This weekend I’m off seeing friends Oop Norf, and because of working from home, opted for the easier option, leaving home early, stopping off at a services most of the way to where I’ll be, and working from there for a few hours.

It actually worked out pretty well – surprisingly so, in some ways – and meant I didn’t get stuck in tons of shitty traffic.

The surprising bit was that where I stopped, up at Hartshead Moor services, my phone had a full 4G data service – surprising, because Hartshead is pretty much the bum-end of nowhere. But still, 4G.   That meant I could connect from laptop to iPhone using WiFi, which then gave me data via 4G, without having to pay a penny to the on-site extortionists of BTOpenzone et al.

That, to me, is a complete win. I’ve got unlimited 4G data through my phone contract (I know, it’ll still have a ‘fair-use’ limitation or whatever, but I’m well within that anyway) so it’s saved me the money of a connection through BTOpenzone, and won’t even hit my phone bill.

There are some bits of this modern life that I really quite like…

Equipment Failure

Don’t worry, this isn’t another post about the joys and pitfalls of getting older…

No, instead it’s about technology, and why the bastard stuff all ends up failing at the same time.

First of all, this post is being written on a new laptop – which I really could’ve done without having to get, but needs must when the devil drives (and/or you’re a web techie and wannabe-writer).  The old Dell laptop – which it turns out I bought back in September 2009, so I shouldn’t whine so much, I guess – had been getting flakier over the last six months, but I’ve been eking out the life of it since then, suffering the occasional (and then more regular) hard-drive crash, and the ropy keyboard with some keys that only worked intermittently.

This week though it’s been crashing every time it was in use, and was obviously getting to the point where I needed to a) pull all the relevant data off it like NOW, and b) replace it with something else. And with a trip up to Manchester this week where I’m *really* going to need a reliable laptop, this was the weekend for it.

So I’ve bitten the bullet somewhat, and the new one is a (dirt-cheap) Asus thing, running the already-much-disliked Windows 8. To be fair to Windows 8, the old laptop was on the much-loathed Vista, which I never really found all that annoying. Eight annoys me more so far, but I’ll get used to it.

The other two equipment failures are both iPhone related, allbeit power-related rather than device-related. (Although I did think one of them might’ve been the phone being fucked, which was a real worry)  First the Mophie battery case has failed. Again. (More accurately, the cable/charger for it, which will no longer charge) I love the Mophie cases, but they do seem to be somewhat crap, and only last about a year. And then the normal iPhone charge/sync cable also went kerfut and wouldn’t charge the phone.  So I’ve had to get a new cable for that as well – considerably less expensive than the laptop purchase, but still, why all at the same time?

Oh yeah, and the fridge in the house also played up this week, with one day where it didn’t appear to be working all that well. Fortunately it’s now back up and running.

But why the hell would four things, two fairly major, all decide to kiff out within the same week? Weird things, I tell thee, weird things.

Counterfeits, and Real Refunds

Back in March when I got the iPhone upgrade, I ordered a new Mophie Juice Pack Plus battery pack – I’d had one for the old iPhone, and really liked it. Plus it has the nice side-effect of doubling the battery life of the phone.

I bought the pack – me being me, the purple one – via Amazon (as I usually do)

Over this weekend, it stopped charging, and is basically broke and fucked. Not impressed. It was past the 90-day period on Amazon, so I contacted Mophie direct to ask what could be done.

I got a reply the next day, asking for the normal sort of thing – receipt, serial number etc., which got supplied.

Then yesterday they sent an email, saying that the battery pack I’ve bought is actually a counterfeit product, so Mophie can’t do anything about it. Understandable, but nightmare.

Anyway, I contacted the seller via Amazon (and left a warning on the product page) last night, just letting them know, but really expecting knack-all.

And today, I got an email, telling me that I’d been completely refunded for the purchase, to not worry about returning it or anything, very sorry, and that they’d actually stopped selling those packs recently following other concerns about their quality.

