Trust the lion: the Brave browser

It’s been a while since I talked about browsers. Those who have known me for a long time will remember how I’ve always liked to try new browsers and never limited myself to using just one. Given how I usually keep a fair amount of browser tabs open all the time — to access frequently-used resources, and as a buffer for stuff I plan to read later — it’s just unfeasible to use just one browser. For the past several years my multiple browser setup has involved a main browser (Safari, unquestionably), and usually two, sometimes even three, secondary ones.

My preferences for these secondary browsers have changed with time. When I used PowerPC Macs as main machines, Camino and Stainless would be my choices other than Safari. When I decided to remove Flash from my system, the secondary browser would become Chrome because it incorporates a Flash plug-in, and I would resort to Chrome to access those websites requiring Flash to work. Then in recent years, when 99% of the sites I visit either don’t use Flash anymore, or serve HTML5 content, I’ve basically stopped using Chrome. Meanwhile, Firefox and Opera have been getting better and better: faster, leaner, less resource-hungry, less memory-leaky, less bloated, generally way more pleasant to use than in the past. And so, for a relatively long period of time, my browser trinity has been Safari, Firefox and Opera. Another browser I tried for a while was Sleipnir, but, while I appreciate the software, its user interface never really clicked for me. I left Opera behind when Vivaldi came out. And just when I started getting accustomed to Vivaldi, I discovered Brave.

In this age of invasive Web advertising and tracking, I find Brave to be a great resource to browse faster, safer, and better. I know it sounds like a slogan, but it’s true. Ads and trackers get automatically blocked when you browse with Brave, and as you imagine this has a very positive impact on performance (and energy consumption if you’re using a laptop). But Brave also wants to help publishers and content providers with Brave Payments, a micropayment system where

Readers may choose a monthly contribution amount which is divided among the publisher sites they visit most. […] Once a user enables Brave Payments, the Brave browser automatically and anonymously keeps track of the publisher sites each user visits. The more times that a user visits a site, the larger the proportion of the user’s monthly contribution is “ear-marked” for that publisher. These funds grow as new micropayments are added.

Check out the above-linked Brave Payments page for more information on how to become an official partner of Brave. I think it’s a great idea, and I’m considering becoming one myself. In my case the problem is that I don’t update my blog really frequently; it’s what one would call a ‘slow feed’, so it’s unlikely that it would make the top list of a visitor’s ‘most frequented’ sites… Oh well, never say never, right?

Brave is open source, and available for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android. (See the Downloads page).

Really, just take a tour of the Brave website for all the information about what Brave does and why it’s faster and safer to use it for browsing. Everything you need to know is explained clearly and to the point. My experience so far on the Mac has been great. The interface and application chrome are minimal and let you concentrate on the content. Very occasionally I’ve noticed some intermittent spikes in CPU usage, but most of the times it was the website’s fault. Lots of ad-ridden tech sites load noticeably faster. To achieve a similar performance on Safari, I had to install specific blockers like AdBlock, Ghostery, and more importantly Better by Ind.ie, which I truly recommend.

Brave on iOS

I saved what I consider the best bit for last, though. If you, like me, still own and use older iOS devices with 32-bit CPU architecture, you’ll know that unfortunately they don’t support the Safari content blocking feature Apple introduced in iOS 9. As I wrote previously:

I’ve always found this limitation quite irritating because — as I often stated — this is the kind of feature that would be especially helpful on older devices. A lot of today’s websites are so littered with ads and all kinds of unrelated, superfluous content that loading them becomes unnecessarily cumbersome and resource- and battery-draining. On older devices the issue is exacerbated: my iPad 3, which is still a good performer overall, becomes very sluggish on certain ad-heavy websites.

Well, rejoice, because the ad- and tracker-blocking features in Brave for iOS do indeed work with older devices — well, relatively older, as its minimum requirement is iOS 9.0. I still haven’t tried it on my wife’s iPad 2, but on my iPad 3 Brave appears to achieve the best browser performance so far. Ads and trackers are effectively blocked, and with an iOS device of that vintage, you really notice the difference in loading speeds and responsiveness. On my iPhone 5 it’s even better.

