We Have A Problem 111, 03/07/10
in the Bush
year I'm travelling overland from Nairobi to Cape Town, passing through Kenya,
Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Botswana. During the trip I'm planning on writing
a blog, which I'll update every few days. My idea is to take a USB dongle and
use the cellular networks. However, it is proving harder than I thought to find
out about coverage, and which of the UK networks have reciprocal arrangements
with their African counterparts.
Young, by email
to my brother who lives in South Africa and travels around a lot, the only reliable way to access the Internet in
most sub-Saharan countries is via Wi-Fi hotspots and Internet cafes. He says
they are reasonably common in towns, however, they are not cheap and do not
expect much in the way of technical assistance.
operators are working flat out to improve GSM coverage across the continent and
there’s a lot happening this year but the lack of infrastructure, poverty and
small populations means that vast swathes of land are beyond the reach of
mobile phone networks. As a general rule there is good voice coverage in cities
and larger towns but to date the only place you can reliably connect to a 3G
data network is South Africa, but things are changing fast. Details are still
quite sketchy but here’s what we’ve been able to find out so far.
Zain, Kenya’s second largest mobile operator is hoping to
launch a 3G service in July and Vodacom
in Tanzania is trialling a 3G service in Dar-es-Salaam.
In Botswana Mascom
Wireless has recently launched a 3G network but it’s only available in the
greater Gaborone area and download speeds are limited to 1.8Mbps. Coverage is
being extended and is expected to include Francistown in a few months.
largest mobile operator TNM is rolling out a 3G service for prepaid customers
in Blantyre and Lilongwe and this is going to be extended to urban areas of Mzuzu,
Zomba, Mangochi and Karonga.
have any information concerning tracking devices that would enable me to keep
tabs on an elderly relative who sometimes wanders off?
wishing to sound flippant elderly relatives are not that different to children,
pets and keys. There’s a bewildering array of technology on offer, everything
from websites that can pinpoint someone’s location from their mobile phone
signal to sophisticated GPS trackers, but I think you should start off with
something a little simpler.
called Loc8tor and comprises a hand-held receiver and a miniature homing tag.
Several models are available with LED indicators or an LCD screen that shows
the subject’s approximate distance and direction. The range is around 180
metres and it can be programmed to sound an alert when the subject nears the
limit of the safety zone. The basic Lite model with two tags sells for around
£50, a more advanced version with an LCD screen costs £100.
just bought a new laptop and the instruction book is a PDF file on the hard
drive. How can I print it out and do I
need a specific program to do this?
Davison, by email
laptop instruction manual is a terrible waste of paper and ink. Beyond the
general stuff at the beginning, covering the basics, features, controls and
connections they tend to be of limited use. You can read all that on the
screen. The point is they are not much help when something goes wrong, as the
vast majority of problems you’ll experience will be software related and not
covered by the makers manual. The only part that’s worth printing is how to use
the available recovery options.
feel you must have a hard copy may I suggest a program called Foxit (http://tinyurl.com/242e5mj). It’s a fast and easy to use PDF
reader with a good range of printing options. It will help you to weed out the
irrelevant guff, and save paper with multiple page, page order and reverse
output from our Toshiba laptop isn’t very loud and DVDs playback is far too
quiet. I have tried connecting the stereo output to my home hi-fi and the radio
in our campervan. In both cases the output is still low, even with the volume
turned right up. It’s really fuzzy when playing DVDs, and there’s a background
whine. Is there anyway of cleaning up the audio?
Pell, by email
you cannot expect too much from tiny laptop speakers though Toshiba models tend
to be better than most but I’m surprised that the sound is distorted and you
are hearing a whine. The first thing to do is pay a visit to the Toshiba
support website and download and install the latest audio driver for your
machine. Next, check the audio configuration menu in Control Panel, make sure that
the correct speaker type has been selected and you haven’t enabled an acoustic
effects mode by mistake.
whine is still present there could be a fault but if the sound from the PC is
clean (try listening to it through a pair of headphones) but it distorts when
you connect it to your hi-fi try changing the lead. Also make sure you are
plugging it into the hi-fi’s ‘aux’ or ‘line’ input, and not the phono or
suggest any French or Swiss pay as you go SIM cards for use in alpine areas;
they will be mainly used to make local calls?
Robert Clark, by email
In a growing number of countries, and France is an example;
it can be difficult for non-residents to get hold of PAYG SIM cards. It’s still
worth pursuing if you have good local contacts but now that the UK networks
have been forced by the EU to address the cost of overseas roaming, prices are
falling. Check if your present provider has any add-on roaming packages or
subscriptions. International or Global SIM cards are also worth investigating
and there are some useful contacts and comparisons at http://www.roamingsims.com/
Maybury 2010 0806