I’m annoyed about the pack’s death, but very, very impressed with the resultant customer service – both from the seller, and from Mophie themselves.

Phone Insurance – You couldn’t make this shit up

This morning, I got three letters from CPP, the muppets company dealing with the claim for my knackered iPhone.

All three are dated the same day – 27th June! Nearly two weeks to get sent out – and all ‘signed’ by the same person. Combined, they make for a brilliant record of how CPP handle things. Well, it’s hilarious if you’re not receiving them.

  • Letter 1 – “We need more information – proof of purchase, and a more detailed description of what happened”
  • Letter 2 – “We need a more detailed description of what happened” – guess this means they’ve received the proof of purchase ?
  • Letter 3 – “Claim denied”. So they’ve received a more detailed description? Or did the one in the initial phone call suddenly suffice?

And bear in mind, this is all two weeks ago – it’s already been appealed, and complained about.

I wonder what excuse they’ll use for these letters, and the fact it’s taken two weeks to receive them…

Smartphone, Stupid App

Ah, RBS, I do so love the way you make life really complicated when it doesn’t need to be – and indeed shouldn’t be.

As I wrote before, I recently upgraded my phone to the iPhone 4S, which was a remarkably painless process. (I know, Apple stuff “just works”, but that’s not always been my experience, it’s safe to say – and there’s still a few niggles to sort out)  All the Apps I’d purchased on the 3GS came over smoothly, all the contacts, blah blah, all worked fine – except for one.

Yep, the RBS “Mobile Banking” app wouldn’t work at all. Fair enough, security for banking, I can live with that. And there’s a button for requesting a new passkey. Clicky. Oh. It’s going to come in the post, and might take seven working days. Sheesh.

Seven working days on, nothing has appeared. So I call RBS Mobile Banking.

Oh yes, we don’t send those any more.”

Yes, what you need to do is text STOP (and yes, it has to be all in capitals) to 87727, then uninstall the existing app, reinstall it from the App Store, and go through the setup process.

You’re kidding, right? This is how RBS ‘make things easier’?

Yes, this is the quickest process for getting things done.

Fuck sake. Anyway, it’s been done – but what a total bag of bollocks.

iDevice Upgrade

Just under two years ago, I succumbed and got an iPhone. No-one was more surprised than me, as I wasn’t (and I’m still not) a fan of the Apple hype and fanboy obsessions with iDevices

As it turns out, I’ve been quite pleased with the iPhone, and it’s done everything it’s supposed to without annoying me too much. There’s niggles, but I think there’s niggles with any smartphone or similar device.

However, over the last couple of weeks, it’s been getting a bit flaky. The display had taken on a weird tendency to get a purple filter on it, which is visually interesting (and I must have some photo fun with a similar kind of effect, if I can manage it) but it was beginning to annoy.

Being well past the 18month contract, I went in to the local O2 shop over the weekend, and changed phone – to an iPhone 4S. (I’d previously had the 3GS) So far, I’m pretty pleased with it – and the backup/restore process to bring everything over from old phone to new was, I’m pleased to say, a really simple process.

I did look at other phones, Android OS and the like, but in the end the updated iPhone suited my requirements/use better than the other options. Again.

(Oh, and a quick thing – yes, 2 year device life is bobbins. Anyway, once I’ve cleared/reset it, I’m submitting the 3GS for recycling, which is better than nowt)

Word Lens

It’s not often that I see a piece of technology that makes me go simply “Wow”.  However, Word Lens brings forth exactly that response.

It’s basically a translation application for the iPhone, but what makes it different is that it works through the camera lens – hold the phone up to a sign in Spanish, and it’ll translate it – immediately – into English.

The demo app is free – which either removes words, or reverses them – and English-Spanish or Spanish-English cost £2.99 each. I assume that there’ll be other languages before long, and I certainly hope so. This kind of application is exceptional, and something that could/should change the way some translation is done.