service

TechNetSubShutDownThe service stops taking renewals on 2013-08-31.

In a letter to TechNet Subscribers today, Microsoft announced their intention to shut down the software subscription service. New subscriptions or renewals will not be taken after 2013-08-31. The service ends for subscribers when their subscription terms.

Thus ends a 15 year journey, which started in 1998 with a package of CD’s the size of Montana.

Historically, this has been the best deal in town for small businesses, fugal IT shops or anyone with a great deal of PC’s to maintain on a small budget. For $299 ($249 renewal) a year, TechNet Professional got you access to just about everything Microsoft had to offer, including consumer and enterprise versions of Windows, Windows Server and Office. With a small business of my own and up to 7 physical PC’s in my house, as well as any number of VM’s, TechNet Professional was the best way to get Microsoft Software.

The deal was a winner for me; but for Microsoft, it was an invitation to global piracy. Many users would simply purchase the subscription, grab all the keys they were entitled to for the numerous versions of the software they were given access to, and then sold them, at times with counterfeit media, to unsuspecting customers looking for a cheap deal of “genuine” software. Killing the TechNet service stops this flagrant form of piracy.

While it may help MS put a stop to piracy, for me, with potentially 8-10 MS powered PC’s in the house, it completely sucks.

If Windows goes to a subscription model, they better make it VERY affordable, otherwise, many PC’s, worldwide, in my opinion, will either NOT get upgraded OR will simply move to some form of Linux… if something else is needed. Open Office or Libre Office is also looking really good for those laptops and PC’s that don’t have mobile broadband or reasonable access to cloud based services like Google Apps, MS 365 or the upcoming iWork for iCloud.

TechNet’s shutdown is a good thing for MS as it cracks down on license abuse as well as piracy; but its also a huge win for open source products as many consumers will likely take harder looks at them if they decide to upgrade existing PC’s to newer operating systems and newer office suites.

It also lends additional credibility to alternative PC’s – tablets and smartfphones – and the Office compatible software available for those devices. That software is traditionally much more affordable, and this only creates incentive for users to move to that form of economically affordable computing .

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MAGIX PC Check & Tuning takes care of your system

Optimizing your computer performance can be a difficult and risky job. It’s either you know how to do it, or you don’t.  In case you are included in the second category, the only solution is to install an utility that is able to perform maintenance. There are lots of this type of applications, making it hard for a casual user to choose a suitable one. PC Check & Tuning can be your friend if you decide to install it and is able to bring your computer to an optimal state.

PC Check & Tuning 2011 comes with a “Fix all problems” that perform automatically several activities in a single step. You only have to use “Settings” option to set which activities should be performed automatically. You can choose from checking your drivers and software programs to see it these are up to date or not, or perform a variety of optimization tasks, such as removing startup items or unnecessary registry entries. Thanks to the direct connection of the software update function to a comprehensive software catalog, new programs and drivers versions can be downloaded immediately increasing the security of your system.

Applications that run in the background often waste a lot of power. The PC Check & Tuning power saving scheme provides access to hidden Windows power saving functions. You can reduce your computer’s power consumption by up to 15 percent. Benefit from longer battery life on your notebook computer and use power more efficiently. Depending on your needs and workflow, you can choose between different power profiles, which allow you to regulate your power consumption more efficiently. An easy-to-understand color chart visualizes your energy demand and immediately displays any changes that have been made.

For an increased performance when you need it, the app comes with high-speed module that actually deactivates all the rarely used services and functions. In this way when you run a program which needs additional resources, just activate this module in order to obtain that extra power that you need. Your system can be brought to its initial state by deactivating the high speed module. All the programs in the background will be reactivated instantly.

MAGIX PC Check Live is another interesting module from PC Check & Tuning that monitors the state of your computer in the background and cleans up your hard drive automatically if necessary. It even notifies the user in case of major problems or if any program updates are available. With this module running all the time in the background, the program gives the user a secure feeling without the need of actually doing something manually. Again this module can be set through the “Settings” menu by adding or removing what to be checked in the course of continuous tests.

MAGIX PC Check & Tuning is definitely not your normal PC check utility, but more of a bonus product that not only can find the problems to your system but it can also fix them and even improve the normal state of your computer.

download MAGIX PC Check & Tuning 2011

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Autoruns from Microsoft has been updated to version 11

Autoruns is a Sysinternals utility that shows you what programs are configured to run during system bootup or login, and shows you the entries in the order Windows processes them. Developed by Mark Russinovich and Bryce Cogswell, this utility brings a deeper control in terms of auto-start applications and registry files. It represents everything that MSConfig cannot do.

