Net10, Tracfone, or Straight Talk Customers try the third SIM chip.

Have an iPhone but can’t use your data because you’re using Net10, Tracfone, or Straight Talk? Try swapping the Net 10 SIM.

When I bought my Net 10 SIM activation kit it came with 3 SIM chips: 1 micro SIM (for iPhone 4 or newer), 1 regular SIM for GSM networks, and 1 regular size pink SIM card designated for T-Mobile phones specifically.  I know that putting the T-mobile-specific SIM  gave me the “Cellular Data” settings when I put it in the iPhone while trying to perform the SIM swaps.

In the weeks I spent battling with my iPhone’s APN settings I never thought to try to actually activate my phone through the Net10/T-Mobile SIM. By activate I mean putting the Net10/T-mo SIM into my phone, calling Net10 customer service, and having them switch my service over to the EIN number for the Net10/T-mo chip. Since my iPhone can use native T-Mobile airwaves using a T-Mobile SIM, it would seem reasonable to be able to use T-Mobile airwaves via a Net 10 SIM designed for the T-Mobile network.

If you happen to have an iPhone 4 or later you still have options. You can shave down the regular sized SIM card to fit into a micro SIM slot. I did it with an xacto knife in about 20 minutes and does not need to be a perfect replica of a real micro SIM.

Disclaimer: I gave up trying to use my iPhone 4 on Net 10. Since there are no contracts I simply switched to T-Mobile monthly no-contract plans. T-Mobile is network pretty horrendous in my area but I don’t talk on the phone much. With T-Mobile I can use iMessage, MMS, and 2g/3G web — the stuff that matters to me.

Free EPUB readers for Mac Desktops

My iPad has iBooks which allows me to read EPUB format ebooks and PDFs. However, your lovely Mac cannot alone does not come with an EPUB reader. There are a few paid options in the Mac App Store but luckily I found 2 free non-App-Store options. I’m surprised there are not more decent open source options for reading EPUB files.

Calibre ebook management

Although it’s massively bloated (224 MB) I have found Calibre to be a very good e-book reader. It’s interface is somewhat iTunes-like since it attempts to be a one-stop-shop for your EPUB needs. I don’t really like using library management interfaces like this and would like for a reader-only download.

[Update 6/15/2013] I’ve been told that Calibre can convert ebooks from one format to another. This is an interesting feature that I have not tried yet.

Stanza for Mac

Stanza was a great ebook reader for iOS/iPhone/iPad before iBooks or Kindle came out. Unfortunately  Amazon bought Stanza and killed it. I haven’t even checked if Stanza is available in iTunes for iOS anymore. Nevertheless the spammy download sites like CNET and Brothersoft still have the last version of Stanza for Mac available for download. Stanza is a slimmer 35 MB download but its ebook rendering engine is not as good or accurate as Calibre.


At 92MB Azardi is much slimmer than Calibre and provides simple EPUB reading pleasure. The rendering is slightly more accurate than Stanza but wow the user interface on Azardi is comically difficult to wade through.

[Update 6/15/2013] – I’ve given Azardi a second look since it’s much smaller than the last time I looked at it. I have a small capacity Macbook Air so every MB counts on my HD! I can say that the rendering seems faithful to the EPUB and the application loads much faster than Calibre. The user interface to manage books is still a bit quirky to me but I don’t have a huge ebook library so it provides the straightforward EPUB-reading ability that I was looking for without a lot of bells and whistles.

Azardi EPUB Reader

Azardi EPUB Reader

List of EPUB reader software (Wikipedia)


Net10 and other AT&T MVNO carriers should be pissed off at AT&T right now

Apple’s release of iOS 6.0 has likely caused Net10 (a.k.a. Straight Talk or Tracfone) and other AT&T MVNO mobile carriers a LOT of headaches this year. I think AT&T asked Apple to hide the APN settings menus purposely with the intent to hurt its MVNO partners.

Read a few stories on the web and you’ll find out that Apple hides an “APN settings” screen from AT&T and AT&T MVNO customers that would otherwise allow iPhone owners to use data and MMS through the much-cheaper MVNO carriers. MVNO carriers typically offer non-contract phone plans that are hundreds of dollars cheaper  than a standard AT&T two-year contract.

Hiding these APN settings menus affects the MVNO carriers that piggyback off of AT&T because without access to the APN, your phone won’t work 100%. No data. No MMS. No iMessage. The only “fix” that anyone has found  is to obtain a T-mobile SIM card and follow a sequence of steps in a precise way to trick the iPhone into thinking it had a T-Mobile SIM card so that I could alter the settings that I needed to change. I probably tried a dozen times without any success.  This experience actually turns out to be a good advertisement for T-Mobile because lo and behold a T-Mobile monthly actually allows me to use my phone 100% for the same price as the other MVNO anyway!

