RCS Carrier Interoperability

Rich Communication Services Universal Profile (or Chat as Google likes to call it) is all about interoperability. The end goal would be for ALL carriers world wide, to standardize on RCS as their carrier provided messaging platform (instead of SMS / MMS). There are a lot of moving parts that will have to come together for this to happen, but some of those parts are starting to come together.

How RCS Interconnects

RCS is a combination of an RCS client on your phone and your carrier’s RCS engine. Carriers have 3 basic ways they can set RCS up:

  1. Proprietary RCS (not Universal Profile) – This is the way some carriers currently have RCS implemented. For instance, as of the time of this writing, AT&T and Verizon both use proprietary RCS implementations for their “Advanced Messaging”. Unfortunately, this is a walled garden approach – by this I mean, an AT&T customer can currently ONLY send RCS messages to other AT&T customers.
  2. Carrier Hosted Universal Profile – This is where a carrier chooses to roll their own RCS implementation, but does so in a manner that is compatible with the GSMA Universal Profile.  This requires a LOT of carrier knowledge / configuration as the carrier will have to work with other carrier hosted versions as well as cloud providers to make sure their implementation works as expected.
  3. Cloud Hosted Universal Profile – This option is where a carrier signs up to use a third party cloud service. Several RCS cloud services are already in place (Google, Samsung and others offer RCS clouds). The advantage here is the carrier only has to interface with the cloud provider.

So, who can I send an RCS message to?

The short answer to this question is you can send a RCS message to any other customer that has an RCS client that is on a carrier your carrier can interoperate with (OK, not so short). Longer answer is that in North America today, Sprint and Rodgers customers can send messages back and forth because they both chose the Google Jibe cloud option, but pretty much every other carrier is still limited to only sending messages to other customers on the same carrier. T-Mobile has also started implementing RCS UC (currently only on two Samsung phones).

There have been conflicting reports  (thanks to Reddit users for bringing this to my attention) as to how T-Mobile is implementing their RCS stack. I’ve seen reports that they (at least initially) intended to use the Samsung Cloud and others that say they rolled their own either with or without 3rd party help. However, it’s my understanding that their implementation is using an older version of RCS UC that is causing some integration delays other carriers.

The Future

I know all of this sounds horrible and underwhelming, but it’s really not that bad. The GSMA has announced that all four major US carriers have agreed to implement RCS UC as well as 55 carriers world wide and they have teased other RCS implementations by the end of 2018. Once Samsung and Google get their interconnections worked out, T-Mobile customers with newer Samsung phones will be able to interact with Sprint and Rogers customers. 

It’s really just a matter of time before RCS will be the default carrier messaging platform for North America and hopefully the world!

Current Status

There is an excellent Google Doc’s document that is being developed to track current RCS implementations.  You can view it here.

RCS Is designed to be Inter-operable – It shouldn’t be news that Google and Samsung are doing it.

Maybe Google and Samsung are working together to make RCS inter-operate, but they shouldn’t HAVE to! And even if they ARE working together, that shouldn’t be the news here! We should be focusing on the fact that Rich Communications Services (RCS) Universal Profile (or Chat as Google wants to call it) is INTENDED to inter-operate between clients AND carriers!

Continue reading RCS Is designed to be Inter-operable – It shouldn’t be news that Google and Samsung are doing it.

Project Fi Dialer Codes

Here are a list of dialer codes that can be used with Project Fi.  These codes shouldn’t be used unless you are aware that they may impact the way your Fi phone switches between carriers.

Carrier Selection

Alpha Code Dialer Code Description
FI AUTO *#*#342886#*#* Set carrier selection to automatic.
FI NEXT *#*#346398#*#* Select Next Carrier
FI SPR *#*#34777#*#* Select Sprint for 2 hours
FI TMO *#*#34866#*#* Select T-Mobile 2 hours
FI USC *#*#34872#*#* Select US Cellular 2 hours
FI SIMON *#*#3474666#*#* Select Three (UK only)

Service Codes

Alpha Code Dialer Code Description
FIXME *#*#344963#*#* Force reactivation
FI INFO *#*#344636#*#* Get information about the current network.
INFO *#*#4636#*#* Get general phone information.
DEBUG *#*#33284#*#* Phone Debug Options
PRL *#*#775#*#* Force download of Preferred Roaming List (Sprint)
PRL *228 Force download of Preferred Roaming List (US Cellular)
FI ROAM *#*#347626#*#* Turn on International Roaming

Fi on a non-Google phone is like mowing your lawn with a weed eater….

Project Fi LogoI’ve seen the “can you use Project Fi with an XYZ model phone” question over and over. Invariably someone (or several someones) will reply “yeah, it works”. And while this answer is kind of / sort of technically correct (with caveats), it’s misleading!  When I see this I imagine  quotes around the word works… it “works” – unfortunately, a lot of people take it at face value. Continue reading Fi on a non-Google phone is like mowing your lawn with a weed eater….

Down the SDR Rabbit Hole

I’ve always been intrigued by Amateur Radio.  I’m not specifically talking about HAM radio even though that is certainly part of it.

As a boy I traded a telescope for a OLD “world band” radio and spent a lot of time doing stupid stuff like setting the EXACT time on my watch to the WWVB signal.  Honestly, there wasn’t really much to listen to in North West Arkansas in the 70’s on a 50’s era radio, but I tried.  Keep in mind that we didn’t have the internet, so the only way you could find a station was to slowly tune through the bands listening for something that wasn’t static – which meant you had to tune over the station WHILE it was broadcasting (which can be a bit of a trick when only a few stations broadcast 24×7).  Of course you COULD buy a book or subscribe to a magazine that listed some frequencies to try out if you had the money to spend.

