A Very Positive Negative

Late last night, just as I was going to bed, I was notified that my Covid-19 test was negative. Despite still feeling like death warmed-up, that was a considerable relief.

And I have had an email to say my phone has been repaired, and I can collect it tomorrow.

But it’s still raining.

Can’t have everything, I suppose.

Mobile Update

I am just back from my hour-long appointment at the EE shop. To be very fair to the staff, two guys spent the full sixty minutes trying their hardest to sort out the locked passcode issue.

You would think that you could send the manufacturer an email, and do a passcode reset. But no. They tried that, and were directed to a tech support page. That offered the option to reset the phone to factory basics, which I agreed to. But when they tried to do that, it wanted the (locked) passcode entered before it would allow it. They started to see why I was so frustrated.

After all their efforts, they were instructed by the tech support people to return the phone to the manufacturer, for a ‘factory reset’. They took my SIM card out and gave it to me, as that may save some of the contact details that I would otherwise lose. Paperwork was completed, and the phone packed up for courier collection tomorrow. Turn around time is estimated at up to fourteen days, hopefully less.

After over an hour sitting behind a large screen wearing a mask, I was relieved to get out of there. I still don’t have a working phone until it comes back, but then it wasn’t working anyway, so no real difference. EE cannot suspend or refund my contract money, as the fault is not theirs. The manufacturer cannot refund me any money, as I cannot prove I didn’t enter the wrong passcode. That’s what passes for extended customer care these days, apparently. Both companies blamed that issue on too many scammers messing around with stolen phones.

On the plus side, two youngish men who work with phones for a living were unable to get to the root of the problem.

So it wasn’t just me being a hopeless old git then.

More Mobile Madness

I finally felt just about well enough to try to get my phone sorted out. First stop was a shop in Dereham that unlocks phones. I thought to save myself a trip to the outskirts of Norwich by paying a fee to unlock my troublesome phone. The young man assured me that he could unlock my phone, and make it fully functioning again.

But, there was a big BUT.

I would lose everything stored on it, including all my contact phone numbers. Now although I have a book at home with many numbers written down in it, most of those are home numbers, and few people I know use those much anymore. I might have my phone going again, but I would have no idea who was calling, and would have to ask almost 100 people for their phone numbers again, probably by email.

The young man told me that the phone provider’s shop would have software to recover all the details stored on the phone, and I should try there.

So back in the car, and off to the edge of Norwich anyway, to the EE phone shop on a retail park where I got the phone in the first place. There were barriers across the entrance, and I was approached by a young man who asked me what time my appointment was. He said that customers have to have an appointment now, to keep down the numbers in the shop because of the Covid-19 situation. I said I didn’t have an appointment, so he suggested I use my phone to free-call customer services and make one. I told him that if my phone worked to call customer services, I wouldn’t be standing outside his shop. He made me an appointment for tomorrow afternoon, then asked what the problem was. I told him.

“Not sure we can do that” was his reply.

I asked if there was any point in my driving all that way again tomorrow, if he couldn’t do what was needed. He assured me that it would be, as I could ask Cliff, and he was good with phones. Cliff will be working tomorrow, apparently. I replied that I thought they should all be good with phones, as they worked in a phone shop. I think he smiled, but as he was wearing a mask, I couldn’t tell. He took my details, and then added, “I had better take your mobile number, in case we have to contact you”.

After waiting long enough to make sure he wasn’t making an ironic joke, I asked him if he had listened to anything I had been saying. “My phone doesn’t work. That’s why I am here”. Nodding sagely, he tried this, “Perhaps you have another mobile number I can contact you on?” I shook my head, asking how many people he knew had more than one mobile number. “You would be surprised how many people do, sir”.

Tomorrow, I have to drive almost 40 miles round trip in the hope of seeing Cliff, and geting some satisfaction.

Something tells me I am going to be back in the first shop later, getting the phone unlocked, and losing all my contact details.

You couldn’t make it up, you really couldn’t.

Mobile Merry-Go-Round

One downside of my recent holiday was that my mobile phone decided to act strangely. It would no longer accept my PIN code, to unlock the screen. I knew it was the correct numbers, as they are the dates of Julie’s birthday. After three tries, it locked.

