Author Archives: zuco

Free advice about tech, iOS, Japan, Photography and more.

I created a skype account called “zadvice”. I would like to use it to help people interested in topics which I have experience with. English, Italian, Spanish and Japanese speakers are welcome. This is a free service, I don’t have much time but I can spend an hour or two per week giving my impressions and advice to people interested about:

  • Japan
  • Business in Japan
  • Working and living in Japan
  • iOS development
  • Mobile Development
  • Open Source software
  • Job hunting
  • Working experience
  • Job interviews (IT related)
  • Create a Resume/CV (IT related)
  • Startups
  • Multicultural working environments
  • Learning languages
  • Technical advice (IT related)
  • Living in Europe
  • Western culture
  • Japanese culture
  • Photography
  • Italian language
  • Japanese language
  • Spanish language

Send me an email: pietro (at) zuco (dot) org and let me know what you would like to talk about. I will let you know if I can give you some advice on that specific topic. I wish I had all the answers. I just want to help people having trouble to find specific information in certain areas.

I won’t talk about:

  • Questions related with illegal activities.
  • Questions related to legal maters, such as tax informations. I’m not a lawyer. For that, contact your lawyer.
  • Emotional stuff related with family/partners/romance and so forth.
  • Mental illness or phycological problems. I’m not a psychiatrist.
  • Please contact a specialist of the branch you need (legal, medical, friend) if the topic of your question is about legal matters, medical issues or emotional stuff.

People must be 18+ years old.
You must have a webcam, I want to see to whom I’m talking to and you will see me.

Based on the emails received, people will be served as first in, first out.

I’m not responsible about what you decide to do with the information I provide. I’m not responsible of the outcome of your actions. You are responsible for your own actions and decitions.

If you find the information useful, share your experience with your peers and let me know your feedback.

Review BQ Aquaris E4.5

I got a BQ Aquaris E4.5 and I’m very happy with it. I’m not an Android fan, I prefer iOS by all means. Anyway this is a review about the phone, not the virtues and defects of Android.

Most relevant phone specks:

OS: Android 4.4
Internal Memory: 8 GB
Ram: 1 GB
Rear camera: 8Mpx
Frontal camera: 5Mpx
CPU: Quad Core Cortex A7 up to 1.3 GHz MediaTek
GPU: Mali 400 up to 500 MHz
Resolution: qHD 540×960 – 240 ppi (HDPI)
Dimensions: 4.5”
Dual SIM

More information here.

The phone comes in a nice box:

Aquaris Box

Some phone porn:

Aquaris E4.5

Aquaris E4.5

Aquaris E4.5

Aquaris E4.5

Compared with an iPhone 4

Aquaris E4.5

These are pixel level porn macro. I wish I could get closer… To appreciate these pictures you must see them in full resolution. Click the link to see them in flickr. I used this macro.

Instagram Pixel porn Pixel porn

The screen is really bright and the colours are vivid.

Aquaris E4.5

Aquaris E4.5

For 150 Euros this phone is more than I expected. It’s really fast, well finished, well designed, extremely light and robust at the same time. It also comes with an all risk insurance. I don’t know if this insurance is available also outside Spain. I spent some time looking for an Android phone with decent storage, a relatively new version of Android, a decent camera and dual SIM. I couldn’t find one bellow 200 Euros. I thought that BQ could be a crap for that price, but actually it’s much better than some competitors in the same range.

I finally took this short video. Maybe you can see here how fast it is and the quality of the screen.

Some pictures in full resolution taken with the Aquaris. No editing, just straight from the phone.

Aquaris E4.5

The macro is pretty good.

Aquaris E4.5

Aquaris E4.5

Aquaris E4.5

Aquaris E4.5

Aquaris E4.5

Aquaris E4.5

Aquaris E4.5

Aquaris E4.5

This one with the frontal camera.

Aquaris E4.5

How to unlock iPhone 4S Softbank with KingMobile

After so many attempts to unlock my iPhone 4S, after being twice a victim of scam from sites offering fake unlocks and after so much hacking with all the unlocks and jailbreaks techniques I found online, I finally found a way to do it. Thanks to my friend Birkir to point me in the right direction.