Later, I found a copy of an Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) book in a thrift store and spent hundreds of hours looking though it, dreaming about how cool it would be to be able to actually do the stuff they were talking about.  Unfortunately, the cost of getting into amateur radio was a deal breaker for me.

In high school I actually went “all in” and bought a CB radio with “significant” antenna and got my CB license (yes, they actually licensed that back in the day).  My call sign was KAKJ4409.

Since then I’ve always found an excuse NOT to get too involved in radio (yeah, I’ve bought a low end Radio Shack scanner, the not so occasional FRS and digital $35 world band receiver at Walmart, etc.  – but I’ve not gotten “into it”).  I’ve considered getting my ham license, but I’ve always found an excuse not to – I didn’t want to learn Morse code, the radios were too expensive, etc.

By this point I bet you are wondering where this is going, well…  I’ve recently gone down the Software Defined Radio (SDR) rabbit hole and I want to document my decent.  For those of you who don’t know, SDR uses computer software to decode a digital version of the radio spectrum.  To do this, you need a device to receive the radio waves and convert them to digital.  Until fairly recently this piece of equipment was incredibly expensive and really only available to the military and research folks, but not any more.

Several years ago, several companies started producing hobby SDR cards.  Then a security researcher figured out that a USB TV tuner that costs about $15 can function as an SDR radio when paired with the right software.  This is the specific rabbit hole I’m headed down.

I’ll post follow up articles as I work my way though the jungle of open source SDR software and I’ll try to leave enough bread crumbs that you can follow my path if you find yourself so inclined.

Happy DX’ing.

Android WebKit Car Analogy

The Android robot is reproduced or modified from work created and shared by Google and used according to terms described in the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution License.Google throws nearly a billion Android users under the bus” and “Why Google won’t fix a security bug in almost a billion Android phones” but what I haven’t seen is an article that explains the situation in a way that people who WANT to blame Google seem to be able to understand so I’m going to try to explain this using an automobile analogy.

Imagine that Google makes automobile motors that many auto manufacturers use in the cars they sell. Some manufacturers want higher performance motors, so they replace the standard intake and cam with “improved” versions.  Other manufactures want more creature comforts in their cars, so they strap on AC units and other accessories.

Now it turns out that there was a problem with the motors that Google provided to manufacturers 18 months ago. To make things more interesting, the manufacturers didn’t actually have to pay ANYTHING to Google for the motors Google provided. Additionally, Google has offered to replace all of  their previous models at no additional charge twice since the faulty motors were shipped.

The manufacturers have chosen to not replace the faulty motors because they thought they were “good enough” and they would have to apply their chosen modifications to the replacement motors before sending them out. Besides, if people really want a new motor, they need to buy a new car. Right?

Keep in mind that this analogy is flawed.  For instance it implies that Google is actually providing hardware. They aren’t.  A more accurate analogy (but one less likely to be understood) is that Google is providing the software for the car’s computer.  All of the mechanical parts (including the electronics for the computer) are produced by the car manufacturer, but there is a bug in the code that Google made available to the manufacturer. Google doesn’t even know what kind of computer the manufacturer has chosen to install in their car.

My question to you is:  when you buy a car and it has problems with the motor (or computer), who do you go to for service?  I expect the vast majority of people would say the manufacturer (or it’s dealers) but many of these same people seem to want to put 100% (or more) of the blame on Google for the webkit issue. Logic seems to elude some people….

Is Google responsible for the bug? Sure, it was in their code. Is Google responsible for the bug not being fixed in your phone? Nope! They fixed the bug in later releases and your phone manufacturer choose not to release that fix.

Blocking Facebook Game Invites

So, you are tired of getting inundated with invites to Facebook games and want people to stop sending them to you…  Well, you have two options:  post a plea asking people to stop (sorry, it’s not going to work) or you can block the invites.

Unfortunately, Facebook has made it a bit harder than it used to be – but you can still do it.  Here’s how:

FB_Block_Step1

Step 1: you need to choose the “Lock” icon on the Facebook status bar.

Step 2: select “See More Settings” at the bottom of the “Lock” menu.

FB_Block_Step2Step 3: Choose the “Blocking” menu option on the left menu.

 

Step 4:  Block app invites from user

Once you block app invites from someone, you’ll automatically ignore future app requests from that friend. To block invites from a specific friend, click the “Ignore All Invites From This Friend” link under your latest request.FB_Block_Step4

Step 5: Block apps

Once you block an app, it can no longer contact you or get non-public information about you through Facebook.FB_Block_Step5

And that’s it!  I hope this helps someone!  🙂

Twitter spam may NOT be associated with Gawker

I’m sure that by now you’ve heard that the sudden spike in Twitter spam “appears to be due to the Gawker compromise”.  I’m not so sure.  I have a twitter account that has like 9 followers and it ended up with 2 outgoing spam messages on it.  However, I don’t have a Gawker account (nor any of the other web sites associated with it).  Yeah, I know I might have forgotten that I set one up on one of the many Gawker related sites, but when I enter my e-mail address (OK, addresses) I get a not found on all of them.  Add to this Gawkers assurance that the passwords were encrypted and the fact that my Twitter user ID is not the same as any of my other user ids, and I find it VERY suspicious.

So, if it wasn’t the Gawker leak that explains the Twitter storm today, what does?  My guess is that someone either hacked Twitters account system (or one of the software programs that posts Twitter messages for you) or there is a new way to send a Tweet that is attributable to someone else.  Who knows….

Why is Twitter blaming Gawker?  It could be as simple as “because they can”….

Web Hosting