Autoruns is a portable utility, so all you have to do is to copy it in a secure location on your hard drive and simply run it. The app starts instantly showing you 18 tabs including logon entries, Explorer add-ons, Internet Explorer add-ons including Browser Helper Objects (BHOs), Appinit DLLs, image hijacks, boot execute images, Winlogon notification DLLs, Windows Services and Winsock Layered Service Providers. It’s a classic chaotic interface for casual users, but I have to admit that this is the best way to view from a single look everything that breaths on your computer.

Overall, using this utility is simple if you know exactly what are the components running in your system. For example if you want to disable an auto-start entry uncheck its check box. This option is very useful in case you want to find out what that entry is doing in your system without taking the risk to delete it. To delete an auto-start configuration entry just use the Delete menu item or toolbar button. If you want to locate any registry file of an auto-start item just use the Jump menu item or toolbar button.

This utility works also in conjunction with other Sysinternals utilities. In case you want to view the properties of an executable configured to run automatically, select it and use the Properties menu item or toolbar button. If Process Explorer is running and there is an active process executing the selected executable then the Process Explorer menu item in the Entry menu will open the process properties dialog box for the process executing the selected image.

In addition Autoruns’ Hide Signed Microsoft Entries option helps you to zoom in on third-party auto-starting images that have been added to your system and it has support for looking at the auto-starting images configured for other accounts configured on a system. Also included in the download archive is a command-line equivalent to Autorun that can output in CSV format, Autorunsc.

download Autoruns 11

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Monitor your PC with Microsoft Process Explorer

Ever wondered which program has a particular file or directory open? Now you can find out. Process Explorer shows you information about which handles and DLLs processes have opened or loaded.

The Process Explorer comes with two sub-windows. The top one shows a list of the currently active processes, including the names of their owning accounts. The bottom window shows a different information based on the mode that Process Explorer is in. For example if you set the application to be in handle mode you’ll see the handles that the process selected in the top window has opened. If Process Explorer is set in DLL mode you’ll see the DLLs and memory-mapped files that the process has loaded.

Version 15.0 of this application comes with a GPU usage monitor. Unfortunately this feature is not visible by default so you have to search for it in the View tab -> Columns in order to activate it. Once you’ve done this, the System Information window will show also your GPU activity based on GPU Usage, GPU Private Data, GPU Committed Bytes, or GPU Shared Bytes in graph mode.

Process Explorer’s latest version includes also the ability to restart a service. You just have to double-click a process instance, click the Service tab, choose the desired service and click Restart. In this way Process Explorer will stop and start it for you. Though you should be careful while restarting services, because you can cause your system to crash in case you have chosen a wrong one.

download Microsoft Process Explorer

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Take your Windows PC into the cloud with Joli OS

Joli OS is a free and easy way to turn any computer up to 10 years old into a cool new cloud device. Get on the Web and instantly connect to all your Web apps (for example Google Docs or Photoshop Express Editor), files and services using the computer you already own. You may never need to buy a new computer again. It’s easy. Just download Joli OS. It installs in just 10 minutes.

Joli OS comes in two packages: a windows installer which can be run on any computer using the Windows OS, or as an ISO image that can be burned on a disc and installed on any computer without another operating system pre-installed.

Joli OS is actually a part of your Jolicloud account. It replicates everything on your desktop  that you have installed in the Jolicloud account. This means that any installed application through this service will be synced to any other computer that has this OS installed and the content of your computer can be accessed from any web browser. The difference between the online service and its sibling OS is that with Joli OS you can also install traditional desktop apps. The best way to do so is to search the Jolicloud App Store and select any wanted program in order to be downloaded silently in background.

Take a video tour…

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PSN down for the seventh day

Like all the other PS 3 users I was unable to connect to their online service this week. I wasn’t very upset because I’m not huge fan of this product, but I’m still amazed how could a bunch of hackers destroy the image and eventually the business of such a huge company.

Today is the seventh day when the PSNetwork is down and will remain so until further analyzes. The access to the service seems to have been banned by the company itself from the moment they found out their service was hacked. At the moment there are only rumors circulating the internet, but it seems that personal information such as name, address, e-mail, birthday, and PSN login information were obtained by the hackers. It is not confirmed if the purchase history and also credit card information may have been compromised as well.

The only thing I’m sure is that Sony will have to rebuild the PSN infrastructure and to invest a lot in marketing assuring the customers that their system is secure again. Until then, expect the unexpected!

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