Julie contacted the service provider on her phone. They accepted no reponsibility, and said I had to contact the manufacturer of the phone. When Julie eventually got through to them, they said it was my fault, and I would have to take it somewhere to get it unlocked and reset. As I was a very long way from any town or city of any size that might have such a place, I was stuck.

A second call to the manufacturer finally got them to admit that many other users were experiencing the same problem, and that the phone would have to be sent back to them for repair. The location was still the problem, as I had no chance of packaging the phone and sending it back to them. Meanwhile, I had no access to my contact numbers, and a phone that was just a useless lump of metal, through no fault of my own.

The service provider refused to suspend my contract, saying they are still providing a service that I am contracted to pay for, and the fault is not theirs. So I am paying £19 a month for the privilege of having a phone I cannot use, and they will not upgrade the handset or supply me with an alternative until my contract expires next year.

I am on that roundabout of technology, caught between two opposing sides both failing to provide genuine customer service, and unable to get off.

On top of everything else going on with the floor-laying this week, I now have to find the time to drive into Norwich to argue my case with the service provider in their shop.

I can already feel my blood pressure rising!

Closing Thought–27Jan20

Check out the graphic below on chuq’s post to discover what life was like before ‘Online’!

In Saner Thought

Social media….vintage social media…..

I am an old fart so I remember the rotor telephone, stamps, photos printed on paper,….but enough of the that …let me show you “our” social media…

And somehow we made it to the 21st century without having told everyone every minute of our lives…..you were “famous” back in the Dark Ages for actually doing something exceptional…not because you did something stupid and put it on-line for all to see.

This silly thing, social media, is how we got to this spot in history and the turn will define the next decade……

“lego ergo scribo”

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A Mobile Resolution

Earlier this week, I wrote about the frustrating issues with my mobile phone. (Cellphone)

The post attracted a lot of interest and comments, as well as some much-appreciated advice.

I thought I had found a solution, when my wife gave me her old phone. It was reset to ‘Factory Reset’, and my SIM card put in. I would now have a more modern and hopefully more reliable phone, and not have to pay anything.

I should have known it was not that easy. The Android-operating device required a Google log on. But when I tried to do this, it would not recognise my password. Turns out that it has to be the original owner logging on, with their details. If we had done that, then my wife’s details would have been stored on the phone, not mine, and we had no idea what problems that might cause later.

So on Tuesday I drove to the outskirts of Norwich, to a retail park where the network provider has a dedicated shop. I was served by a very helpful man, and fortunately for me, he was over 40 years of age. He confirmed my fears about using my wife’s phone. Apparently, her details had been ‘synched’ to the phone, and it wasn’t about to let me use it. I could just let her log in, type in all my contacts, and carry on paying my regular monthly amount. But he also thought that wouldn’t work, as the phone would not let me proceed to recognising my number.

At a loss what to do next, I asked for his suggestion. Being a salesman, he naturally suggested selling me a two-year phone contract on a shiny new smartphone. He showed me some, and after my old HTC, they seemed enormous. Remember when phones were getting smaller? Now they are getting bigger again. “It’s to watch films and You Tube”, he told me. As I was resisting his sales pitch and considering going back in time to a cheap, ‘basic phone’ option, he recommended a deal that got my interest.

Choosing one of the new huge phones, he told me that he could do a deal for only £4 a month more than I am currently paying for SIM-only. Not only that, but I would get unlimited minutes to most networks and landlines, unlimited text messages, and a monthly allowance of 1GB of Internet data. That was tempting, but I told him that after the days of grief with the previous two phones, I was reluctant to even attempt to try to work out how to use an all-singing-and-dancing modern phone.

Then he said the magic words.

“But I will do all of that for you sir. Set the phone up, import your contacts, show you the basic controls. You get a gel case, as well as a solid glass screen protector. No money up front, and no increase in the basic cost of the contract for two years”.

I told him that if I could leave the shop with a working phone that had all my contacts and photos on it, and keep the same number I have had ever since getting a mobile, then he had a deal.

Forty minutes later, I was holding this.

