Tag Archives: computing

Losing my religion

I’ve finally done it.  After all these years, I’ve decided to walk away from all that I’ve recently come to believe in when communicating with the great unknown. In the words of the song “it’s like losing my religion”. And I’ve lost it.    Yesterday, I divorced the iPhone.

The shock of my decision reverberated through my Facebook and Twitter circles. Expressions of incredulity: how was it possible I could do this and how now… so soon after the passing of St Steve of Jobs?  The answer is simple:  I need a PHONE that meets my needs.

There is an odd group dynamic I’ve found among followers of Apple products that projects a ‘you are either with us or against us’ mentality. I believe this all stems back to that old battle between the Apple Mac and the PC.  I’ve not yet met a user of the Mac that has not wept into (mostly) his beer when forced to admit the overwhelming victory of the PC over the Mac in terms of global commercial success and domination. The Mac is still…to them…the best thing ever invented that most of the world no longer cares about. They may well be right but I’m not a geek and I wouldn’t know but I’ll still take their word for it. Apple-ites, as I’ve started to call them, seem to be adherents to a brand in terms I would recognise as quasi-religious.  A reason I was often given not to ditch my iPhone (as I have threatened to do a number of times before now) was because it was Apple. The Apple brand was behind it and if it was in any way defective, Apple would fix it….but I would be a fool to leave the safety and aura of Appledom.

So what are my reasons for ditching the iPhone?  Well, actually to a large degree that is due less to Apple’s shortcomings but to their success in the form of the iPad.  This is my most prized piece of technology yet since its arrival at Maison Penwald, the need for all the benefits of the iPhone over and above telephony simply dissipated. iPad goes with me everywhere and while it does, there is no need for iPhone except to make a call if I need to.   I have hardly used any of the dozens of apps I have on iPhone since its big brother came along.

So, take away all the apps…what good is iPhone?   A music player? Yes true, but iPad does that and so does iTouch and Nano (both of which I have lying around plus an iPhone 3G somewhere). A camera? iPad takes far better pictures than iPhone with faster editing and sharing processes. A telephone then?   Ah yes and so to the main reason I’m ditching the iPhone. It is by far the worst of all phones of any kind I have ever owned full stop.  I’ve had 2 iPhone 4’s. One got stolen so I got a replacement on insurance. Both were as duff as each other. Both had poor reception, one I had to get a special cover for to aid reception as the way it had been designed meant holding it made it lose reception.  They both dropped out of service in mid-call so often.  There are numerous other niggles which in themselves are not huge in the scheme of things, but when iPad has taken away the previously only advantage iPhone had over any phone…then why settle for a substandard phone?

I’m shopping around at the moment contemplating the Samsung Galaxy 3, possibly Nokia, the one time global overlord of mobile telephony, or HTC.  All will deliver a better phone service.   Now it may well be that the iPhone 5, which ridiculous people have been camping out in front of Apple stores for days to buy, may have improved telephony but here’s the 3rd reason why I’m not going to bother: the shine is coming off the Apple brand fairly fast. To be expected in a way as the bigger you get, the more your failings are scrutinised.  The last string of Apple product launches that I’ve seen have been flawed: over-heating products, poor telephony,  bugs, glitches and just now the huge flaws in Apples new mapping app that has reverberated around the world with howls of derision from the media and fury from Apple users.  Fortunately, I have not updated my products with the new iOS6 software. My golden rule with Apple now is not to be a ‘first adopter’ but to wait until Apple get it right. True, they have the capability to issue fixes and updates any time, but hardly a Rolls Royce performance.

While I am less enamoured with Apple, I would not throw out the baby with the bath water either. There is no doubt that Apple has revolutionised the way we live and iPhone gave a kick up the mobile telephone market’s backside that it needed. But it isn’t perfect and it isn’t the only kid on the block and I’m no longer of a mind that you have when you are an Apple-ite…that to leave the brand is betrayal or to step into the uncool. I’m just thinking about what I actually need from a phone and not what parallel universes it might seek to offer me that others can too but with better phone service.   I may well return to iPhone in the future but for now, it will be nice to go to work on the Tube and have a phone that meets my needs and not necessarily one everyone else in the carriage is playing with…




Cyber violated twice in one day.

It could have been in Mumbai, Bangalore, Jaipur, Chenai or any other of India’s burgeoning ‘silicone cities’. For at least 2 hours today I handed over screen and keyboard control of my Laptop to someone I have never met or spoken to called ‘Siva’ who lives in India…

That’s right:- my personal Laptop complete with my 4 private email accounts, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, iTunes, Tesco Direct, this Blog, PornULike……

(Kidding. I don’t shop at Tesco)

Why am I blogging about this?  Well I guess it was because of the weird feeling I had today of being voluntarily violated in my most personal space not once but twice in one day.  I’m still reeling from it actually, even though I now have a very healthy and fast and secure Laptop.

