Dodging a brick…

I’ve been vaguely aware that 2022 was the year 3G wireless service was going to be discontinued here in the US for a while now. Other than being aware, I really didn’t put much intellectual rigor into wanting to know more about it. That was true until I glanced at an article yesterday warning that some cellular-based home security systems among other “background” services could be impacted.

After a quick check, it turns out that my system is going to be one that dropped offline sooner rather than later. Turns out, thanks to AT&T taking their network offline later this month, I was about a week away to losing my system. 

I’m not mad at them. Technology marches on and needs to be upgraded from time to time. I’m am, however, pissed as hell that I didn’t even get a warning notice from the monitoring company I’ve been paying every month for the last seven years to keep any eye out for home intrusion, flood, and fire. 

They were quick to confirm that I was about to have a problem when I called last night. If I hadn’t noticed that article and then taken the initiative to call them, though, there’s no telling how many monthly fees I’d have paid for them to monitor dead air. In all likelihood, I’d have never known it until the point when an alarm should have triggered but didn’t. 

That’s aggravating on any number of levels. 

To their credit, the company in question was quick to offer me an upgraded base station at no cost (as long as I was willing to sign a new one-year contract). No big deal there, as I’ve been going month to month with them for at least the last four years and don’t have any interest in building a new system from the ground up. Aside from this one pretty glaring issue, their customer service and equipment has been just about flawless. 

I should be at least temporarily future proofed by the end of the week, but if you rely on cellular as a primary or backup link for your alarm system and it’s of a certain age, you might want to give your provider a call and make sure you’re not about to be bricked.

My after Christmas list…

I couple of nights ago I noticed my iPad wasn’t holding a charge quite as well as it used to. The cover is pretty tatty and the aluminum housing is scratched and scraped. Every now and then it even stumbles trying to render a website. 

I didn’t think much about it until it popped up a notification that I was due for a software update. Poking around in settings (since I was there anyway), it dawned on me – probably not for the first time – that I was updating an almost 9-year-old piece of equipment.

I suppose that realizing that my venerable iPad Air crossed the pacific in 2013 made me a bit more forgiving of some of its latest foibles. With a little effort, I’m sure I could keep it limping along another few years, but I think maybe it really is time for an upgrade.

Yet another thing to be added to my after Christmas list. That should give me enough time to properly convince myself it’s a need and not just a want.

Cancelled…

I’ve had some variation of satellite radio since the service only came as a stand-alone dongle that attached to your existing car radio. It’s been at least twenty years. In fact, somewhere in a box of defunct electronics, I probably still have that first receiver. You know, just in case I need it. 

In all that time, I’ve practiced the yearly pantomime of calling either Sirius or XM or more recently, SiriusXM, and threatening to cancel my subscription before it renewed at full price. Every year their customer service department responded by rolling out a wildly discounted offer to keep me on subscription.

This year they didn’t. The fully burdened month-to-month rate for two vehicles and streaming would have been $566.88 for the year. Their discounted offer for the same services was $298. Last year I re-upped for half that.

Look, I am an unashamed Howard Stern fan. I think he’s one of the best interviewers of the last decade… but Howard three days a week except during his two-month vacation isn’t enough to keep me on the hook at extortionate prices.

So, SiriusXM finally called, what they seems to assume was my bluff, and got themselves cancelled for their trouble.

I’ll be surprised if I don’t start getting reactivation offers before the end of the week… but they’re going to have to do a long way better than what was their “absolute best offer.” I kept them this long because, like cable television, having everything I wanted in one place was a convenience. However, there are too many podcasts and quality streaming services now for satellite radio to go around pretending they’re the premium service of old. 

Purge…

I’ve been quietly purging my Instagram follows for the last few days. It was a more monumental task that I expected. It turns out that years of indiscriminate adding anyone that catches your attention will eventually stack up to be something entirely unwieldy.