In the first empty tab when you launch Brave, and whenever you open a new tab, the browser shows a few default shortcuts for sites people frequently visit; as you keep using Brave, the shortcuts of the sites you visit more often will start appearing next to those. Above the shortcuts, Brave displays a few statistics:

Brave iOS

This is Brave five minutes after using it for the first time and visiting just three pages of The A.V. Club website: 47 ads blocked, 91 trackers blocked. Macworld’s home page on the Mac loads in 3.43 seconds, while on my iPad 3 it takes a bit longer, about 6 seconds — which is still great, considering that on Safari it takes no less than 18-20 seconds before the site fully loads and can be navigated.

When you visit a site, tapping the Brave logo in the toolbar shows you the Site shield settings, where you can fine-tune what you want to block:

Brave iOS shield

To sum up, Brave appears to be a very promising browser and project; it’s been around for a couple of years now, but I’ve found it to be more mature and reliable since late 2016. For the past seven months I’ve been using only Safari and Brave on my Mac, and it has become my go-to browser on my older iOS devices because, as far as I know, it seems to be the only browser with effective ad-blocking and tracker-blocking capabilities for 32-bit iOS devices. Check it out if you haven’t already, or if you did when it was still in a very beta stage and disappointed you. You may be surprised.

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iPad mini and uncertain differentiation

Yesterday I learnt — via this post on Michael Tsai’s blog — that the iPad mini has basically reached the end of the line.

My first reactions are in line with Tsai and Nick Heer’s. Tsai writes:

That’s a shame. Maybe the iPad mini hasn’t been selling well because it’s been neglected. The full-size iPad is too big and heavy for my liking. I’ve actually been hoping for a smaller and lighter iPad mini, more like a Kindle. As a fan of the iPhone SE, the fact that Apple sells a 5.5-inch phone does nothing to help my tablet needs. I don’t want a big phone, or a second phone. If they had a 5.5–6.5-inch iPod touch, that could be interesting, though it wouldn’t be able to run true iPad apps.

Heer writes:

I’ll miss the Mini, though. Quite apart from size, the weight difference between the Mini and the 9.7-inch iPad makes the smaller model so much nicer to hold with one hand. The Mini also has the highest-density display that ships in any iPad which, combined with the weight and size, makes it perfect for reading.

(Emphasis mine in both quotes)

I’ve never been the target audience for a small-size iPad, not because I’m one of those people who prefer to have just one big iPhone for everything; rather, I’m among those who greatly prefer the combination of a small iPhone and a regular 9.7-inch iPad. I also believe this combination — although being more expensive to maintain — is the one that delivers the best phone and tablet experience. The phone (with the iPhone 5/5s/SE form factor) has a big-enough screen, is easily pocketable, and can still be used comfortably with one hand. Using a tablet instead of an oversized phone has the advantage of apps with optimised UI, apps and games that are way more convenient and enjoyable on a tablet’s bigger screen, and why not, better battery life among other things.

But this doesn’t mean a device like the iPad mini doesn’t make sense. Not everybody likes the ‘one big iPhone fits all’ solution, and not everybody necessarily likes big iPads to use along with their smaller iPhones either. The current iPad mini 4 is a powerful device in a small package, and I think it’s perfect for people who, like Tsai and Heer, like a lightweight tablet that can be easily held one-handed, and like using it especially for reading, as if it were a kind of Kindle on steroids. Perhaps if Apple had taken the opportunity to better highlight what a great combination the iBooks Store and the iPad mini make, that could have driven more iPad mini sales. Perhaps if Apple had introduced the first iPad mini with a retina display already, more people would have found it a more attractive proposition from the start. There was a moment where I did believe the iPad mini could be a serious competitor to Amazon’s Kindle. It’s a pity Apple didn’t share the same belief.

