Tag Archives: Koodo

Life in the cloud

As SaskTel winds down CDMA coverage in Saskatchewan, I need to upgrade Mark’s cell phone (a LG Rumor 2) that he loves.  He is on a cheap pre-paid plan with Virgin that I don’t want to upgrade or add data so I will keep with a feature phone, probably a LG Rumor Plus or a Samsung Gravity 3.  It’s talk, text, and email which is really all Mark needs right now.

I have been thinking about what I need ever since RIM’s network when down last summer.  This is how I am thinking.  I had a Blackberry Curve 8530 and like a lot of smartphone users, I have everything flowing through that phone.

  • Two email accounts
  • Blackberry Messenger
  • Text
  • Twitter
  • Flickr (which never worked on the phone)
  • Dropbox so I could send and receive files
  • The Score Mobile App (I have a problem okay)
  • MySask411 which replaced my phone book

I got a fair amount of work done and even wrote a couple of columns with it.  It worked really well for me until that outage.  When Blackberry went down, so did my phone.  I couldn’t get calls, I couldn’t even connect to a Wifi network.  My phone was essentially a brick that I carried around and hoped would return.  While it wasn’t the reason I switched a Samsung Galaxy Ace over Christmas (the cost of the new Curve’s were high on Koodo and didn’t seem to offer a lot more capability as well as my general lack of faith in the Blackberry platform) I essentially swapped out RIM for being totally dependent on Google and this week I had an uncomfortable realization about how totally dependent I am on Google.

I was one of the first bunch of Gmail users way back in 2004, back in the days where invites were limited to five per person and where actually being sold for money.  I got one, used my five invites on Wendy and some friends.  Gmail was so new and fresh it had that new email smell to it.  It served me well until this year when I got a notice that my email had been accessed by someone using an IP address from  Serbia.  It was really unsettling because as I had a decent password and changed it periodically.  Having not travelled to Serbia recently (or ever) the idea that I had been hacked was a horrible one.

As for my ID, you have your drivers license, your passport, your Saskatchewan Health Card, your Social Insurance Number but my email is just as big of a part of my ID as anything.  I have used it to sign up for Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, PayPal, even my bank and credit card uses it to communicate with me.  While I am careful, having everything exposed was not that pleasant and it resulted in new credit cards being issues, new passwords, and really all new everything.

Shortly after that I had a huge problem with email.  Emails were missing and there was about a 1500 email hole from about a year before that I discovered.  I wasn’t the only one that has had this happen to me.  The Gmail help forums are full of users that have lost thousands of emails and no one really knows why.

Since then there is someone that I will email periodically at The StarPhoenix that occasionally doesn’t acknowledge the email.  I am the same way so I never thought of it until Friday when I got a call from my editor to see why I never filed my column except I did on Wednesday.  I resent the column and it appeared.  It’s the second time it happened but I have long had these sneaking suspicions that it was a problem with the @thestarphoenix.com domain.  I checked the Gmail help forum and it tells me that I need to check with the domain name that wasn’t getting my email as they are of course faultless.  Of course the email was never received.

This isn’t the first time this happened.  A friend used to work at USA Today.  An email I sent him took a full year one time to show up.  I was working somewhere else and using their email (which was served up on Dreamhost) was the only server they ever had a problem with and then only sometimes.  It has happened to me before from SaskTel where an email just hung out for month before being delivered.  It happens but how do you know it happens.  I never got a bounce message in any of those situations so I assumed (incorrectly) that it had gone through.  Maybe we need to downgrade to Eudora 3 and start sending read receipts again.

So on Friday, my email was down, my cell phone was acting erratic (I think the problem was Koodo) and I realize that when things go down, they really go down.   What can you do about it?

Gmail

Leaving Gmail is really hard because I think we underestimate how much spam and email that we get and I really don’t want that to make it to my phone.  I know SaskTel has web access but so many friends of mine have had their email account become totally full after a couple of days that it is pointless if you are a heavy email user.   I can set up a 500mb account for myself on Dreamhost but I get thousands of spam a day and Gmail handles it better than anyone else.  I am in the process of putting coop AT jordoncooper.com to rest which will cut back on some of the spam but it’s a big problem when you are have old email accounts.  There are a lot of things that still use it, including some that I am sure I don’t remember but will need someday.

As Wired Magazine published yesterday, Gmail has a pretty big security hole in it.

But since Gmail added OAuth support in March 2010, an increasing number of startups are asking for a perpetual, silent window into your inbox.

I’m concerned OAuth, while hugely convenient for both developers and users, may be paving the way for an inevitable privacy meltdown.

For most of the last decade, alpha geeks railed against “the password anti-pattern,” the common practice for web apps to prompt for your password to a third-party, usually to scrape your e-mail address book to find friends on a social network. It was insecure and dangerous, effectively training users how to be phished.