He regaled me with its impressive specifications. Dolby stereo, three lens options on a camera that takes (ridiculously large) 48 MP photos. A 5000 amh battery that will last longer than most other phones on the market. All that tech stuff meant little to me. But it was working as promised, and had a lot to offer for only £4 a month more. It is made in China, but that doesn’t bother me in the least as so many are now, even when people don’t think they are. And now I am back on contract, any issues with this phone will be down to the network provider, not me.

All I have to do now is to work out how to use it.

Telephonic frustration

My mobile phone is getting on a bit. Close to six years old, in mobile (cellphone) technology, that is as good as steam-powered. I rarely use it, and mainly keep it for emergencies, like a car breakdown, or if the power goes out and shuts down the house phone.

A while ago, I cancelled the contract, and changed to SIM-Only. That saved me a fair bit each month, but also meant that I couldn’t upgrade regularly. Still, I now owned the phone, and didn’t need a new one. That sounded pretty good to me.

Until Thursday.

Because of the low use, and because I don’t have the Internet access of Wi-fi switched on unless I need it, the battery used to last me 5-6 days before needing to be recharged. On Thursday, I noticed that I had just 1% battery showing. As it was fully charged on Tuesday, that seemed strange. So I put it on charge, and a couple of hours later I noticed it was back up to 100%. So it was unplugged, and put back on the desk. Two hours later, the message alert sounded. I checked and found a text message from a relative.

But I also noticed that the phone was already down to just 16% battery.

This afternoon, I drove into the nearby town of Dereham, and made a rare visit to one of those shops that deals with multiple providers of mobile networks and phone handsets. I intended to buy a new battery, after accepting that the old one had reached the stage where it was no longer viable.

They don’t sell one for this phone. Furthermore, they no longer make this phone. In addition to that, the company (HTC) that used to make this phone has been bought out by Google, and has ceased to exist, at least in Britain. No accessories, no batteries, and nothing compatible are sold here any longer. The man in the shop was very helpful. He told me I could buy a battery online that would work with my phone, but that I had to be very careful, as many of them are unregulated imports, and the electronics might catch fire.

Not wishing to buy something that could burn the house down, I thought over my options.

Eventually, I decided to tell him that I would take out a regular phone contract again, which would provide me with a new phone, and only cost just over £6 a month more than I am paying now. He suggested a Samsung A10 as a replacement, and began to fill in my details on his computer. Almost finished, he suddenly mentioned something. “You are aware that you will have a different number of course?” I was more than a little flabbergasted. I told him that I had the same number for almost 25 years, so why would it have to change now.

His explanation made me feel as if I was being wrapped in a techno-spider’s web.

It seems that when I changed to SIM-only, I lost the option to keep my number in any other contract. Naturally, the guy who sold me that option in Norwich never bothered to tell me that at the time. I cancelled the order before he could press ‘Send’, and asked what he suggested. I really do not want to change my number. For someone with my level of technical skill, changing my mobile number is something that fills me with dread. Besides, my current number is one of those that is remarkably easy to remember.

He offered to sell me the phone, for a one-off payment. He will put my SIM in it, and that’s that. I will pay my monthly fee for the SIM deal, and have a new phone with better features, and a hopefully more vital battery. The price seemed reasonable too, at £139 all in. I smiled. “Sold!” He turned to get one off the shelf, and I was relaxed and chatting as he started on the paperwork. “Will you transfer all my contact numbers and photos over before I go, please?” I said with a smile.

He stopped completing the form, and shook his head. “I’m afraid that your HTC list of contacts and photos are not compatible with any other brand of handset, sir. Before you activate this phone, you will need to write down every contact detail, and then enter them all manually into the new phone”.

I thanked him for his time, and left.

They are out to get me. They really are.

Techno fear

There is something sinister about the way that Technology creeps up on you. One day, life is going on as normal, and the next, you can’t remember how to use a telephone box, or even know where to find one. I can almost remember the last time I made a call from a public kiosk, queuing patiently, until it was free to use. Then, in what seemed an instant, I had a mobile phone in my hand, and I have never used a public box since; though I still had a phone card in my wallet, until very recently.

