18 questions with Dameon Welch-Abernathy AKA Phoneboy


PhoneBoy, other wise known as Dameon Welch-Abernathy (that’s definitely Scottish descent, it must be!), has been kind enough to take some time out his schedule and answer some questions from SMS Text News. Although intimately acquainted with Nokia (Dameon’s day job is with Nokia’s Software and Services division in the Security Support Services Product Line Support team – this is the kind of things he works with — see About PhoneBoy for more), he writes regularly at www.phoneboy.com about all kinds of matters relating to VOIP, wireless and technology. If you find yourself kicking your firewall for not behaving regularly, chances are you’ve read Dameon’s work. Here’s a screenshot of one of his firewall books:

.. and here’s the Amazon link.

I’ve had Dameon’s site in my ‘opinion formers’ part of my feeds for quite some time and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed his recent comments on posts here, so I thought it was about time I found out a little bit more about the chap. I fired him over the list of standard questions I like to use (everyone tends to answer them differently) so here we go:

1. What was your first handset and network?
Some Qualcomm thing that I don’t remember now on GTE Wireless–an evil CDMA carrier. Forgive me, as it was before I knew the wonderfulness that is GSM.

2. Describe your current mobile setup.
I have both a T-Mobile SIM and an AT&T SIM that my employer (Nokia) pays for. My wife has a T-Mobile prepaid SIM.

3. How much was your last bill? Good value, do you think?
I don’t see the bill on my SIMs. On my wife’s prepaid SIM, it’s an excellent value. Only have to refill it once or twice a year tops.

4. What’s your background?
Systems Administrator turned Technical Support dweeb for Network Security products, many of which I have supported while working at Nokia.

5. How did you end up with your current company?
At the time, I was a pro at Check Point FireWall-1. Nokia (the part formerly known as Ipsilon Networks) needed someone who could support FireWall-1 very well. 9 years later, I’m still here working for that same group, which has, of course, evolved quite a bit over the years.

6. Give us an overview of what your company does? What are your key clients and services?
I think everyone knows or at least has an idea of what Nokia does, given they are the number 1 mobile handset maker in the world. However, what many may not know is that they also play in the Enterprise Network Security space as a hardware/software vendor competing against the likes of Cisco and Juniper. Nokia has been selling Check Point FireWall-1 on their appliances since 1997 when they acquired Ipsilon Networks. Recently, Nokia began selling an Intrusion Prevention Solution running Sourcefire, which provides a comprehensive solution.

7. What do you think is right with the mobile industry?
In the U.S. market, cheap unlimited data plans–at least if you’re on a postpaid rate plan. That’s about it.

8. And what’s wrong with the mobile industry?
Just about everything else in the U.S. market, but let’s cut it down to a few key points:

* The idea that you have to by your handset from a carrier. Apparently, the carriers all forgot about the Carterfone rules when they deployed their wireless networks, or they flat out decided to ignore them.
* The fact that prepaid data is not cheap or easy to get in the U.S.. AT&T sells unlimited data, but only on their prepaid plan that looks like a postpaid plan. T-Mobile only makes it available on prepaid if you got a Sidekick.
* Lack of handset portability. I understand a CDMA handset won’t work on a GSM network (and vice versa), but why is it so hard–especially on the CDMA side–to move your handset between carriers?

9. If you had to buy a new mobile handset tomorrow, what would you get?
Nokia N95-3. More battery life and US 3G. Need I say more?

10. Rate the US network providers in order of preference with a one line summary of each.
They all suck, but here’s my review of the 4 large carriers:

* AT&T: GSM, they have 3G, They do allow you to, in theory, bring your own handsets and buy them at full price if you want to go that way.
* T-Mobile: Also GSM, but no functional 3G yet. Your GSM service can include access to their WiFi hotspots, which I have used on more than one occasion.
* Verizon: If you’re a voice only kind of guy, you don’t mind being landlocked to the U.S., and you want the most reliable network overall, then go with Verizon. If you don’t want your handset to be crippled, or want to bring your own CDMA handset to Verizon, look elsewhere.
* Sprint: I really don’t have much to say about Sprint. Their EVDO is nice, which is the only thing I’ve used them for in recent memory.

11. What’s the hottest mobile service to catch your eye recently?
Jaiku, which I am disappointed Nokia did not acquire, given it was founded by ex-Nokia employees.

12. Pick 3 people that you admire and rate in the mobile industry and give us 2-3 lines about each.
I admire my co-workers in Nokia who are working hard to make us a serious contender in the North American handset market. I’m looking forward to see the results of some of this work during 2008, as others have indicated.

13. What services do you use the most on your handset?
Twitter, Jaiku and Nokia’s Share Online (upload photos direct to Flickr from my handset).

14. What’s the last thing you saw at the cinema?
I honestly can’t remember the last time I went to the cinema.

15. What’s your ringtone? What wallpaper (if any) do you use for your handset?
Nokia’s “Tinkle.” I change handsets too often to muck about with a custom ringtone. I typically use the default wallpaper.

16. When did you last send a picture/video message – and who was the recipient?
My wife when I had to show her what kind of lightbulb to buy for an outside light. Pity that MMS squashes 5 megapixel images down to useless.

17. What sites do you read to keep up to date with what’s going on in the mobile industry?
SMS Text News, of course! I also read IntoMobile, Engadget, The Smart PDA, The Mobile Technology Weblog (disclaimer: I blog here), Darla Mack, Symbian Guru, The Nokia S60 Blogs, and a mess of others I’m not thinking of right now.

18. Anything else we should know?
If it wasn’t clear from earlier questions, I have nothing to do with the mobile phone side of Nokia’s business. That being said, I take a great interest in that part of Nokia’s business and do what I am able to do in order to promote Nokia’s presence in North America.

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Dameon, thank you for taking the time!

(You can also catch Dameon at the S60 Convergence Zone.)

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