The solution was OAuth, an open standard that lets you grant permission for one service to connect to another without ever exposing your username or password. Instead of passwords getting passed around, services are issued a token they can use to connect on your behalf.

If you’ve ever granted permission for a service to use your Twitter, Facebook, or Google account, you’ve used OAuth.

This was a radical improvement. It’s easier for users, taking a couple of clicks to authorize accounts, and passwords are never sent insecurely or stored by services who shouldn’t have them. And developers never have to worry about storing or transmitting private passwords.

But this convenience creates a new risk. It’s training people not to care.

It’s so simple and pervasive that even savvy users have no issue letting dozens of new services access their various accounts.

I’m as guilty as anyone, with 49 apps connected to my Google account, 80 to Twitter, and over 120 connected to Facebook. Others are more extreme. Samuel Cole, a developer at Kickstarter, authorized 148 apps to use his Twitter account. NYC entrepreneur Anil Dash counted 88 apps using his Google account, with nine granted access to Gmail.

This is where it gets nerve wracking.

You may trust Google to keep your email safe, but do you trust a three-month-old Y Combinator-funded startup created by three college kids? Or a side project from an engineer working in his 20 percent time? How about a disgruntled or curious employee of one of these third-party services?

Any of these services becomes the weakest link to access the e-mail for thousands of users. If one’s hacked or the list of tokens leaked, everyone who ever used that service risks exposing his complete Gmail archive.

The scariest thing? If the third-party service doesn’t discover the hack or chooses not to invalidate its tokens, you may never know you’re exposed.

The reliability isn’t just a Gmail issue but most of us switched to Gmail because it was run by Google and we never thought that we would have these issues. 

The other issue with Google is that even though they post an Apps Dashboard to let you know how things are going, this is a multi-billion dollar company with no way to contact them unless you are a large customer.  I have had Gmail down and nothing shows up on the Dashboard so it has to be a big outage to report it.  That’s fine if you are affected with others but if you are not part of a giant collective of frustrated Gmail users losing control on Twitter, what recourse do you have.  Google tells you to that they look at help forums but there are thousands of unresolved issues, some that go on for a long time.  This isn’t unique to Google, a friend had a nightmare in getting locked out of his Twitter account because of a Twitter database error.  It look a couple of months to resolve and that was even after it’s CEO got involved.  At least you can contact Dick Costello, who do you contact anymore at Google?

Google Contacts

I download and backup periodically my contacts for a couple of reasons, I need to keep them sync’d across my two accounts (one for work, the other one is personal).  They are also sync’d on my iPod Touch, iPad, and Android phone.  Of course I just read on Kottke this week that stealing your address book among iPhone developers is quite common.

It’s not really a secret, per se, but there’s a quiet understanding among many iOS app developers that it is acceptable to send a user’s entire address book, without their permission, to remote servers and then store it for future reference. It’s common practice, and many companies likely have your address book stored in their database. Obviously, there are lots of awesome things apps can do with this data to vastly improve user experience. But it is also a breach of trust and an invasion of privacy.

I did a quick survey of 15 developers of popular iOS apps, and 13 of them told me they have a contacts database with millons of records. One company’s database has Mark Zuckerberg’s cell phone number, Larry Ellison’s home phone number and Bill Gates’ cell phone number. This data is not meant to be public, and people have an expectation of privacy with respect to their contacts.

So while I am giving all of my contact information to Google intentionally, I (and so are most of you) am un-intentionally  giving up your contact information to developers (sorry about that) which is one of the reasons why there is so much spam in this world.  Thanks Apple.  So even if Google is protecting our private information, as soon as we sync it with our iPhone or iPad, it is compromised.

This brings up my next issue, which phone vendor can we trust? Apple allows people to download your most private of personal information, Google controls and ties it all together in an Android phone, with Blackberry you just have a crappy phone experience and does anyone expect Windows 7 Phone to be any better.  RIM has better security but isn’t able to deliver on their phones.

I was talking to a businessman who has been tied to his phone since AGT came out with the Aurora (such old technology, Google doesn’t even know about it) and he said to me the other day that he was willing to ditch his smart phone and go back to a flip phone (or a feature phone so he could text his kids).  His company email server was down and he couldn’t do “anything” and was frustrated in the same way we all get frustrated.  He said with a regular cell phone, when it went down, all it did was affect his phone calls.  Now when his smartphone isn’t working, it affects everything.  He was actually in the process of heading to Midtown Mall and purchase a cheap phone so as he put it, at “least I can call someone”.  In some ways as I looked at a Nokia C1 by Fido today I wondered if this may be what I really want, an update to the Nokia 1100 which is still the world’s most popular phone.

