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WiFi is everywhere so drop your cell phone plan

It’s been about a week since I dumped my cell phone service and it hasn’t really changed anything.

The turning point was dropping a phone and cracking the screen. I discovered that the $5/month AT&T insurance plan doesn’t actually insure you for anything I can find. Fast forward through painful phone calls with AT&T, visits to stores which aren’t allowed to repair the phone… and wondering why am I paying these guys?

Free WiFi is now everywhere.

So the fact is that I spend only a tiny part of each day not around wifi. Think about everywhere you go and it’s likely the majority have free wifi. Every pub I went to in London recently had free wifi.

How do I get calls? Skype and Google Voice. Google let me send and receive text messages for free. Skype lets me make and receive calls. Both offer me voicemail. To the outside world it all looks like the same phone number. Both run nicely in the background on an old iPhone 4 I have.

Data rate has not been an issue so far. In fact at Vancouver airport with 50 people at a gate waiting for a flight it was good enough for video calls over Skype. The main downside are those access points which require you to click accept, but they’re actually fairly rare when you spend most of your time at home or at work.

Offline maps are solved with offmaps 2.

I’ve yet to run in to a situation where I needed cell phone coverage. Emergency calls will still work from the phone even without a sim card and it so happens that everyone around you has a phone on them too if you’re really that desperate.

A nice side bonus is saving a ton of cash and disconnecting a little bit, it’s good to be unreachable occasionally even if that means just when I’m driving.


Hole for a Handle

Hole for a Handle

This handle-shaped hole in a wall caused by repeatedly slamming a door (handle) in to it got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be nice to instead of having those little door stops near the floor we just built walls with holes in them instead?


I’ve built a site to create an open geocoding dataset over at

The premise I worked with is to change the way geocoders work. Today, a geocoder uses some chunk of import code to import a large dataset from one format in to another. Then the geocoder itself (which is a large piece of software) takes a string from the user like “london” and uses it’s imported dataset to eventually give you a bounding box. The client uses this bounding box to zoom and pan a map to the correct place.

What if you threw all that away and just linked the string “london” to a bounding box? Thus opengeocoder.

In previews the number one thing asked for was synonym support. That is, “AK” should spit out the same box as “Alaska” without having to add both strings and two bounding boxes. So, you can do that. There is an API which spits out JSON so you can hook your map project up to it.

OpenGeocoder starts with a blank database. Any geocodes that fail are saved so that anybody can fix them. Dumps of the data are available.

There is much to add. Behind the scenes any data changes are wikified but not all of that functionality is exposed. It lacks the ability to point out which strings are not geocodable (things like “a”) and much more. But it’s a decent start at what a modern, crowd-sourced, geocoder might look like.

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