I’ll make no apologies for the number of scantily clad e-girls, Insta models, cam girls, and porn stars who still pepper the feed. The Puritans left us with a centuries old sense of shame when confronting anything that even hints at nudity, let alone confronts that notion of humans as fundamentally sexual creatures – so much so that I even question the wisdom of saying this out loud here on my own platform. Fortunately, the amount of shame I feel about anything is inversely proportional to my age… and I appear to be reaching the stage of life where I have almost no shame at all. 

I hadn’t really set out today to write a post about my appreciation for the partially clothed human form, but here we are.

Instead of getting too focused on that, let me just say I’m sorry if anyone I actually know in the real world has or gets caught up in my ruthless sweep of the “following” list. It absolutely wasn’t intentional so feel free to send me a nudge to add you back.

New phone day…

It’s new iPhone delivery day. I’m fairly sure I’ve owned every “flagship” version of Apple’s now-venerable iPhone. The annual swap out is just kind of part of the tempo of the year now. The days when I felt compelled to get up early and stand in the dark to get one of the first out of the gate are pretty much finished. The era where new phones come with incredible new “must have” features seems to be over.

Still, I’m always just a little bit excited to get a new bit of hardware in my hands. I emphasize the hardware aspect because this morning, as I have for the last five or six upgrades, I spent some time completing a full backup of my old phone… so I could drop it wholesale into the new device. 

If I’m honest, I these upgrades are mostly just a matter of picking up a little bit of speed between clicks and a slightly better camera. I’m using the newest version of apps I’ve been using for years. I don’t know what the cool new apps are – and I mostly don’t care. This mini-computer I’ll carry around in my pocket is almost completely a platform for text messages, keeping to do lists, and taking (fairly) decent pictures of the critters to post on the “big three” social media platforms. Apollo ran on a system far less powerful, but I sheepishly confess I probably don’t use one tenth of what the thing is capable of doing. 

It turns out I’ve turned into that guy… The one who wants the latest toy because it’s the latest toy rather than anything to do with what it’s capable of doing. It feels like after all these years there must be some whiz bang function that would change my life if I only knew it existed. Maybe I should read a review or something. I probably should, but I think we all know what’s really going to happen. I’m going to go right back to using this fancy new phone the way I’ve used all its predecessors for half a decade.

Personal growth or something…

I’ve got two months left on my current iPhone Upgrade Program replacement cycle. I could buy my way out of those last two months for about $60 and sign up Friday morning for a spanking new iPhone 11 in hopes of getting it on launch day. It’s tempting… and there was a time it would have been an absolute no brainer. I’d have been one of the first 50 through the door on release day to make sure I got the one I wanted.

The days of me wanting anything badly enough to stand in line in the middle of the night, though, seem to be well over. I still like new and shiny, but I prefer to acquire it during normal business hours. I guess you could call that personal growth or something.

Of course it’s not so much growth that’s going to keep me from walking in to the local Apple Store sometime around the end of October and swapping out the 10 for the 11… and another year of renting the latest iPhone. Even if all they did was make the camera even better, it’s worth the price of admission as far as I’m concerned. Even if it’s not also worth the $60 premium to buy my way into the upgrade on release weekend.

A magnificent shitshow…

I don’t know why I’m surprised anymore. The moment something appears to be well in hand and headed for certain success, a butterfly flaps it’s wings in Tokyo and a shit sandwich is served in Aberdeen. 

This isn’t my first rodeo. In fact that is the 5th iteration of this exact rodeo. It’s also a close approximation of other similar rodeos from years in the past. The only theme across them, however, is that at just the moment opening a successful registration website appears on the cusp of happening, something will go horrifyingly wrong.

At least it’s always something new and different that screws the pooch. I’d hate to think with all these years of experience that I’d waste time making the same mistakes. Especially when there’s all the opportunity in the world to make new and far more interesting ones.

I know I’ve always been my own harshest critic. I’m also well aware that sometimes my standards can, at first gloss, seem unreasonable. Still, just one time, I’d like to open one little registration without everything turning into a magnificent shitshow requiring me to explain to the gods on Olympus just how it slide of the rails this time.