Koodo

Koodo’s cellular service is okay here in Saskatoon.  They use Telus’ network and do a not bad job of staying active.  I find that when SaskTel is having problems, so is Telus/Koodo which makes me feel somewhat better but not a lot.  In other words when I get no service at my house, neither does anyone else using SaskTel, Telus, or Virgin.  When Koodo’s network is acting up, I can tell by looking at my phone when something is wrong.  My Foursquare check-in options revolve around Carlton University’s campus, my network says Telus or even SaskTel instead of Koodo, and my calls drop more than they should.  Wireless is defined by it’s Ready, Shoot, Aim background and we shouldn’t be surprised with it’s technical difficulties considering the rate that technology is changing but more and more I keep wondering if a step back may be order and evaluate if I want all of my personal information being in a platform that is so easily exploited. 

Even if you can trust them now, can you trust them in the future.  Google’s recent privacy changes spooked millions and may have launched a competitor in Duck, Duck, Go.  These aren’t new concerns as I remember AKMA struggling with how much he should trust Flickr years ago.

I could come off the cloud but that is a lot easier said than done.  I could use Thunderbird for email and contacts and Lightning as a calendar.  I could use Dreamhost’s IMAP server, keep my email off my phone, and ditch my iPad, or at least not sync up information with it.  It can be done but it is a very different 1998 era web that I don’t think I want to go back to either.

When you think of the information you have in your Gmail account, address book, calendar, and other apps (think of Mint and your bank app on your phone), why aren’t we either demanding more security or at least taking steps to protect ourselves.  I know RIM’s the most secure but their phones are terrible right now.  I wonder if the next thing in wireless will not just be the cool apps but the cool apps that protect your data because right now my data isn’t feeling all that safe.

Why I hate the cloud.

I have had a Gmail account since Gmail opened it’s second round of invites years ago.  Users had five invites and because I was only two degrees separated from someone at Blogger, I got one.  It was like gold and it was amazing.  Within days I stopped using Outlook and started to rely on Gmail for all of my email.  The launch of Google Calendar meant that I could move my life to the cloud and it worked perfectly for me for years.  When I was at the Salvation Army Community Services, we used Google Apps to power email which meant that I never did need Outlook or anything there either.  With Google Calendar integration I could have my life at a glimpse.  While I was always frustrated that Google Contacts didn’t sync up Google apps and my personal address book, it worked well enough that I didn’t complain.

About six months ago a friend emailed from a major U.S. company.  I had sent him an unimportant email about a year earlier and he never got it until that day.  He blamed his company email system and I never thought about it.  During this time I would send my column to two different email addresses at The StarPhoenix and every once in a while I would get an email close to my deadline and it would be the editor asking for my column.  It kind of freaked me out but again I would think it was The StarPhoenix’s email system and I would send it again and it would be good.  I was using Google’s email system after all.  Now my editor just emails me back as soon as he gets it.  I still get nervous when I don’t get an immediate reply but he is human and could actually be doing other things but even two weeks ago I was surprised how long it took him to reply and I wondered if the column got there or if he was busy.   It isn’t just him, during that time I would email someone once in a while at The StarPhoenix and wouldn’t get a reply.  Some email gets replied to, some doesn’t and I figured it didn’t get replied to.

Then my email got hacked and it was a horrifying experience.  During that time I lost some email but blamed it on that.  I have a new password (my old one was only six letters and one digit long) and then brought in double authentication but I was still wondering why I didn’t get replies at times.  The last couple of weeks since I have had my new phone, it has been happening more and more and I was blaming the phone.  Like many of you, I have 3G connection issues in parts of Saskatoon and was wondering if that was the problem.  Over the last couple of days, everyone has been pissed off at me for missing emails and I realized I was also getting them out of sync.  I also fired off some important email and people are telling me they never got them.  That scared me because both were really tech competent people on reliable mail servers and the email was sent by my laptop via the Gmail interface.  No email client, no phone, just me and the computer sending to two different reliable email services. I contacted Google and haven’t heard a thing back.  I was searching my email tonight looking for emails that I knew I had not deleted and there was a massive hole from 2008 in it.  I know was recently hacked but those emails were restored.  No sign of it at all today.

I remember the rants that Tech Crunch used to have when Google Voice was offline and I now understand what they were so angry about.  Google isn’t just providing a service, they are providing a service I rely on dearly.  When the internet went down on my block, I can work around that, my primary email acct not working is horrific.  My friend Nathan had a horrible experience with Twitter.  It was mindboggling how stupid it was over a glitch that was completely their fault.  They finally just stopped talking to him about their problem and he was locked out of his account.  All of this contacts and followers were gone and there isn’t much you can do about it.

What’s even more bizarre is that when you read the Google help forums, I am not alone.  Some are user error but most are just disappearing emails.  The thing is that the reason I went to Gmail in the first place was because of Google’s reliability.   What I found out is that it is company that really offers no customer service at all.  They talk all of the time about the small % of users affected.  That’s great that it is .61% until you are one of the quarter of a million users that are affected and then it is no fun at all. 