Based on KingMobile’s site, they also support iPhone 5/5S/6/6+. My experience is based only with the iPhone 4S, iOS 7, Softbank. I would like to know if someone else did it with a different version. Unfortunately it seems that this card cannot be used with an iPhone 4.

The procedure is pretty simple. Inside the package there is a small micro SIM frame with a chip that is the one making the magic. If you don’t have a micro SIM, you can request one or cut one yourself. That’s what I did. Just be pretty sure that you get the dimensions right.

KingMobile

KingMobile

King Mobile

Cut SIM

Cut SIM

Once you get the SIM in the frame, you have to put the SIM coming inside the envelop first. You will be asked to select your carrier. This is the carrier you want to unlock from. In my case it was Softbank. So select the old carrier, the one that is blocking your SIM.
Then follow the instructions. Once it’s accepted, a message saying that you selected a new carrier appears. After that accept and turn off your iPhone. Once you turned off your iPhone and the screen is black, QUICKLY replace the reset-SIM from KingMobile with your previously cut SIM card. This must be the new card you want to use. This is my girlfriend’s iPhone 4S by the way.

Unlock iPhone 4S

Unlock iPhone 4S

If you are not quick enough, you get this annoying message saying that the SIM is not valid. I repeated the operation again and it worked fine the next time.

Unlock iPhone 4S

Now you have your phone unlocked. Actually it’s not unlocked, technically the iPhone is still locked with Softbank and some menus in the settings still show stuff form Softbank remembering you that Masayoshi Son still owns your soul. Anyway the result is an unlocked iPhone as long as you use the KingMobile chip.

Unlock iPhone 4S

Few things you have to setup before start using your new “unlocked” iPhone.

      Set data roaming if you want to get your data connection enabled.
      Some carriers require you to setup your APN settings. That means that you have to enter manually the settings to connect with your carrier data network. In my case, it wasn’t necessary. I think that it depends on the carrier.
      I got some problems trying to call local numbers, and that was because I entered the number without the country code. It seems that the iPhone automatically puts a +81 (Japan code) in front of every number. To fix this is pretty easy. Just save your numbers with the corresponding country code. Even if you are calling a local number, add the +(country code).

Here you can find the instructions in English at KingMobile’s site.

How make Safari download PDF files instead of opening them in-page

When I find a link for a PDF file I don’t want Safari to open it in-page. Why not? What if I just want to download it to read it later? What if I have a list of PDF files that I just want to click one after another to start downloading them? What if the PDF file is too big and my internet connection is too slow, so I have a blank window waiting for the PDF to complete the download? What if I have too many opened tabs in Safari and I don’t want to kill my machine downloading a 100MB PDF file?

To force Safari to download your PDF files just open a terminal window and type this:

defaults write com.apple.Safari WebKitOmitPDFSupport -bool YES

If you want to change it back just type:

defaults write com.apple.Safari WebKitOmitPDFSupport -bool NO

You should restart Safari.

How to Disable the Character Accent Menu in OSX

I came into this last year (I think) and I found the solution somewhere and I added it to my personal notes. After a Mavericks reinstall I got the same problem. Starting with Mountain Lion (not sure) when I hold a character, instead of getting the usual character repetition, I got an annoying pop-up menu like this:

annoyingmenu

It only appears when you hold a character that could have an accent like åàáã and so forth.
I find this solution annoying for people that is quite fast at typing. I consider myself fast, so waiting for the pop-up menu to appear and then select the right character consumes too many milliseconds.

To stop that pop-up from appearing just open a terminal and type:

defaults write -g ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool NO

If you want it to come back type:

defaults write -g ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool YES

You have to close your app and open it again in order for this change to take effect, or just logout and login again.

How to write those accented characters? Simple key combinations. For example for US keyboards:

alt + e = ´ (áéíóú)
alt + ~ = ` (àèìòù)
alt + n = ˜ (ñã…)
alt + c = ç

Just to mention a few. Other keyboards might have a different combination, but I noticed that it’s almost the same. For example, the Japanese keyboard uses the (alt + _) to get ” ` ”

Once you get used to these combinations, it’s faster than using that pop-up menu.

