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Friday, May 16, 2008

What's wrong with Psiloc Connect

Psiloc Connect is a GREAT idea. This is what I always thought Devicescape was supposed to do, but neither app seems to do it properly:

1. Craete a virtual Access Point
2. Anytime this virtual Access point is used, redirect packets through the {best, cheapest, fastest, most efficient} interface.

Well - Psiloc set out to do this (to be fair, Devicescape had a different goal in mind, but with a similar way to get there). There app was recently released with a free 10 day trial (hey, turn on QOS reporting in the license manager and get some extra free time to use the app too - great idea Psiloc!).

http://connect.psiloc.com

From the above site you can clearly see that some people are using this app - and that they are using it a lot! As of this writing, the total count of reported data 'saved from the world's data plans' was around 35GB. Not bad,.... not bad at all.

But wait, there's more!
This app is clearly meant for power users - those of us who do more with our phones than normobs. Lets take a gander at my phone's setup:

I have an N95-1 - about a year old now (and the battery cover is in disrepair - sadly)

Apps and items of interest:
- boot time -
1. PowerBoot loads ClckrSrvr.exe at startup - so my Salling Clicker can perform auto sync's on my Mac for me
2. Location Tagger loads and attempts a GPS fix on startup as well
3. Since we're on startup apps still - i have RotateMe2.0 installed and loading at boot
- run time -
4. I use Gizmo5 - the full VoIP version, and it is connected 90% of the time
5. Handy Weather, Share Online 3, email (using IMAP idle to simulate push email) : these are typically RUNNING ALL THE TIME

ok. so i'm not a normob. am i a power user? i'll let you label me however you want. Clearly we cannot argue about my data usage. I burn through an average of 250MB on my EDGE connection each month (last 3 months averaged ~ 252MB). That's EDGE! If I were on 3G I think I'd find a way to consume more (here in the USA my N95-1 can't do 3G). And that doesn't include VoIP over WiFI (but it does include the occasional SIP call over EDGE via Fring).

So, how well does Psiloc Connect work for me?
Not.
At.
All.

Sorry. It's just no good. Matter of fact, even if it did work, I couldn't leave it installed... oh but i'm getting ahead of myself.

1. Psiloc Connect works with a virtual wifi access point - so when an app connects via Psiloc Connect, regardless of which physical interface is being used the wifi interface is blocked from being used to connect directly to a defined access point. This means that i HAVE to connect to my VoIP through Psiloc Connect. ok. no big deal... or so you would think. I've tried Truphone, VoipCheap and of course Gizmo5 - none of them can connect through Psiloc Connect.

Worse yet, if I connect to VoIP first, then that connection blocks the wifi interface and Psiloc Connect is unavailable to other apps - they can't even get routed through EDGE/3G because the Psiloc Connect access point cannot be opened when another Access Point is in use!

RESULT: manual decision required: use VoIP -OR- allow ANY other app to use internet, but never both together and they cannot switch automatically. This alone is a deal breaker as far as i'm concerned.

2. Autostarting apps fail to load with Psiloc Connect installed. I don't know why quite yet, but PowerBoot, LocationTagger and RotateMe all stopped autostarting when Psiloc Connect was installed. remove it and all but RotateMe came back to life. I'll have to try reinstalling it.

RESULT: manual decision required: use Psiloc Connect -OR- autostart commonly used background apps, and you can't switch between the two boot-up 'modes' without un/re-installing at least 1 app.

Well - that's it. I had some performance issues with it as well (perhaps i have too many saved access points?) but it's hard to justify picking on the performance of such a new app... i'll give them a while to fix that without blasting them for it. But those other 2 points above? they are big time show stoppers for me.

Sorry Psiloc - I like your style and your intent... but this app is a swing and a miss.

1 comment:

bitflung said...

UPDATE March 10 2009:
---
Somewhere in the midst of updates to firmware, psiloc connect, and devicescape - the goal of a unified access point has drawn nearer.

1. VoIP conencts through psiloc connect with no issues, as long as psiloc is itself representing a wifi access point.

2. devicescape and psiloc are working together nicely - psiloc connects to whatever access point it wants, and devicescape performs logon operations if neccesary (user/pass for t-mobbile hotspots, etc)

3. VoIP fails to connect when psiloc is representing a packet data connection (EDGE) - but that's ok, we didnt expect this to work.

Where this breaks down is infrequent and cumbersome to explain, but i'll try:

it seems that the psiloc connect access point is mutable - it changes as necessary. i don't just mean that the software will attach this virtual access point to a different interface when needed, i mean that the virtual interface itself is presented differently to applications requesting network access:

a) some apps never see psiloc connect - they just can't see it

b) some apps only see psiloc connect when it's already connected to service another app, for these i have to open i.e. S60 Web before opening the app i want to run

c) during the transient time between losing wifi signal and bringing up packet data, some applications still see psiloc connect as a wifi access point and attempt to connect.

let's focus on c) for a moment.

when the built-in VoIP client is set to auto-connect using the default access point Psiloc Connect, this artifact can be observed by either or both of 2 symptoms:

1. VoIP will be connected over EDGE despite NEVER working in this manner intentionally. I think nokia built in a pre-requisite for 3G/WIFI for the SIP client to attempt to connect. This glitch gets around the requirement.

2. The device will, rarely, fail to bring up either physical interface and instead thrash the CPU to the extent that button presses take minutes to have an affect. During this time the battery is purged of all power in minutes. do the math - only enough battery to make one or two button presses. when this happens, a simple reboot rarely fixes the issue. I've got to quickly navigate to the SIP settings and DISABLE auto-connect. I think the error is due to psiloc connect appearing to be a wifi access point still, despite not having any wifi near me, and being in a state where psiloc connect will actually interface with the packet data connection.

CONCLUSION:
meh. draw your own conclusion, what do you think i am, a reporter? surely it speaks a volume that i still use my device in this manner, with psiloc + devicescape + voip. it has some issues, but i grin and bear it.

-bit