Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Instruction manual for Futura 2000 Alpha Plus alarm system

Back in 2008 I was looking for an instruction manual for my Futura 2000 Alpha Plus alarm system… well I finally found it and decided to post it in case anyone else has that alarm system and has misplaced the manual.

After last night’s storms and power cuts it seems my Futura has lost its brain :( and needs to be reprogrammed!

Here’s a summary of the manual which can also be downloaded here.

I battled to understand the manual – especially the 2 modes of operation: address mode and data mode.
If you do not understand this then there’s no way you will figure out the manual!  It’s (sort of) described on page 1.6 second column under the heading “Programming the Futura 2000 system”, but not very well at all (for me anyways).

Here’s what cleared it up for me after reading and reading and then trying stuff out on the keypad:
Decide which parameter you want to program by going through each memory location 001 through to 199 (memory locations are always 3 digits) – the parameters are listed on pages 1.6 to 1.7

Now go to that memory location as follows:
Programmer’s PIN: 0000, then ‘Program’ 1, then the address nnn (always 3 digits).  By the way: You are now in “address mode” (and the TEST LED is ON ie: data cannot be changed).
The zone LEDs will show the address that you are at (in binary) – yes in binary – can you believe it?
So, if you go to address 033 then the zone LEDs for zones 6 and zone 1 will be ON (that’s 32 +1).
To see what data is at address 033: press the ‘Mode’ * button.  The data is again displayed in binary.  Press ‘Enter’ # to move to the next address.

To modify data: go to the required address: 0000, then 1, then nnn (as before), then go into “Data mode” by pressing ‘Mode’ *
(and the TEST LED is OFF ie: data can now be changed).
The currently programmed data is displayed (again, in binary) and can be changed by entering the new digits separated by the ‘Enter’ # key.
Check that you have modified the data successfully by going to the starting address and pressing ‘Enter’ again and again until the memory locations have been checked.

To exit program mode: press 3 and 8 together.

Battery: 12V 6.5A/H sealed lead acid battery
Programmer’s default password: 0000
User 1 default password: 1234

Home mode: semi armed mode and only “HOME” zones will be isolated from the system.
”Isolated” in alarm lingo means “bypassed” ie: zones that you do not want to be armed while at home should be listed at address 153.

ON: System is in test mode
When programming: ON: [Address mode]; OFF: [Data mode]

1) ON: Programming mode
2) ON+TEST LED ON: Address mode with Zone LEDs displaying Memory Address (in binary)
3) ON+TEST LED OFF: Data    mode with Zone LEDs displaying Data at memory address (in binary)

Press MODE key to toggle: Address/Data mode

All zones programmed as CHIME zones will beep: Memory location 141, flag 5


Press 1 and 3: PANIC
Press 4 and 6: FIRE
Press 7 and 9: Medical
Press Mode and ENTER: DURESS
Above can be programmed to be silent or audible
Press 1 and 8: Siren test (won’t dial out)
Press 3 and 8: Exit PROGRAM mode

Remotely programming via telephone:
Memory location 141, flag 6: set if remote programming is allowed
Memory location 121 to 124: Access PIN code (memory location 124 is in binary)
Dial **(4 digit pin) replace last digit with digit+1 eg: if last digit is 7 then type in 8

Note: address 033 is critical (client number) – if this isn’t entered then your alarm will not activate the siren

Now to wade through the techno-talk and figure out how to program the zones for HOME mode and the number to dial when the alarm triggers.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Calculator: How much data does WhatsApp use and what are the costs?