In general, I think the iPad mini is a victim of a process I like to call uncertain differentiation. To speak plainly, I believe that when Apple started introducing different sizes in the iPad product line, they created a bit of a mess, bewildering customers and possibly diluting the success of the iPad. I call it uncertain differentiation because it’s not that introducing iPads in different sizes was a bad idea per se; it wasn’t. The bad idea has been not creating compelling-enough cases for the various iPad formats. The iPad mini: smaller and lighter than a regular iPad and… that’s it. That was the pitch. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro: bigger screen, more powerful hardware than a regular iPad… Okay, and it also supports the Pencil and can do some ‘pro’ things. That’s basically it. Not differentiated enough (software-wise) to justify the creation of a ‘pro’ line.

Over the years, from what I have observed, customers have responded rather clearly, despite Apple’s involuntary attempts at bewildering them — the original 9.7-inch is still the preferred size. The iPad mini and the big iPad Pro haven’t been compelling enough, for different reasons. And since customers love the 9.7-inch size, let’s create a bit of interference by having a 9.7-inch ‘pro’ and ‘non-pro’ iPads, another example of bland, uncertain differentiation. And since the 5th-generation iPad is proving to be a success, let’s see if we can differentiate a bit more by (according to rumours) planning to introduce “a redesigned iPad Pro to be launched this summer that should offer everything the current 9.7-inch iPad features, but in a smaller footprint with a larger 10.5-inch display.”

Perhaps I’m speaking out of cynicism, but to me this whole post-Jobs iPad strategy feels too much like a “let’s throw different ideas and see what sticks” approach. Nick Heer observes:

Geller also mentions that the 9.7-inch iPad Pro is being replaced this summer with a 10.5-inch model, a rumour which has been corroborated by multiple websites. However, no report I’ve seen yet mentions the 12.9-inch Pro, and that doesn’t make any sense to me: the 9.7-inch Pro was introduced more recently than its larger sibling and has features that the bigger model still doesn’t, like a True Tone display and higher-quality cameras. It would surprise me if Apple updated the 9.7-inch Pro first, or didn’t make a meaningful upgrade to the 12.9-inch model at the same time — yet, I haven’t seen a single rumour about the big iPad Pro. Very peculiar.

My thoughts exactly. I happen to love the 12.9-inch form factor, and if I could afford it, I’d upgrade from my old iPad 3 in a heartbeat. I really hope Apple is planning to revitalise the big iPad Pro through the addition of specific features and differentiating capabilities in iOS 11. I’d hate to see the 12.9-inch iPad Pro ending up like the mini — a withered branch of the iPad tree — just because Apple wasn’t able to convincingly push it, thus squandering its potential. I know, it’s a trite exercise, but sometimes I wonder how would Jobs have handled the iPad evolution. My guess is that the iPad lineup would be simpler, with less differentiation in nomenclature, and more differentiation in actual features and capabilities.

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Damage: other factors

These past few days, I’ve seen many sources point to Damage, an article written by Matt Gemmell analysing the causes that have brought most damage “to the perceived value of software and the sustainability of being an independent developer”.

The subject of Gemmell’s main focus is, unsurprisingly, Apple. The gist of his criticism, if I got that right, is that Apple has structured the (iOS) App Store in a way that has facilitated the so-called ‘race to the bottom’ in app pricing, and that, in turn, has made things difficult for indie developers who want to make a living by selling their software on the (iOS) App Store. I find Gemmell’s analysis to be compelling, but I think the picture he paints isn’t complete; that there are other factors to be considered as well.

When the App Store debuted in 2008, a lot of the apps that were made available at the time came from two types of developers:

  1. Big companies that could afford to provide apps for free or for very low prices. Examples include eBay, Amazon, AOL, Facebook, Google, Yelp, PopCap Games (developer of Bejeweled, and a subsidiary of Electronic Arts), Griffin Technologies (remember iTalk Recorder?), etc. Most news apps (USA Today, ABC News, NYTimes, AP Mobile News, NPR Mobile, et al.) were provided free because in most cases the provider made money from readers’ subscriptions.
  2. Amateur developers/hobbyists, offering average-to-low-quality apps (and/or poor copies of more popular apps), usually at very low prices. For these people, developing apps has never been their main or sole source of income, therefore they could afford to publish throwaway 99-cent apps and games because they basically had very little to lose.

