T-Mobile phone deals, cheap mobile phone, sony ericsson phone offers, the trouble with Orange

I have been using mobile phones since about 1990 and from the beginning have always been with Orange (Hutchinson telecom, as it used to be, I think). However, lately I have grown more dissatisfied with Orange as a service provider and when the time came to change my work phone to my own number the crunch came.

I needed to keep my work number, but it was part of a large contract deal which meant that I couldn’t just transfer the number to my other phone. I asked this several times, in several places and was told it just couldn’t be done. Odd then, that several colleagues appear to have managed it. That was issue 1.

I have always lost my signal when traveling south on the M11 between J7 and J6 Which has been somewhat of a nuisance. I can also get no signal with Orange when sitting at home. This is inconvenient, but not enough on its own to cause me to change provider, but this is issue 2.

Recently we upgraded one of our own phones and wanted to pass the old handset on to a relative. This meant that we needed Orange to unlock the handset – something that is promised within about ten days. After four weeks it still hadn’t been done and in the end we took the phone to a ‘bloke on the market’ who had the necessary piece of kit to do the job. It cost the same amount but the wait caused by Orange caused some inconvenience. That was issue 3.

Finally, I decided to look around and see what else was available and for the first time in years went into a Carphone Warehouse. To my delight it has changed!

My phone needs are pretty specific – I have to have a T610 phone or spend mega bucks getting a new cradle for my car kit. I therefore went in asking for 200 minutes a month, on a T610, with a minimal number of texts. The salesman was great and recommended T-Mobile…

The T-Mobile deal is for a T610 (unlocked already), 200 minutes and, for the first six months, 200 texts a month as well. The line rental is ��29.99 (reduced by 50% for the first six months) and the contract is for 18 months. Nothing too unusual about that… until you see that you get ALL of the line rental money back at six monthly intervals.

Yes! You did read that correctly! ALL OF THE LINE RENTAL IS REFUNDED TO YOU. That means that the ��430 pounds I will be spending on this phone over the next 18 months will be refunded. I have three vouchers which I post off at the relevant time and they return me a cheque.

So what is the cost? Well, naturally if you exceed the 200 minutes or texts then you pay the call costs… and to get the deal you have to pay ��99.99. So from the outset you have got a mobile phone with a pretty generous call and text allowance for 18 months for the princely sum of approximately ��5.55 per month.

There it is… go get that deal if you want it! I am fairly sure it won’t be lasting too much longer…

Halfords Customer Service, car radio removal tools

Here’s a small tale of woe which I should have written about earlier, concerning Halfords in Bishop’s Stortford.

When I was fitting my Dension ICE>Link into my car, I needed some radio removal tools. I checked around and found pictures of what I needed – flat bladed tools which inserted into slots underneath the radio to release it and allow me to fit the wiring harness.

I rang Halfords in Bishop’s Stortford and spoke to a salesman there, describing my car make and model, the radio and even describing in small detail the type of tool I’d need. I pointed out that I definitely didn’t want the round tools, a bit like the wire from a coat hanger, I needed the flat blade like tools suitable for my car. He checked his stock and told me that he had five sets in and that they were suitable.

So I drove all the way to Stortford.

When I got there the person I had spoken to had gone for lunch, and I was left with some other chap. I described the phone call and he pointed me to the shelf where the tools were, and happily handed me one of the five packs of round tools that he had there. I explained that I needed the flat blade type of tool, whereupon he became vague… “erm… I don’t think we, er, stock those…”

Imagine the conversation after that –
“but your chap said…”
“ah, yes, but he’s on lunch”
“but I’ve had to drive all the way here…”
“sorry mate, not my fault…”
“Do you have a complaints department?”
“Erm… well, we do have some of our own tools you could borrow…”
“OK – sounds helpful – I’m parked behind your store, what have you got?”
“These” (showing me a similar tool to what I described over the phone)
“OK – can I borrow those for a few minutes then?”
“You’ll need to leave a deposit…”
“a deposit – we can’t lend those out to just anyone”
“so let me get this straight – I’ve driven all the way here at my expense, on the assurance of your member of staff, to find that I have been mislead and that instead of you being helpful you want to now suggest that I am untrustworthy enough to want to steal a tool that I need to use for less than two minutes, in the car park behind your store?”
“it’s company policy”
“about that complaints department… I will be sure to ring them, and to let everyone I can know about the appalling way that you have treated this situation!”

So – consider yourselves told… and be very careful if you ever feel the need to go into a Halfords store!

MG TF parts and accessories, MG TF 160 Sunstorm

New cars are nice aren’t they? Especially when they are yours… but the next best thing is when they are your partners! And double nice when your partner has the great good sense and fine taste to go for a new MG TF 160.

Yes, I admit it, I am a rag top man at heart. I used to drive an MG Midget many years ago (rubber bumpers, so not too long ago) and it was one of the great joys – particularly in the spring and summer months. If I couldn’t go on a motorbike, I would go in the midget… and what fun it was!