Missing the mark…

Online marketing has a long and impressive history of trying to sell people things they don’t really need. With their add on items and overwhelming presence on social media, the “things” are hard to miss most of the time. Some people find targeted advertising intrusive, personally I’m a bit more ambivalent about it. That ambivalence comes largely because of how often Amazon and the other online retailers shoot their shot and get it laughingly wrong.

My all time favorite is still the real estate company in New York City that somehow ended up with me in their target demographic for “people who want to live in New York and have $2.5 million to spend on an apartment.” There’s literally no part of that estimation that they got right, though in their defense I’m sure the apartments they were hawking were very nice.

The add that’s giving me the most current belly laughs is brought to you by Amazon, who seems determined to sell me a “Ember Temperature Control Ceramic Mug, Black.” I like tech as much and in some cases more than the next guy, but I have never sat down with a steam cup of coffee and thought, “You know what I need? I need a battery powered, rechargeable ceramic mug that I can control from my phone.” The idea of needing such a thing has simply never occurred to me. I mean I can melt my face off well enough after an hour or two with coffee traveling in one of my $12 Yeti knock off mugs.

I’m all for the forward march of technology, but paying an extra $67.99 for the added “benefit” of the mug having a battery with a one hour run time feels, well, just a little bit like someone’s trying to solve a problem that no one really has.

Faith in the cloud…

Storing data “in the cloud” is not exactly new. It’s the modern version of mainframes with dumb terminals repackaged to sound somehow more futuristic. For data intensive activities – lets say storing a master backup of my hard drive – having it reside in the cloud (i.e. renting space in someone else’s server farm) works well enough for most purposes.  It just hums along in the background making a faithful copy of everything I have stored on my home computer. The chances of that service and my computer both crapping out at the exact same time are remote enough to not cause a moment’s active worry.

With something like a password manager, though, you end up with a bit of a different story. For five hours today Lastpass, one of a handful of large and popular password managers, was offline. It’s probably not a crisis if you use relatively simple passwords, like 1-2-3-4-A-B-C-D. If you use this kind of service to manage a hundred or more passwords and each of those passwords is a unique 16+ character string, however, life is going to get inconvenient in a hurry if there happen to be sites you actively need to log in to on a daily basis. 

For five hours today Lastpass failed me and I was effectively locked out of sites I use regularly, but that require a daily log in. Some passwords I had to reset manually (while taking note of the new password to sync later with the application that’s nominally in charge of managing my passwords). Others I was locked out of completely while waiting for the systems people to bring their website back online.

No online service will ever have a 100% availability. That goes with the territory. As a paying customer, though, I do expect some basic communication from the company about what’s happening and what is being done to restore services, and more specifically an ETA on when we can expect the repair to be completed. Today, unless you went digging on Twitter, it was a resounding silence from Lastpass. Not an impressive bit of performance… and something that’s got me reevaluating the balance between the security of a paid professional management site versus just keeping everything on a damned spreadsheet so I can use it when I need it. 

All things in Xs…

I’ve been uncharacteristically patient in waiting until reaching (just) my one year anniversary with the iPhone X. The phone is a workhorse that in truth is far more pocket computer/communications device than any average user could ever need. Workhorse though it is, my trusty X is no longer the flagship of Apple’s iPhone fleet.

With my eligibility for an upgrade confirmed, I’ll be off tomorrow to slip by my very favorite retailer and hand off my trusty phone for its slightly newer, sexier younger sibling. Apple was kind enough to email me a confirmation of the order which means it should be a fairly painless visit – well under 10 minutes awash in the great American retail habitat.

I’ll give the marketing and sales department great credit. The know their target audience and continue too come up with new and interesting ways to help us feed the madness. I mean if you can convince me that going to a mall on Saturday is worth doing you should consider a career selling ice in the arctic.

There are some things for which I am willing to gladly suffer the indignity of being inevitably surrounded by people. The Xs just happens to be one of those things. I’ll be very happy to bring her home tomorrow.