The first iPhone OS interface and visuals were a clear derivation of Mac OS X Dashboard‘s widgets. The idea behind such widgets was to offer very simple single-purpose quick-access utilities to extend the functionality of the Mac operating system. In the classic Mac OS days we had desk accessories, which are the ancestors of Dashboard widgets. Desk accessories before, and widgets afterwards, were always considered simpler, lesser versions of regular software applications. When the iPhone was introduced, most of the accompanying first-party apps looked quite similar to many of the default Dashboard widgets Apple provided for Mac OS X. The public was quick to view iPhone apps as widgets, i.e. simpler, lesser versions of regular software applications. The brief pre-App Store period when Apple promoted the creation of Web apps for the iPhone, and later the early offering of so many low-cost and free apps from third parties, strongly reinforced this idea in the eyes of most consumers; that these apps were simply low-value additions designed to extend their iPhone’s functionality. ‘Mobile apps’ were not viewed as regular software packages, but something smaller, lighter, etc. This, in turn, didn’t justify having to pay for these little apps more than one or two dollars.

With this kind of prejudiced perspective, educating consumers on the true value of software, especially iOS software, has been a road uphill since the beginning of the App Store. Gemmell is right in pointing out the aspects of the App Store structure and design that have, directly or indirectly, contributed to affect the perceived value of software and the sustainability of being an indie developer. But his analysis (in my eyes, at least) reads as if it was Apple’s intrinsic design of the App Store to drive the pricing race to the bottom and in turn ruin indie developer’s lives. I concede it may have been one of the main factors, but I also posit that most consumers considered iPhone apps as little more than throwaway widgets right from the start, and the early availability of so many apps for free or very low prices, mostly produced by entities with little or nothing to lose, helped cement that assumption.

Apple didn’t prevent developers from pricing their iOS apps in the $10-30 range (the most popular for indie Mac software); Apple didn’t prevent a developer from releasing a paid update by pulling the previous version and releasing a paid 2.0 version as separate app. The biggest obstacle was the consumers’ early preconception that phone apps are worth less than traditional computer apps. By contrast, the Mac App Store may be “nigh-abandoned” by Apple, but its structure isn’t that much different from the iOS App Store. And while today the Mac App Store is full of small, single-purpose utilities that are sold at very low prices, you’ll also find a lot of more sophisticated apps (and games) that command much higher prices, and you’ll find them with more frequency than in the iOS App Store. This is the Mac App Store main page I’m seeing right now (click to enlarge):

Mac App Store 2017 05 08

There are 16 apps featured in the ‘New Apps’ category. Only 5 are free. Of the remaining 11 paid apps, the only ‘cheap’ one is Tomates, at €3.49 (which would be considered ‘expensive’ in the iOS App Store). As for the others, we see medium-range pricing for two apps (€7.99 and €10.99), one that is priced at more than €15, and seven that cost more than €25, with games like F1 2016 and Total War: Warhammer costing more than €49.

Apple may have concentrated more on the iOS App Store, but I don’t see a direct correlation between Apple’s involvement and app pricing. I don’t think that, if Apple had given the same amount of attention to the Mac App Store as they did to the iOS App Store, we would have witnessed a similar pricing race to the bottom for Mac software and games.

True, there is now a part of the consumer base that has grown so accustomed to the low price of so many iOS and Android apps as to expect lower prices for traditional computer software as well, but for the most part, from what I can see, a lot of regular people still tend to give more value to computer applications than to apps made for mobile devices. As I said before, this is a tough preconception to dismantle; and as I wrote previously, I believe tech writers and reviewers should do their best to educate people on the real value of those many ‘little’ apps that enrich their experience with smartphones and tablets. But is Apple the main offender in creating this toxic culture of undervalued software that’s becoming more and more unsustainable to develop and maintain for indie developers? Perhaps it is. Perhaps Apple should have been more proactive in creating certain safeguards and more developer-friendly features. But the damage is old, the consumers’ bad habits are ingrained, and the whole picture is more nuanced and complicated than that.

