Unlimited Data

Carriers trail slime. Every bill I get for my iPhone has the evil smell of burnt sulfur. The carriers will die eventually — either that, or they’ll transform themselves or, more than likely, be run out of town by smarter, more people-centric enablers of networked sociality. Until then, though — most of us are stuck with what we got.

One of my biggest peeves, especially in the US, has been the lack of any reasonable form of data service that doesn’t include “extras” like voice. Something that a tinkerer-researcher could use to explore new kinds of mobile networked scenarios. What I want, basically, is a cheap data-only, or data-mostly plan with a SIM card I can pop into any of the vast collection of mobile phones I’ve accumulated over many years. It’s not a voice account, but one that allows me to write programs for a mobile phone and run them as if the phone were a mobile, urban computing device.

Surprisingly, reports are bubbling about that AT&T is going to offer just such a thing — a $19.99 3G plan under their “GoPhone” brand of pre-paid services. I’m curious to see what’s what when I return to the US. Previously, the closest I could get was popping the SIM out of my iPhone, which is sensible but a bit of an annoyance as it makes it difficult to be a normal phone carrying human when your SIM is stashed away in a weird experiment. The other alternative has been Boost Mobile phones, but you’re stuck with Motorola iDEN phones.

That photo above — horrid as it is — was from just such an experiment. I ran an instance of Apache on a Nokia N70 phone and configured a URL that would take a photo using the phone’s camera. (That’s from a Nokia R&D project — now public beta — which allows you to run Apache on your S60 device and have a different kind of mobile blog. Very cool, btw.) I then wrote a script on a normal server that pinged that URL once every 30 seconds, grabbed the photo and sent it to Flickr. Why? Just an experiment to see how the world would look like with a photo taken from a phone sitting on my backpack. And some thought-experiments to think about a world in which we were all simultaneously the surveillance apparatus.

Thanks to Francois for rooting this one out!