How “official iphone unlock” ignored me (officialiphoneunlock.co.uk)

I have an iPhone I bought in Japan when I was living there. It was SIM locked by Softbank. I moved to Europe and I found a website (http://officialiphoneunlock.co.uk) that provides factory unlocks. For those of you who don’t know, a factory unlock is basically a definitive way to unlock your SIM locked phone. No need for jailbreak. It’s perfectly legal and clean. At the beginning I was a little bit suspicious but the site looked right. On a first look they have a support number, a contact email, testimonials using http://trustedreviews.eu with very good reviews. They have a Facebook page with 33K+ likes.

I submitted the IMEI of my two iPhones a 4S and a 4. Total cost 117€ (£93, $160).
After a couple of days I got the following answer for both phones:

iphoneblocked
blockedreason

iPhone marked as ‘Blocked or In-Contract’.
“The IMEI you gave us has been rejected by the carrier for unlocking due to being marked Blocked, usually meaning it’s a lost or stolen handset, but handsets can be blocked for any number of reasons including non-payment of bills, blacklisted, bad ESN and/or contract issues or still in contract. We cannot supply a refund for handsets that come back as blocked – this is mentioned on the website before purchase.”

At that point I decided to check what was going on with my phones. I contacted the Softbank international service and they confirmed to me that my phones weren’t in any of those states. They also provided me with a link to check the status of my phones by providing the IMEI. The page is in Japanese, but look at the image bellow, I translated what it means:

cleanphone

(click on the image to see it in full size)

The text in Japanese: ○: 利用できます(後日不正契約が認められた場合を除きます)
Means:
Allowed to use. (excluding the case in which the contract is recognized as fraudulent in the future)

My contract with Softbank is totally closed, the iPhones are my property now and I have no issues or pending payments with them. I’m totally in peace with Softbank.

In the same email from officialiphoneunlock.co.uk they continued:

anynetwork

“Good news however. We can easily unlock your Blocked handset on our ‘Any Network’ service which is guaranteed, the cost of this is an additional £50.00 and takes 24-72 hours. Please remember this service will NOT bypass an iCloud Activation Locked handset.
To upgrade to the Blocked service, please use this link http://www.officialiphoneunlock.co.uk/worldwide?mb=2
If you use our Guaranteed Any Network service and it fails for any reason, we refund ALL monies for that IMEI, including your original payment.”

This is when things turns even worse. They suggest me to pay extra £50 to unlock my phones and in case it’s not possible they will refund everything, including my original payment. Wait a minute. You can refund everything if I pay another £50 but you can’t refund my original payment?
This literally sounds like SCAM to me but comments of people in Facebook look very good.

I tried to reach them by phone but I got no answer. The answer is just a recorded message saying that they are busy, and after a long while, the communication just dropped. Also the phone recorded message said that they don’t attend support by phone.

I wrote several emails in their support page but again no response.

I wrote an email to the only email I got from their site: sales@officialiphoneunlock.co.uk but no response as well.

I sent a message using Facebook, no response.

I posted in their wall, the post was deleted…

I also commented on one of their posts in their Facebook page. And, so far, no answer.

unlockfb

At this point what else should I do? The next step should be to contact the police, notify the site as SCAM, and keep my personal online war against officialiphoneunlock.co.uk to see if they will eventually refund my money.

I don’t care if they couldn’t unlock my phones, that’s fine because technical issues are normal. But what frustrates me and makes all this really fishy is the fact that they don’t get back to me and ignore all my attempts to contact them.

officialiphoneunlock.co.uk if you guys cannot unlock my phones, that’s fine! But I want my money back because my case is none of the special cases which don’t get refunded.

[UPDATE 2014/08/26]
I was contacted by dalpay.com which seems to be the company used by officialiphoneunlock.co.uk to manage the payments. They reviewed my case and decided to refund the payment. Now I’m in peace with officialiphoneunlock but I would like to use this incident to talk about common sense. None of this would have happened if they just replied to me, even with a “we are working on this” or “we will review your complain”. The fact that officialiphoneunlock just ignored my attempts to communicate with them, left me with no other option but to complain publicly. Just a simple gesture of attention to your clients is enough to avoid a complain that will eventually damage the company’s reputation and image.
This is also a good opportunity to remember the importance of complaining in social media and blogs. It works and companies offering online services should be more responsive to their clients.
——————–

The expert

This is a very well made video that shows a common situation faced, not only by engineers but, by almost everybody that has a logical and analytical mind when confronted by people that think they know your job better than you do. Enjoy :)