WhatsApp is one of the few apps that I will gladly pay for when the beta period is over, but how much data does it use?  I have done some experimentation over this weekend and have published the results in the attached calculator.   
Click here to download the calculator: HTT’s WhatsApp Costs Calculator
Note: This is by no means a scientific experiment/calculator, I just wanted to get a feeling for how much data is being used and what charges are actually being charged by Vodacom on my prepaid, no data bundle account that charges R2 per MB.imageIf you are on a BlackBerry then WhatsApp uses your BIS or BES service (refer to WhatsApp FAQ), so it doesn’t incur any additional data costs (as long as you are not roaming internationally).  See posting here for how to set up your phone while out of your home country: Roaming using your Blackberry and don’t want to use Data Services from the cell phone network: SOLVED

If you have a phone that can connect to WiFi routers (like your ADSL router at home) then WhatsApp will connect over that WiFi connection rather than incurring costs on your cell phone’s data bundle.  As you can see from the spreadsheet the costs for 4KB over WiFi on ADSL is 1/100th of a ZA cent.

Polling data costs:
OK, so how much are we spending when we send WhatsApp messages and how much when we’re not?
Hold on there…. how much do we spend when we’re not sending messages? – What on earth does that mean?
Well, I noticed that even when you aren’t actually sending text messages there are data packets being sent (and charged for).  I call these data costs “WhatsApp polling” overheads.  I assume that WhatsApp is communicating to their server to keep the channel open. 
It’s difficult to figure out how many polls are made per hour.  I’ve noticed sometimes up to 4 per hour – and some hours with none at all.
I’ve taken an average of 3 polls per hour, makes 72 per day, of 1,024 bytes charged at ZAR0.01 per poll: costs R21.60 per month 

Messaging data costs:
Then there are actual costs for sending messages.  The receiver will also incur data costs if they are not on BIS/BES or other cheaper data connections.

Note: cell phone network providers allow you to buy pre-paid bundles of data at a much reduced rate – beware though, it’s on a “use-it-or-lose-it” basis. Vodacom gives you until the end of the following month to use up the data. Note: that’s not a 2 month window! (unless you buy on the 1st of the month). If you buy a bundle on the 20th of April, then the data will expire at the end of the following month ie: end May in this example.

I sent some experimental messages and one specific message of precisely 100 characters to see what was actually billed by Vodacom.
I checked her mini-statement online using Vodacom’s online “Mini-Statement” – updated hourly (more or less).
BTW: @Vodacom, please allow prepaid users to see more than 1 page of their billing for free!  Unless you are really trying to keep them in the dark on the costs – the last 10 transactions is really so pre-data connections!… like ummm so 1990‘s

Note the 100 character message that I sent:
     a) row 9: WhatsApp message of 100 characters was charged ZAR0.22 by Vodacom.  I expected that to be much less than that – so I resent that message later in the day:
    b) row 3: WhatsApp message of 100 characters was charged ZAR0.01 by Vodacom – that’s more like it!  So, I tried it again – to be sure (if that’s possible)
    c) row 2: WhatsApp message of 100 characters was charged ZAR0.01 by Vodacom – OK, so now I’m sure… the first message must have included some polling “extras”.
It also seems that Vodacom round the data charges to the nearest KB (thousand bytes).

So, as you can see it’s not a scientific analysis, but I am pretty sure the SMS and call costs that I would incur if it were not for WhatsApp would be much higher than the above illustrated costs. 

Battery cost:
The “always on” way that WhatsApp communicates with its home server uses the phone’s data channel – which uses more power than if there wasn’t data communications happening.  So, expect to be charging your phone more often than before.
This is not a problem for me – but might be for some.
I guess, it’s a trade-off between how many SMSs you normally send vs how many you don’t now that you have WhatsApp.  For me, it’s a no-brainer! 

WhatsApp program cost:
You can use the app for free for 12 months, then you need to pay per year.
Download by clicking these links:
Nokia and BlackBerry and Android: $1.99 USD/year (~R13.50);
iPhone $0.99/year (~R6.75); 

The latest versions of WhatsApp allow sending of group messages and photos and voice notes – note: these are larger in size than “plain” text instant messages, so costs will go up due to higher data costs – but it’s still cheaper than sending MMS messages (MultiMedia messages).

WhatsApp, you are great – thanks… and I will definitely be purchasing an annual license for my phones!

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Copyright © 2008 HandyTechTipper. All articles are released under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 South Africa license, unless where otherwise stated.