2024-04-25

The power of eSIMs

I was always skeptical of eSIMs. The idea you have a mobile identity in a physical SIM that you control seems a sensible approach. An eSIM is sort of locked in to the phone, and you can't just move it. But does it matter? Possibly not.

But the real benefits were not as obvious to me until I started using one. It is mostly the benefits of a second number, or more specifically secondary service, on a mobile phone. This could just as easily be done with two physical SIMs, but it seems common for phones to have a physical SIM and additional eSIM. iPhones certainly allow a physical SIM and many eSIMs, and you can have any 2 active at ones.

Two numbers on one phone

Interestingly, the idea of more than one number is not new. When orange launched, what, 30 years ago, they allowed a secondary voice service on a second number, and their first phones allowed you to make calls and send texts on the two numbers, and know which was calling you, and so on. It was (is) a standards feature of GSM to allow a secondary number on a service. It is great for personal and work numbers on a phone, and for personal and more personal numbers or some such :-)

That was one service but with multiple numbers. I had this, and even had a separate fax and data number on the same SIM. It was only a second telephone number, not a second number for SMS though.

Using dual SIMs, or SIM+eSIM, etc, allows this but with separate service providers. Two services on one phone, including SMS.

A&A SIP2SIM

For a long time we (A&A) have sold a SIP2SIM service, a physical SIM, typically used in one of three ways:-

  • Connect to your own telephone system and use as part of an office internal phone system (very niche, but what the name SIP2SIM is all about).
  • Connect seamlessly to A&As service and so be a mobile phone service in itself, like normal, calls, texts, data, but with nice features like call recording (but expensive as a normal phone service)
  • As above, but using a landline number not a mobile (once again, when they launched, Orange offered this).

We sold the service for all of these. The first is niche, and the others are expensive, so limited take up.

Mobile phone contracts

One of the big issues with making this your "normal mobile phone service" means "changing service provider". This means "waiting to the end of your existing contract". It also means hassle if you don't like A&As service (even with no minimum term) as that means getting a new "phone contract" which is hassle, it seems. So the hurdles are actually contractual and hassle, not technical, or even price in all cases.

But a second service on a phone solves all of that!

  • It can overlap with the main contract with no hassle, and continue as such if needed.
  • It can be tested, and then ceased, with no impact on main number.
  • It can be activated and working in a matter of seconds.

This really is something of a game changer, and I have now seen it in action.

Talking to a friend, and he wants to sort a work number. Within minutes we have a new number allocated, a landline (apparently his older clients don't trust mobiles). It is on his phone as a second number, and working, even with iMessage. All sorted.

Am I a convert?

To be honest, more of a fan of dual numbers, which I had 30 years ago. Even with one SIM, A&A allow a lot of numbers to work to a SIM. So not quite a convert as such. But I am impressed with the easy and speed of using an eSIM, so maybe I am. I'm also a fan of a secondary service on a phone, which eSIMs make easy.

Plugging the new A&A SIP2SIM service!

Shameless plug time - the existing SIP2SIM stops working end of April. The new service is up and running, but not quite everything in place yet, so we are just allowing early access to customers before the proper launch now. More here.

It is more per month, but no air-time charges for calls/texts, some free roaming in EU and US, and (when launched) much cheaper data pricing. Call/SMS charges apply with the SIP/SMS service to which it is connected (even if A&A).

Feedback: That was ridiculously fast and easy to set up, and I got my iMessage activated without problems too.

2024-04-13

Breaking my heart

One of the things I suffer from is tachycardia.

My first memory of this was in secondary school, when I got a flat tyre cycling to school and ran the rest of the way as the the "form teacher", with which we had registration at the start of the day, was "evil" (well, I was a school kid), so I did not dare be late.

When I got to school my heart rate was stupidly high, and I ended up passing out. My "evil" form teacher was suddenly panicking that one of her kids might have dropped dead! In some ways that was amusing.