Can any of you remember what life was like before mobile phones? Imagine breaking down in your car, on a country road, late at night, in an unfamiliar area. You had to walk for an unknown time, until you could find a telephone box to use, to summon assistance. You also had to make sure that you had the correct money to make the call. There were no Freephone numbers, and breakdown companies did not accept reverse charge calls. Or perhaps there was an emergency, and you had to inform a relative, or ring in to your job. You would have to search in a similar way, hoping that there was nobody inside already, in the process of making a long call; or worse still, that all the equipment had been vandalised.

Of course, cars rarely break down these days, compared to years ago. If you wanted to be a driver in the 1960’s, you would have to have had a reasonable standard of mechanical know-how, or face the prospect of being constantly stranded. A working knowledge of the distributor, HT leads, points, plugs, and fan-belts, was more or less essential then. Have you even bothered to look under the bonnet of your car lately? All you will see is a large plastic cover, concealing almost all of the workings of the modern engine. There will be electronics leading into boxes, housing small computers that regulate all the functions of the car. Good luck with trying to fathom out what is going on, unless you are a qualified car mechanic. Technology again, making us dependent on experts, removing our skills, however basic. Controlling us.

Let’s not forget the desire factor. As the gadgets become more and more widespread, part of you might consider that you don’t need any more, enough is enough. After all, you have a mobile phone, a nice TV, a home music system, a portable music system, even a laptop computer. This is where the technology companies really show their mettle. They know that there is little chance of you replacing those items for many years, so they give you a good reason to do just that. They take the same things, and re-package them into a more desirable format. The screens become thinner, the functions increase, the gadgets become smaller, then bigger again, until you cannot resist the urge to change. It is human nature to always want to know what is on the other side of the fence, after all.

So, you have a nice new PC. It is super fast, with enough RAM to supply your needs, and a hard drive that you will never fill to capacity. Then a swish new laptop is announced. It has even more functions, is lighter than a crispbread, and the battery lasts for six hours. The screen is so clear, you feel that you could dive into it; you just have to get one. Then, your mobile contract is up for renewal; you need the phone, so you might as well get a good one. You notice a new one advertised extensively. It has a huge screen, a camera with more pixels than your existing DSLR, and Internet access as fast as your PC. You can browse the web on it, store all your photos, and sort out all your e mails too. Better still, it fits in a coat pocket, so it will save you lugging that tiresome laptop around, in the smart neoprene case that you bought specially for it.

You now own three things that all do the same thing. The PC sits dusty and unused, in a room that you like to call ‘The Office’. The laptop resides in its case, probably propped up under the desk that has the PC on it. You sit happily in your living room, playing games, updating social media sites, and texting your friends, all from the arm of your settee. You glance across at the TV, and see an advertisement for something new; it is called a ‘tablet’. Sleek, slim, and with a bigger screen than your phone. Still portable, though not as cumbersome as your laptop. Next day, you are off to check it out. Everyone seems to be getting one. Your photos look better, you can watch a film on it on the train going to work, and it has a memory capacity that you can actually fill. No hesitation, it is a must buy. You now have four things that do the same thing. Technology triumphs over Man once again.

Of course, you can choose to ignore all this. You can stick with your Nokia handset,  your VHS player, with your collection of films and blank tapes ready to record TV programmes. You might even still have a cassette player in your car, and you may have decided to forego the Internet, and not bother to get a computer. That electric typewriter you bought in 1977 still works well, doesn’t it?

The Technology companies have the answer to your stubbornness. Planned obsolescence. They just stop making it. No more VHS tapes, or parts for your old machine. Don’t try using that typewriter too much, as they don’t make the ribbons anymore, and once your cassettes are worn out, and start to come off their spools in the car, you will never be able to buy any again. Happy with your CRT television? Forget that, you will never be able to get it repaired. Anyway, there will be a change in the way that the TV is broadcast, making all those millions of sets just so much junk.

How long will it be before compact discs give way to ‘downloads only’?  Then all those resisting change will be forced to buy a computer, and connect to the Internet, if they ever want to buy music again. Technology is control, and I am controlled. I must be, as I am using a PC to write this blog, but I also have a laptop, a smartphone, and a super-slim, Internet-enabled TV. I have  been considering getting a netbook too, so even as I write this, I am overwhelmed, and there seems to be no way back.

As for digital cameras and the demise of those using real film, don’t even get me started on that!