It all started when I felt my internet speed at home had slowed.  I’m a Virgin Media customer and they are known and proven to (so far) have the fastest broadband speeds in the UK. They have just been running a saturation level national ad campaign announcing they are boosting broadband speeds even faster.  Imagine my ire then as I can feel mine slowing.

So I go to the online help centre. It’s pretty easy to use. I look up and try some diagnostics.  Then I also note that I can ‘chat’ to a Technical Advisor – a sort of online PC Doctor and get some more advice. So I log in…and meet ‘Siva’.  Before I could ‘chat’ to Siva, I had to download the Virgin Digital Home Help app which not only enabled me to talk to Siva, but also run a ‘health’ diagnostic on my Laptop. I run it. Prognosis: not good. Virgin says I have no anti-virus protection.  But i DO. I have a fully activated McAfee account. I run a McAfee check. Green lights all round.    So how come Siva?

“Hello, I’m Siva your technical Advisor today. How can I help you?” He greets me. “I can run a complete diagnostic on your PC, clean it up and get it running faster for you and also find out why we are picking up that you have no anti-virus protection”. 

“You can?  Ummm…..ok. Wait a minute…I have no anti-virus protection???”

“There is a charge for this and we can add that to your next monthly bill. Are you authorizing me to go ahead?”

“Errm…..OK. Yes.”

“Great! in order to run the diagnostic and clean up your PC I will need to take control of it. Do I have your permission?”

Thoughts flash by.  Take over my PC? As in have a stranger peer into the very secret part of me?  My thoughts, my most recent Facebook posts…even worse my Twitter posts!  Emails in and out Things I have just bought….my payment card details for crying out loud?

“Ok. Yes”

From that moment, Siva was in control. I watched my screen lying on my bed in London while Siva took control of my most personal space from somewhere in India. I took my hands off the steering wheel and watched the cursor fly around the screen as he and not I dictated.  I watched  as he opened up programmes I never knew were there. I had already given him permission to delete anything he saw that might be a security threat to my PC or my personal details.   For nigh on 2 hours I watched his progress. Saw him open files, unclick stuff, delete stuff, refine stuff – all with my permission and all the time he was doing it I could activate the chat box to ask him stuff. OK, yes I could have been doing other things in those 2 hours as Siva suggested. But come on, a stranger in Mumbangalore is roaming around my PC at will? One thing I never saw him do was open Facebook, or Twitter, or email…

There were some impressive security measures in place covering me.  Before the diagnostic session started, Virgin Media told me that by default all such sessions were recorded to protect my privacy…so in other words, Siva’s bosses were watching him and what he was looking at on my computer. The other was that, well, I was watching Siva. I saw every move he made. I didn’t need to. I could have left him to get on with it as he suggested. I could have come back to a finished diagnostic with a summary report in the chat window an hour or 4 later and he did tell me it could take as long as that.

Of course I did not leave the screen for a minute.  My PC and all in it in the hands of a stranger?  I was impressed with what I saw and as I watched him navigate around my PC I found myself learning stuff that I afterwards went back and looked at again.

So the outcome.  A trimmer, faster, de-bugged PC but one that also revealed a problem with my McAfee security that I know I might never have otherwise discovered.  McAfee was not covering me in real-time scanning even though on my PC it was showing I was secure. There was a fault in the McAfee app on my PC

Siva completed his diagnostic and, having alerted me to the McAfee issue, even left the chat session by putting on my screen the page I needed to take the issue up with McAfee.   I clicked on the link and followed things through to……another remote online technician.

“Hello, this is Arjun. I am your technical support assistant for McAfree today. How can I help you?”

I explain the situation.

“Great! in order to run the diagnostic and clean up your PC I will need to take control of it. Do I have your permission?”

Oh yes, I kept a watch on Arjun too (at no cost), though thankfully for a much shorter time but after my session with Siva I was empowered to quiz Arjun when he told me my PC was protected when Siva had told me it was not. I ended up leading Arjun on screen  to the areas Siva told me I needed to alert him to. Once Arjun saw what I was showing him, he immediately initiated a fix, told me I needed to restart my PC and then what to do once I restarted it.

So I now have a smarter, faster and above all totally protected Laptop now.  Was it worth the extra £60 on my next Virgin Media bill?    For me yes. I’m among the IT illiterate mass millions of the world who are increasingly becoming dependent on digital media to live our lives but who have no idea how to maintain of fix it. There’s no car manual for us…only guys like Siva and Arjun who I don’t know and don’t trust but working under the Virgin and McAfee brands that I do trust. None of it is fool-proof as this post reveals but it’s all we, the IT ignorant, have to help us live our lives in this Digital Age…

(Until some rancid, spotty 13-year-old in his bedroom decides to take us all down in a hissy fit over some girl who rejected him because he’s a greasy, spotty jonny-no-mates and so hacks down the world wide web).