I found much later this was congenital, and not worth surgery to fix. It is rare that it happens, and oddly enough made a lot more likely by "heart burn". It lasts a lot longer if I have just had exercise, which is what got me in an ER department and ended up with it being investigated many years later.

It is basically my heart doing "double time", so if I would have been 100bpm from exercise it is 200bpm! If I have a lie down and wait a few minutes it is fine. On rare occasions after a lot of exercise, it can take a lot longer, and that is scary. I look like shit and am soaking wet from sweat. I managed it once in costa coffee, and the manager there (that we know quite well) was really panicked, sorry. 

What is weird is when it sorts its self out. I am instantly "absolutely fine". That confuses people. Yes, other customers in costa were really worried about me!

On a few occasions I have been able to capture this on an ECG, using a Kardia thing, and now my new Apple Watch.

The rate drops a bit while I rest, but as you see, suddenly, my heart rate drops back to normal.

One of the scariest things I ever had was when I was in ER and they administered drugs to fix it, and that makes your heart stop! I mean it may have been a second or two before starting up again, but it feels like it has stopped, and that is scary as hell.

I don't know if any of my follows have this. It was explained to me that it was not worth the side effects and risks of surgery to fix it, and was mostly a nuisance. It pretty much has been, with maybe a couple of times a year. Something I have had all my life.

Apple sleep tracking

I only post this because someone else may be as confused as I.

It is confusing - the instructions are very very clear that the Apple Watch will track sleep only when in "sleep focus", and you can set a schedule for that.

My issue is that I do not got to sleep at the same time - I could go to bed as early as 6pm or as late as 11pm. I could sleep all night, or sleep, and be awake, and sleep again (the old school "two sleeps" that apparently was the norm in medieval times) - last night I was awake and watched the really good "Miss Potter" film between sleeps. And no, I was not "in bed" all that time, so it is a tad confused and probably could have worked that out.

So I did not want to set a sleep focus schedule that was too soon as it stops notifications/alerts/calls. But also did not want to set too late so it does not record sleep. I did not want to set manually as I would forget, plus, it seems, you have to tell it to end the sleep focus (even if you have a schedule). I do get up consistently in the morning, so that helps.

My concerns were totally unfounded, as it seems that Apple are happy to record sleep starting way before your sleep focus is scheduled to start. So I can simply set for a sensible later time.

Why the hell don't Apple explain this? Why make me think I have to fuck about with "sleep focus schedule"?

2024-04-10

Tweaking the CCTV

Having run the CCTV for a while (and not trying to cover the legal issues today), I have been having some fun tweaking.

I am really liking the NX Witness system, but I have a mix of cameras, from dirt cheap to expensive. And the newest ones are really nice - very low level light still in colour and really good clear quality images.

The fun one is the front door. I doubt it is a prime target for burglary, being right on a busy road, and the camera is hidden up in the alcove over the door, so not even obvious it is there. The main use of this camera is for deliveries. To prove when they arrived, and by 24/7 recording, proving when they did not arrive. It is also to allow for parcels left on doorstep and being nicked, or parcels or letters I leave for collection by post man on the door step and being actually picked up by the post man and not someone else. I have used that before to prove postman did collect (long story, saved me a lot of hassle).

I have taken the opportunity to re-position all the cameras, trying to think where someone might jump over a gate or a wall, and ensure a good view. One of my current targets for cameras is showing if/when household waste was put out for collection and when the refuse truck drove off without collecting, as that has happened now 5 times in a row!

But back to the front door - it used to be a dome camera. The issue is it could not see down in to the doorway, so I have replaced with a pendant mount which allows facing down.

So now, with the down facing camera, I actually ended up thinking laterally and turning it 90 degrees. It nicely shows the door, gate, some of pavement, and, pretty well, the "delivery". The only tweak which I will do is raise it a bit to ensure a clearer focus on the parcels themselves.

Update: I ended up changing the type of camera, to one with better focus controls, but still mounting in the eaves facing down. I also managed to get it all turned around in nxwitness.