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Trusting Apple’s services

I read with interest Ryan Christoffel’s article on MacStories about Apple’s services. His stance is that it’s time to revise their poor reputation, because in recent times they’ve actually been better and more reliable than they used to be.

You can draw your own conclusions from this story, but mine is that Apple’s services get a bad rap they generally don’t deserve; the company’s reputation for not doing services well is outdated. Are things perfect? Of course not. But they’re a lot better than the common narrative says.

Nick Heer comments:

I don’t blame anyone for their skepticism of Apple’s cloud services offerings; for a very long time, these services were entirely deserving of their lacklustre reputation. Next to Google’s established and reliable offerings, Apple was playing a fast game of catch-up in public, and it showed. Despite their presently-good state, however, I get a wary look whenever I recommend many of Apple’s services to someone who asks. A lot of people have been burned before by bad experiences with Maps or iTunes, and are reluctant to trust in more Apple services.

In the past, I had occasional issues with Apple’s services, but nothing terribly catastrophic. I remember I was not thrilled by iPhoto losing a few dozens pictures back when I tried switching to it. And I lost several emails when I was a .Mac subscriber due to what Apple support described to me at the time as a ‘server glitch’. (On the flip side, quite interestingly, I’ve been one of the few who had absolutely zero issues with MobileMe — no data loss whatsoever, no sync-related disasters, nothing). What happened, however, was that right in the early days of Apple’s cloud services, I used to do a lot of freelance consulting and tech assistance. And while nothing terribly catastrophic has ever happened to me as a user, I’ve seen plenty of catastrophes happening to many of my clients back then. Enough to make me quite sceptical of the reliability of Apple’s services in general.

As a consequence, I’ve never gone all-in on Apple’s services like Christoffel and Heer have. There are services I don’t use because I simply don’t need and never needed them: iCloud Calendar syncing, iCloud Photo Library / Photo Sharing, and Reminders, to make just a few examples off the top of my head. I also don’t have an Apple TV and don’t find it appealing enough to add it to my Apple ecosystem.

Then there are services I don’t use because I find third-party solutions to be better implemented or more reliable:

  • Instead of iCloud Drive, I’m better served by Dropbox and Box.
  • I only use Notes.app on the iPhone for very brief notes I need to check locally, so I ignore the sync capabilities completely. My notes’ synchronisation system revolves around Simplenote and Notational Velocity, and it’s been very reliable over the years.
  • I use Google Maps instead of Apple Maps: my experience is very much similar to Michael Tsai’s. Where I live, Google Maps is basically flawless when it comes to displaying updated, correct information. The same cannot be said of Apple Maps: there are still instances where if I don’t type an address in the exact form Apple Maps expects me to, I will be directed to a similar address in a completely different city.
  • I’m an early-adopter Spotify premium customer. Spotify has served and continues to serve me very well, so I have no reason to switch to Apple Music. I briefly tried it on iOS and was utterly underwhelmed by the experience. And considering how many iTunes libraries have been screwed up by Apple Music, I never activated it on iTunes on the Mac.

Then there are services I’ve tried to use and warm up to — like Siri and iMessage — but:

  • Siri is still a hit-or-miss gimmick for me, and as Nick Heer aptly remarked, “remains painfully obtuse when it comes to following context”. I’m fluent in three languages, so believe me when I tell you I tried communicating with Siri in more than one way. The result is that Siri is useless to me because a) its responses are unpredictable; great when they work, a waste of time and patience when they don’t, and b) it’s still not fast and responsive enough to make me prefer using voice commands over simply tapping or typing my requests.
  • There’s nothing wrong with iMessage, but with my small circle of family and friends, the preferred apps to exchange messages are Telegram and Signal. The last additions to ‘spice up’ iMessage have had the opposite effect on me, and I’m now even less interested in using it.

I don’t use Apple News for the simple reason that it’s still not available in my country.

I don’t use Apple Pay for the simple reason that none of my current Apple devices support it.

