Twitter is NOT free on Three

Image representing Ping.fm as depicted in Crun...
Don't use Three - use Ping.fm!

Don’t believe the hype. After their trial back in February, Three are now offering “free” Twitter if you’re a customer. The only thing is, it’s not flipping free!

Once you register you can set it so you receive texts when certain people you follow post a tweet. This is free. However, you tweet by sending texts to a shortform number (86xxx – something like that) which costs 10p a pop. These texts can’t be part of your contract bundle so you will face this charge even if you have unlimited texts per month.

How they can advertise this as being “free” is beyond me.

If you have an unlimited texts plan, then I still recommend ping.fm – it is free. Sign up, tell it your mobile number and when you text them they forward your posts to Twitter. Or facebook. Or anywhere else they support. The phone number is a genuine UK mobile and I’ve been using them for months so I can promise you they’re included as part of a UK texts package (unlike the actual Twitter number, which is based in the Isle of Man so doesn’t count, resulting in surprise charges on your bill).

They’ll also forward photos you send on to Flickr or facebook, though I prefer to do that via email.

Either way, just make sure you always read small print on things like this. And then wonder how something that costs money can be advertised as being free. Advertising Standards Authority anyone? Mind you, they’re the muppets that let broadband companies advertise “unlimited” capped broadband.

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Twitter free on Three (but why bother?)

The Twitter fail whale error message.
Nice try, Three...

I got a text message from Three (my mobile carrier) telling me that Twitter is free on my phone until March 31st. It uses one of those short-code phone numbers and there’s no indication of the cost once the promotion ends.

However, given that I have unlimited (erm… 4000 I think, so not actually unlimited) texts per month, this is utterly pointless.

I may have mentioned ping.fm before. If not, then head over there, register and link it to your phone number. It’s completely free and the number you send a text message to is a genuine UK mobile number, and therefore free to send to with any inclusive package.

It does a lot more than just post to Twitter, and it’s all customisable. I’ve set mine to forward text messages to Twitter and photo attachments sent via email to ping.fm are passed on to flickr. All of this is free, and doesn’t expire on March 31st.

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Posting multiple blogs to facebook

This icon, known as the "feed icon" ...
More feeds, please, vicar!

Yes, OK. I gave up and started using facebook because so many of you don’t bother to reply to emails or use Twitter. It’s all your fault. You all suck. Fine.

One (of several) annoying things I’ve found with facebook is that it will only let you publish feed from one blog on your wall. I have two that I want to put up there. I started off with one of them, which it popped up as “notes” well enough, putting the complete blog post up. But that wasn’t enough so I started digging.

I found a few feed “aggregators” which effectively take multiple RSS feeds and create one merged feed from that. Yes, I know that’s not the correct term for them, bit it does make sense. Unfortunately, none of them published the entire article. Instead they’d publish the first few hundred words followed by a “click here to see the rest” link to the original page.

In honesty, this did the job although I know personally that I often won’t bother. And I wanted people to read everything.

For the record, the aggregator I settled on was Feedoor which did the best job with the most ease. It’s also set at my favourite price point, i.e. it’s free. [NOTE: Mamod from Feedoor saw this blog post, replied and sorted out my feed from them so that the next step wasn’t needed! Please see the comments]

As luck would have it, I just found another website. What this one does is takes partial feeds from anywhere, locates the original posts and creates a complete feed from it. This web page is Five Filters.

Popping my feed from Feedoor into Five Filters generates a complete RSS feed containing posts from both this blog and my travel blog. I put the full URL given my by Five Filters into my “notes” page on facebook and *ta-da*, the whole shebang.

Yes, only a few lines show on my wall, but it now includes the images from the blog posts and it means people can stay within facebook if they don’t want to hop out to another page. Clicking on the article takes you to the entire blog post as a note within facebook.

A bit of a long way around, but finally the job is done.

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Moving to 3, a Twitter issue and the Nokia E71

Three Mobile
Three Mobile

I shifted from Vodafone to 3 last week after Adam kindly told me of a nice tariff they have. For £20 per month, I get unlimited texts, internet and calls to other 3 mobiles(subject to the usual “fair use” policies which make them limited…) and 200 minutes for everyone else. And a shiny Nokia E71 to play with.

I do recommend it. It’s a good deal. And if you decide to go for it, please get in touch and tell me beforehand. If I give you my number and you quote it when you sign up, we both get £30 – more if you get a mobile internet dongle for your laptop as well.

However, a few points to note which aren’t made clear. I’ve spent a little while on the phone to their support (in India, but all three people I spoke to were really good) which has clarified a few things. They did credit some of the cash back as well. I’ll detail as I go.

First up, you can use the Nokia E71 as a modem. Either through the included USB cable or with a little utility called JoikuSpot. The “Light” version is enough for general web access though you do have to tweak your proxy settings to access “https” resources. This means the roaming internet dongle isn’t so useful, although it does have the benefit of ease of use. On the other hand, it’s £15 per month for 5Gb usage. The telephone contract offers unlimited downloads on the same 3G network regardless of whether it’s on your phone or your laptop via the phone.

Next up – video calls ain’t included on your tarrif. They’re 50p per minute so that’s an expensive assumption to make. The charge for the one I tried out (which never even connected – thankfully) was 48p and not refunded.

Using the Three mailserver costs you if you’re sending emails. Ditch the “Mail on 3” or “3Mail” settings ASAP once you unpack the phone. Replace it with GMail, Hotmail or whatever you use. Just make sure you don’t send any emails through their SMTP servers. The costs for the couple I sent when I was tinkering with the phone were refunded.

Nokia Maps, supplied with the phone, costs cash after a while – I think 90 days (at least the very useful Drive and Walk features do). It’s a nice bit of software but Google Maps does just as good a job and costs nothing. I’ve not been able to uninstall Nokia Maps, though – it seems it’s part of the firmware and can’t be completely removed. To get Google Maps, use the browser on the phone to go to google.com, click the link at the top for “More…” and then scroll down to “Maps”. Download and install.

Here’s a biggie, though. Twitter have a UK (+44) phone number you can use to send SMS‘s to for publication in your Twitter stream. They do say on their FAQ that some networks see it as a foreign number… and Three is one of these networks. It seems that despite it having the UK prefix, it’s based in Ireland and therefore subject to international charges of 25p per text.

This does worry me. Not because of Twitter per se, but the fact that some numbers can be “international” without appearing to be so. How on earth has this situation arisen?

It is a shame as sending an SMS is quicker than using the Twitter web page on the mobile or an alternative utility. On that score, however, I recommend Twim. Locate the current stable release’s .jar or .jad file, click on it in your mobile browser and install. It does give the occasional error message, but on the whole it’s pretty reliable and the Twitpic integration new with the current release is ace. The author says it uses about the same bandwidth as using the web page, but it’s far wasier to use. On this tariff, it’s irrelevant anyway. And, hey – it’s free.

I’m happy with the package, don’t get me wrong. A little more clarification on what is chargeable would have been nice. Oh, and there is nothing in any of the paperwork I received that told me the voicemail number! For those also looking… it’s “123”.

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Twitter spam

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Twitter

I just got four emails from Twitter telling me that Morgan, Kelly, Tasmine and Kate (or someone) were now following me. All of them had actual usernames along the lines of 4CVFD5T and a single post on their Twitter feed – telling me that they’d just got their free laptop from some dodgy website. With a link to the website.

OK, so far so “meh”. It’s obvious spam.

So why the hell did all four have over 250 followers? What ****** actually follows the feed from an obvious spam merchant? Really?

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