The result of this is some serious collateral damage to the AT&T MVNO carriers:

First, the Net10 customer service forums have been littered with dozens of people requesting help to reactivate the data feature on their iPhones. I know this because I was one of the dozens of people clogging the phone support lines trying to figure out why things stopped working. This in itself probably costs Net10/Tracfone/Straight Talk quite a bit of money.

Second, customers can vote with their wallets and leave the affected carriers. Since most of the MVNOs are pre-paid non-contract phones it’s easy for me to pick up and leave. It’s as simple as walking into a T-Mobile store and swapping out a SIM card.

Third, I would think that this has to be a breach of a service-level agreement between AT&T and the MVNOs because an essential offering has been taken away from the MVNO’s customer base, causing customers to leave.

It seems silly that AT&T would want to harm MVNO carriers on its network. After all, the MVNOs must be paying AT&T some amount of money for the bandwidth, regardless of being wholesale price or not. At least they are getting some money back. By switching to T-Mobile (or Virgin Mobile or Verizon pre-paid, etc.) that are off of AT&T’s towers the net profit for AT&T becomes zero dollars instead of the commission that AT&T could have gotten from Net10.


Weekend Project: Do-it-yourself home Time Capsule wireless backup

I have been using a USB external hard drive to hold my Time Machine backups. Unfortunately I rarely plug the USB drive into my laptop because I like the freedom of walking around with my Macbook Air.  Thus, it became evident that I need a wireless backup solution.

I embarked on a guide to make a time capsule backup system out of my old Ubuntu machine (augmented with another time capsule server on Ubuntu article) I ran into some problems along the way because I want the Time Machine backup to go to a USB hard drive that is connected to my Ubuntu server.

Problem #1:  the USB drive went into read-only mode when connected to the Ubuntu machine.

Ubuntu does not support journaled file systems. I found this out by running “dmesg” command on the command line.

prompt% dmesg
[ 901.720694] hfs: write access to a journaled filesystem is not supported, use the force option at your own risk, mounting read-only.

Armed with this knowledge, I had to hunt around I to find a solution whereby my Ubuntu machine could write to the Mac-formatted HD. The solution I went with was to turn off Mac Journaled file system on the HD.

Plug the USB HD into your Mac:

  • Open Disk Utility under Applications -> Utilities
  • Select the volume to disable journaling on.
  • Choose Disable Journaling from the File menu. (On later Mac OS versions you’ll have to hold down the option button when you click the File menu. Or if you like Apple+J)

Problem 2: Mac could not connect to Ubuntu

Before embarking on this project I was running samba on the Ubuntu machine for sharing on my home network. Samba is problematic because Mac/Time Machine requires AFP to work. So I decided to turn off Samba and use AFP exclusively for my filesharing. Netatalk is Ubuntu’s AFP service. (sudo apt-get install netatalk, as per the original instructions).

I ran into a problem with netatalk. My Mac OS X 10.7.* machine could not connect to the netatalk AFP service because when it tried to connect I got an “unsupported protocol” error message. It turns out that the authentication method specified in instructions for the /etc/netatalk/afpd.conf file are outdated. An easy fix to get my Mac talking to Ubuntu worked on the first try. Apparently the password authentication scheme changed with Mac 10.7.X

Edit /etc/netatalk/afpd.conf at the end of the file:

- -tcp -noddp -uamlist,


- -tcp -noddp -uamlist,

Then restart the service.

sudo service netatalk restart

Problem 3: Time Machine does not like the drive. (remains unresolved for me)

After some cajoling, I have my Mac talking successfully to my Ubuntu machine fixed HD but not talking to the USB HD connected on the Ubuntu machine. Part of the problem has been that I started out this project running Ubuntu 10.X while the current major release is 12.04. Consequently I am in the process of upgrading 10->11->12.04.

I need to upgrade the Ubuntu installations because Time Machine does not like like the version of Netatalk that I have and I figure updating Ubuntu all the way to the most current version should bring netatalk up-to-speed along with all of the other outdated packages that I have.

Side notes:

I thought I would be following the instructions How to make a Windows Time Capsule, likely with some modifications necessary because I have Ubuntu, not Windows. However, I don’t have a USB router so scratch that.

[Follow UP] I was able to get my homemade Time Capsule working and it was great for the first two weeks. Then I encountered a problem where Time Machine would report that the Backup was corrupted and consequently I would have to back up from scratch. There is a way to fix the error but it never permanently fixes the issue. After a fixing and re-fixing my TM backup over the course of a few months I decided it’s not worth the hassle and am using a wired USB drive for backup. The ReadyNAS is still great for multimedia storage.


Missing Cellular Data Settings on iOS 6

I recently bought a used iPhone 4 from my friend for use on the Net10 (a.k.a Tracfone or StraightTalk) network. Net10 piggybacks as a MVNO carrier on the AT&T or T-mobile networks.