In the end, the few services I do use and can’t complain about are:

  • Safari’s Reading List and iCloud tabs: very reliable, very handy.
  • iCloud Mail: never a problem (apart from the aforementioned loss of emails circa 2005).
  • Contacts syncing: it has always worked fine for me (not that I have tons of information to sync anyway).
  • App Store: overall the experience is positive. Sometimes it’s buggy on the Mac, and for mysterious reasons updating apps on my iPad 3 with iOS 9.3.5 has become a painful process, with the device often hanging (especially when updating multiple apps at a time) and needing a force-reboot.
  • iTunes: yes, iTunes. Perhaps surprisingly, I’ve never had issues with iTunes, but that’s because I’ve always taken maniacal care of it. I use it mainly to listen to my local music library, and I do the occasional syncing and backup of older iOS devices and iPods. Always with cables.

iCloud has indeed got better over time, but perhaps the main reason that’s still keeping me from going all-in with it is that the service is too out-of-the-way, too invisible to the user, while I require a certain degree of transparency from a service that’s supposed to sync a lot of my files and information over the air. Yes, it’s nice that iCloud feels like magic when everything works. The problem is that ‘magic’ becomes ‘black box’ when something doesn’t work. With other cloud services, like Dropbox, Box, Cloud.app, I often have some kind of feedback when they’re doing stuff behind the scenes. They have interfaces that, while not perfect, are good enough in displaying what’s going on, what’s changed, what has been updated. iCloud doesn’t — or at least that’s my impression. Worse, iCloud can at times be confusing and unreliable in handling important information.

I’m in a bit of a weird position: on the one hand, I trust Apple much more than many other tech companies, mostly thanks to their position on customer privacy; on the other hand I’m still reluctant to completely let go when it comes to trusting Apple’s services in full. I’m certainly not the only one, though. I think that Apple’s problem in getting people to trust its services — or winning back the trust of long-time users — is that even positive experiences from people heavily relying on Apple’s services feel anecdotal, and those people come across as ‘lucky’. With this kind of perception, reversing a reputation is always hard.

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The move, part 2: 18 days without Internet

These past weeks I’ve been more silent than I wanted. Yes, as you probably imagined, a move takes a lot of your time: there’s the part when you have to look for a new apartment; the part when you go and visit several possible candidates; the part when you start packing your stuff (which overlaps with the search, of course); the part when you begin moving stuff to the new place (we took a ‘slow and steady’ approach for this, making one or two trips per day over a period of three weeks and a half); the part when you finally start unpacking and ‘rebuilding’ your spaces in the new place; and then of course the least fun part — dealing with all the bureaucracy related to a change of residence.

This last aspect includes transferring our phone landline and Internet services from the old address to the new one. Given that the last Internet package update from our ISP included the purchase of the router (as opposed to its rental), switching the service from the old apartment to the new one — where the necessary hardware and cabling from the same ISP is already present, mind you — should have just been a matter of plugging the router in, notifying the ISP of the change of address, requesting a rerouting of the services and waiting for that ‘Online’ LED light on the router to finally stop blinking. In a reasonable (not even ideal) world, that would take 48 hours tops. In reality, it’s taking more than two weeks, dozens of calls to the ISP’s customer service, and the final solution of actually changing ISP to be hopefully back online next Tuesday or Wednesday. We never had problems with this provider in 12 years (it was ONO before, and Vodafone/ONO now), but our experience has certainly affected this provider’s credibility and reliability in our eyes.