So I am hoping that there will be some kind of nostalgic return to those heady days over the coming year.

The big issue here is do you go out and get all of those lovely new bits for the car even though it has clocked just 40 miles from new? A case in point is the heater control knobs – all a bit plastic looking, and so easily replaced with brushed aluminium ones, and a windshield to add that extra comfort and protection when bombing along the open roads. But just where do you go for your extras these days? The MG owners’ club seems still to be servicing the needs of the older and original MGs, and a few places are selling parts for the Mk1 MG ‘F’ series. It takes a decent search on google to find a company selling bits for the MG TF though…

I found this one, which has exceptional service, I think – Mike Satur

I rang them on Friday afternoon to order some of the aforementioned heater controls as a special surprise gift for the new car (well, for Kara, actually), and expected them on Monday. They arrived early on Saturday morning, so I have had to hide them for a couple of days! The sentimental part of me thought they would make a good Valentine gift… don’t laugh – it isn’t too long ago that I decided the kitchen was no place for a motorbike engine!

Anyway, give Mike Satur a go if you are looking for TF parts…

Dension ICE>link – fitting an iPod into your car – Dension support forums

I can only really sing the praises of the ICE>Link product from Dension. My experience has been very positive and the installation into my Audi A3 was painless enough.

However, here it is less than two months later and Dension in their wisdom have closed the support forum at their site. The latest firmware version is 2.05 but I am working happily with v2.03.

But that’s not the point. The forum at Dension was generating a lot of good questions and answers – perhaps too many for the good folk at Dension to handle in such a public way, but now we find that a message placed on the forum (or rather, where the forum was) directs us to hackmycar.com. I don’t know about you, but this is hardly a professional, product centred name for the ICE>Link! In fact it feels as if fitting the product to your car is in fact some kind of grubby activity, hacking into an otherwise good car.

Of course, not all hacking is bad… but it feels as if Dension have abdicated responsibility for their own product – they do maintain a standard email based support system, however.

But hold on… what’s this we see… hackmycar.com is in fact a domain that is registered to Dension Audio Systems, specifically Bela Markaus himself. So what gives here?

Anyway, despite all of that, the ICE>Link is providing hours and hours of brilliant music in my car – I wouldn’t be without it (unless a better product that does a similar thing comes along).

Fitting the ICE>Link is simple – the hard part is getting the stereo out of the dashboard. Once clear of the dash you basically unplug a single connector and replace it with the Dension wiring loop. You then re-plug the original connector into the Dension wiring (which is now attached to your stereo head unit) and add the different pieces of the Dension equipment one at a time to the new bit of wiring.

The head unit connects to the link piece, the link piece connects to the cradle (feel a song coming on yet?) and the cradle gets put where you want it.

There is a stray black wire with no label on it on the model ICE>Link that I bought. This turns out to be an earth wire and just needs attaching to any metal part of the head unit. Until you do the ICE>Link won’t power up. As soon as you have got it installed and powered, put the stereo back in the dashboard, careful not to trap any wires, and get to your computer. You need to go to install.dension.com to download the correct file to load to the ICE>Link, identifying the type of head unit you have. In my case, despite the radio being a ‘Blaupunkt’ I used the ‘Audi’ installer file – the unit is in an Audi after all and will have Audi firmware in the radio.

The next thing to download is the latest firmware. There is an instruction .pdf to read too – essentially you load the car config file (which is an .mp3 file) into your ipod, then play that file as you plug the iPod into the cradle. This programs the ICE>Link to be in the right format for your car. You then follow the instructions for the firmware – again it is a set of .MP3 files which you load to your iPod. You find the ‘set up’.mp3 and play that, and the string of many small files will play one after the other. The counter goes up to 99 on your head unit, but there are many more files than that… wait until the iPod display gives you the message that the firmware update has been successful.

Then unplug the iPod from the cradle, turn off the ignition on the car and turn it back on again. You should find that the ICE>Link is now seen as your CD changer. Most CD changers hold 6 discs, but in this case discs 1-5 relate to the first five playlists on your iPod – set them up as you want! Disc 6, if selected, enters you into the Dension menu on the iPod where you get to set up some parameters. It is here that you can ask to use the iPod UI (User Interface) which I strongly recommend. Be aware that you move between the menu items using the buttons on your head unit, not the iPod (the iPod buttons will be disabled at the moment). Set it up as you want, and you should see a message telling you to remove the iPod from the cradle, or similar to that. When you place it back, it’s all done.

I use the iPod interface because I am familiar with it, but also because it lets me access ANY of the playlists I have, and also set up backlighting, etc which is handy when driving at night.

So, all in all I am still really pleased that I got this product – it is the best way to listen to iPod music in your car if you can get it all working. Shame on Dension for closing their support forums – it makes it look as if they don’t care or even wish to support their own product, but we’ll see how the new forums shape up.

HackMyCar.com… whatever next?!!