Ever since I got the phone, data and MMS do not work on Net10 because I have not been able to update and save the APN settings that Net10 instructs you to use:

Net10 (and many other MVNO carriers) will tell you to adjust your APN settings in order to use data.

To adjust APN settings in iOS you to go to “Settings > General > Cellular > Cellular Data”.

Unfortunately, the crucial menu for “Cellular data” does not appear in iOS 6, depending on the type of SIM you have in your iPhone. AT&T flavored SIM cards provided by Net10 do NOT have the setting. Many people report being able to do a SIM swap method whereby they use a t-mobile SIM card to get to the “cellular data” setting and then swapping in their Net10 SIM card. Yes I can confirm that you will be able to see the menu and alter the APN settings.

However, once I exit that “Ceullular Data” menu my APN settings do not get saved. I know this because I get an error message from Safari that I am not subscribed to a cellular data network.

Working with Lexmark S300 printers on Ubuntu

It took a bit of time and digging but I have managed to get my wireless Lexmark S301 multi-function color printer to work on Ubuntu. I also configured my Ubuntu box with Samba network printing so that guests will be able to print too! It’s nice because I have my choice of printing text documents through my laser printer or pictures through the inkjet without swapping out USB cables or turning on a particular laptop to print blah blah blah.

Lexmark provides surprisingly good driver coverage for many flavors of Linux. I happen to use Ubuntu. I believe the drivers are cross compatible with other Lexmark printers.

I found this list of Lexmark Ubuntu drivers. These are the files I needed. Your needs will vary, depending on your hardware and version of Ubuntu.

  • lexmark-printer-utility-1.0-2.i386.deb
  • lexmark-scan-legacy-1.1-1.i386.deb

After downloading these I installed them through Synaptic package manager. Alternatively, if you’re running headless I believe you can run “dpkg -i <driver name>” but there are some settings that I can tweak where having GUI access is very useful.

With the packages installed you will have new options in your Admin menu.

  • System > Administration > Lexmark Printer Utility — To setup the wireless capabilities
  • System > Administration > Lexmark Printer Toolbox — To monitor ink supplies.


Net10 not working with iOS 6

(Original title: Getting Net10 to work with iOS6, but I never could get it to work!)


I haven’t been able to get any of these methods to work for me but a lot of people on the web say that these things work.

  • A guy on hacker news says that he has data working but he just rants without offering a solution to fix the problem.
  • Does not work: Everybody says that fixes the problem but it does not work for me.
  • Does not work: This jgmedia guide for getting data to work on StraightTalk is detailed but does not work for  me.
  • Does not work: In the Apple support forum a post by armymedic2 is also straightforward but does not work for me.
  • Does not work: When I did a iTunes restore on my phone it magically started working for about one day but it stopped.
  • Don’t be fooled by the Net10 support forums. It may look like the customer service people are assisting people on the forum but my customer service person just told me at the end that my phone is not unlocked. (Even though it is).


I am working on getting Net10 internet and MMS configured on my unlocked iphone 4 (formerly AT&T). It has been tough to find instructions because the net10 support forums are total b.s. because people ask for help and the net10 representatives take the conversation offline. I suspect they take it offline because the methodology may involve doing a jailbreak on the phone.

Another problem is that all of the instructions that you see on the web involve navigating the iPhone settings tree to a path that does exist!

Most instructions tell you to follow this path:

Settings > General > Network

However, that is not available with Net10/Straight Talk/Tracfone SIM cards. I found a good set of instructions but have not gotten them to work sucessfully yet.


Apparently other people did the same thing I did but with a more scientific method. I lucked into getting the data to work but it stopped working after one day. Here are reproducible steps to get things working, as found on a Macrumors thread.

I tried the plist editing method for APN and MMS and my phone would reboot 4-5 times and then lose the changed settings. I tried the sim swap method and it worked. Here are the steps. The phone was unlocked by ATT. It has lasted after a few reboots and I will update if it stops.

1.) Get a T-mobile micro sim card
2.) Start Iphone and let boot up. Then take out ST sim card
3.) Place the T-mobile sim card in and let it connect to network
4.) Under general and cellular there is cellular data option
5.) Under cellular data you see fields for Data APN an MMS
6.) At this point double hit home button at the bottom to open camera or some other app
7.) Then take out T-mobile sim and place ST sim card into phone
8.) Right away, double hit home key and pick settings button at the bottom
9.) The Data APN and MMS settings window should pop up. Let it connect to Straight Talk Network. Enter in the info below after that:

data apn: att.mvno

mms apn: att.mvno
MMS proxy:
Max Size of Message: 1048576

10.) After click back upto and it should store the settings. You can click cellular data to check if the settings are in.
11.) I had to repeat the process twice before it took.

Also some APN configuration corrections via Net10 customer service posted recently 9/25/2012.


iPhone(R) 4S 16GB for AT&T – Black (GameStop Premium Refurbished)