A few highlights of this little saga of cluelessness and customer-care-or-lack-thereof:

  • When we first called to request the phone line and Internet service transfer, on 27 March, the ISP’s Pawn №1 told us they would send a technician at the new address on 31 March, between 4 and 7 PM. No one came.
  • When we called a second time, Pawn №2 told us that no, no technician was necessary, because since we have our own router and there’s already an installation in place, ours is simply an ‘auto-installation’, and we should have Internet in 48 hours, tops. Just plug everything in and wait. Days passed, nothing happened. Maybe Pawn №2 meant we should wait for Godot?
  • We called many more times, and talked to other Pawns (some more difficult to understand than others — certain South American accents are hard to understand if you’re accustomed to European Spanish) but for a while the song appeared to remain the same: ‘You should have Internet in n hours’ (where n was a number ranging from 3 to 48). Of course, nothing happened.
  • One night, just for kicks, I tried calling our phone landline from my iPhone. I thought, If there’s a transfer in progress, surely they’ll have temporarily deactivated the line, and I’ll get an alert when I try calling my home number. What I got, instead, was the sound of a phone ringing without answer. Around 12 April, Pawn №10 (or something, I was already losing count), told us that in fact our line and services were still active at the old address, and that there was some unspecified ‘technical failure’ preventing the switch from one installation to the other.
  • What Pawn №10 told us reminded me of what another Pawn said some calls before: that there was a ‘conflict of orders’ (‘send a technician’ and ‘auto-installation’) preventing things from progressing.
  • Basically, every Pawn we have been speaking with has either told us a different thing from the previous Pawn, or failed to mention things another Pawn had told us, or made promises he/she clearly could not deliver. The overall impression has been that we’ve been fed an appreciable amount of bullshit. Generated more by incompetence rather than malice I’m sure, but sadly with the same outcome: no services, and nothing done. Even the visit to an actual brick-and-mortar shop was ineffectual. Pawn №12 (or something) told us that usually such a transfer “isn’t a quick process” (I wonder why, though. Is there some plumbing involved? Do several workers have to physically push the data to the new location? Who knows), and that everything was proceeding correctly. “Things should be in motion by tomorrow. I’ll personally check the situation and send you a message. I’ll personally try and speed up things,” she said. We received no message and nothing happened, of course. The only thing that got moved around was some more bullshit.
  • So we decided to ask for a complete cancellation of all services, and of course the ‘customer care’ tactics came into gear. Calls got longer, my wife got transferred and bounced from one department to another, every time having to identifying herself to yet another Pawn and explain the reasons why we were asking for a cancellation. Some Pawns said that at this stage a cancellation was not possible because there was a ‘service transfer pending’, while another Pawn appeared to proceed with the cancellation without asking questions.
  • When we decided this was frankly enough, we went to another ISP (Movistar) and asked for a complete number/service portability. Let the two providers sort things out between themselves. As soon as we signed the new contract, my wife started receiving calls and messages with the usual, shameless offers (“We’ll give you our firstborn, a huge discount, and a new phone if you stay with us!”). Meanwhile we also received the bill charging us for the whole month of April; because, you know, both the phone line and Internet service are still active — or “pending a service transfer” maybe, or… whatever — at the old address.
  • The award for Most Moronic Behaviour and Customer Carelessness must go to Pawn №15 (or something, I lost count). She asked my wife why we wanted to cancel everything. My wife — understandably fed up with all this — bitterly answered: “Are you really interested in knowing why?” This seemed to upset the Pawn, who replied: “Of course! It’s my job to care about these things!” My wife then, with the patience of a saint, started recounting our misadventures… and the Pawn hung up on her. No comment.

Since I need some Internet connectivity for work, I’ve been using my iPhone as a personal hotspot these days, but in less than 10 days I’ve already consumed 97% of the data allowed by my mobile provider’s data plan. I thought speed would simply be reduced after I reached the limit, but an alert from the provider said that they charge for all traffic in excess instead of reducing speed. My readers know that I’m all for disconnecting every now and then and lead a less Internet-dependent life, but being disconnected not by choice is a whole other matter. These 18 days (so far) without Internet at home have had a serious impact in different ways, and this matter is actually starting to cost us money, not just time lost and a bad mood.

I really miss writing, updating this place more frequently, and generally being more present socially online. I also have several (tech- and fiction-related) projects on hold due to the combination of this move and being without Internet at home. I’ve basically ‘lost’ three months of 2017, and I look forward to the ending of this kind of unwelcome disruption in my routines and tech life. Meanwhile, thank you for your patience and understanding, and a huge thank you to all those who have been supportive during this unpleasant period.

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