It also avoids catching too many passers by, or at least faces, which I don't need to record, so even though this should all be out of scope of GDPR, I may as well try and avoid recording.

In many ways it is amusing, and relieving, that the main use of the cameras is not related to crime at all, but proving to the council I put the bins out in time and proving they did not collect them, or that a delivery happened or not. These are more benign things but none the less useful.

Timestamps

Another aspect is the overlay text - I have all cameras showing time. All set to NTP. And I decided all set to UTC for sanity sake, as some will not do BST, some do and get it wrong, and some get it right. Easiest option is UTC, and then when savings images or video (as above image) is NX witness overlay local time to avoid any ambiguity. I also added fixed text to say "UTC" by the timestamps, again to avoid ambiguity. Timestamps are a pain, and UTC is one of the few ways to make sense of it, but helps a lot to state it is UTC!

P.S. Someone pointed out the council expect us to leave refuse "kerbside" which puzzled me.

(they ignored the question, saying to leave in the "usual place"!)

Update: to my surprise, after the 5 previous collections days being missed, they collected, yay! They then missed the next day, surprise surprise.

Update: After missing 7 of 8 collection days, we finally got a visit from a supervisor - he was happy with where we were putting rubbish, gave me his mobile number, co-ordinated with the teams and ensured collections. He then worked with us to co-ordinate a change of collection to a different schedule (matching the rest of our road) which was a lot easier for us (fewer bin days). Well done.

2024-04-05

Abergavenny active travel

MCC have issued a nice (and I bet expensive) video of active travel upgrades in Llanfoist and Castle Meadows. So I thought I would post a few comments of my own. I'm bound to upset someone, so apologies in advance. You can email activetravel@monmouthshire.gov.uk

First off, I'm very keen on active travel improvements. I don't drive. I walk Castle Meadows and on in to Llanfoist (ideally every day, but yeh, weather permitting). Cycling would be great but a total pain right now, and cycling through town is off putting to say the least, meaning my bicycle has been out of use for 3 years now. Just walking along the A40 in to town means encountering aggressive road users at various side roads, and a dangerous crossing on the box junction in town.

And, apart from the river looking very clean in that video (which would be an improvement), it looks nice, overall...

Flooding

Castle Meadows can flood, which is understood, but at present, even a bit of rain leaves the current path more of a series of small lakes. Avoiding them means mud, which I know from bitter experience can lead to slips and falls. Will the new pathway have substantially better drainage to handle normal rain?

The Mill Lane access also suffers from flooding in rain leaving a lot of mud, and I would hope that is improved as well.


Junctions

If making new junction markings, can we at least try and mark them to reflect highway code rule 170, and make it really clear that road users on the path continuing along the road have priority over vehicles turning?


The cycle path (shared path) stopping at every side road is treating bicycles as second class road users. Ideally separate cycle infrastructure would be good rather than shared paths, but space is limited.

At present there are routes on this proposal where a cyclist is far better off simply using the road (as they are fully entitled to do), as they do not have to give way at side roads, or avoid pedestrians.

I am, however, pleased to see zebra crossings at the roundabouts, especially crossing to Waitrose, as that is a dangerous crossing right now.


The cutting

This is confusing, the cutting shows cycle symbols on the road. Is it a cycle path, in which are why are cars there (and won't that piss off the residents)? If a road, why the cycle symbols?


Cattle grids

This is a problem - dog walkers are livid at cattle grids, but almost anything else is a major annoyance and discouragement to cyclists. Is there any way to improve matters? I mean one could have gates locked open when no cattle, but dog walkers would lose dogs through them, so I have no idea what the answer is here. Are there dog safe cattle grids? And don't forget wheelchair users. The video shows both gates and cattle grids in various places at present.


I'll add anything else I think of.

ISO8601 is wasted

Why did we even bother? Why create ISO8601? A new API, new this year, as an industry standard, has JSON fields like this "nextAccessTim...