The other hard part is that who do you contact at Google?  You can’t call them or write a support ticket.  You can leave a note in the forum.  Back in the days when Blogger was small and buggy, you knew you could email Ev or Biz and get a response.  Even today with Dreamhost, I can get a support ticket answered within minutes but I can’t with Google. 

I use Koodo as my cell phone provider.  It is horrible to use to send texts.  I just was sending texts back and forth with Seabass (if you know who I am talking about, you will get it) and I had about 10 “fail to send” texts but I know that my texts are not getting through and I know that he isn’t getting them.  Yet when I text’d a guy I’ll just refer to as Man-Bag yesterday, he said he never got it which is an entire other frustration.  Is it Koodo or Sasktel or the fact he may not understand his new iPhone.  It’s frustrating and now I am mad at Google, SaskTel, Man-Bag, and Koodo.  I’ll quit while I am behind.

I’d tell you to email me with your suggestions but I won’t get it.

Blackberry Curve Build Out

Blackberry Curve 8530 from Koodo MobileOn the 27th I went to Best Buy to take a look at DSLR’s on sale.  I didn’t see any DSLRs but while I was there, I saw that Koodo had dropped their price on Blackberry Curves to $150 and no contract.  I had thought about getting a LG Rumor 2 this year but after looking into it, we decided to get the Curve.  I had been quite happy with Virgin but I have had technical problems with my account for two years and it was getting worse.  While Virgin’s tech support and customer service staff have been really helpful, they still could not fix the problem so I finally decided to make the move.

Blackberry by RIMI took the phone home and started to set it up.  Here is how I put it together.

The first thing I did was get my Curve set up to our wifi connection in the house.  That wasn’t working that well.  Then I realized my router was about a billion years old (it was a 801b router) and it needed an upgrade.  Since my new router was on my desk, it was pretty easy to upgrade.  The Curve, my iPod Touch, and our notebook suddenly worked a lot faster.  I upgraded my old router’s firmware and will give it Computers for Kids and if they don’t want it, it can go to SARCAN.

Here is are the apps that made their way onto it over the last couple of days.

Utilities

Social Networks

  • foursquare app for the BlackberryFoursquare | It doesn’t yet use wifi but it allows you to check in and out all over the place.  It’s one of those apps that doesn’t make sense until you use it and then you love it.
  • Twitter | Umm, it’s one of the main reasons why I upgraded to a Blackberry.
  • Facebook (one the off chance for some reason I need to actually log in sometime… maybe in 2012)
  • Flickr | It’s an uploader that uploads my camera phone shots to Flickr.  It rather annoyingly resizes them but I’ll deal with that later.

News and Sports

Am I missing anything?  Let me know in the comments.

Cell phone advice

Virgin LG Bliss 700I don’t need a smartphone and until last year, I barely used my cell phone.  A combination of my staff all having smartphones or text phones persuaded me to get first a Samsung Link and then a LG Bliss.  I later bought Wendy a Samsung Link and she loves it.  While the LG Bliss has been good (after finally fixing all of it’s really odd default settings), I want something that does push email.

What do I want to do?  Now I looked at the Samsung Elevate and the reviews are mixed, most frustratingly different sites say different things about how it gets email.  Some say they offer push email, others say you get email on the web.  I was also looking at a LG Rumor 2 and of course was asking about e-mail access.  When I bought the Samsung Link, the reviews raved about the Virgin Mobile email app that allows you to access up to five different email accounts.  The email app is horrible and you can’t install the Gmail app on it which means that it sucks for email.  Email was also mentioned in some reviews for the LG Bliss and its inbox is only for text messaging.  I asked the sales staff at Best Buy today and they were clueless about what each phone could do.  They told me that I could easily go onto the web with 3G speed despite the fact that LG Rumor 2’s web browser isn’t compliant, doesn’t support 3G or even EVDO.  Virgin’s network in Saskatchewan is still CDMA and doesn’t support 3G either.  On top of that, ever since I added my new cell phone to the network, they have had problems with it.  Tonight I spent three different phone calls to Virgin trying to get my account fixed and they didn’t reimburse me for the charges I occurred because of their network issues. 

The entire process made me consider moving to Koodo and upgrade to a INQ Chat.  I get access to Twitter and push email as well as 3G coverage in Saskatchewan.  Any thoughts on a phone?  I don’t need apps and don’t want to pay extra for a Blackberry data plan so take that into consideration.  Also anyone have any thoughts on Koodo?

Sending SMS Messages via the web

I don’t always feel like reading for my cell phone every time I want to send a text message.  I have a bunch of these links bookmarked but I decided to post them here in case you didn’t know you could send a txt message via a computer. (Note: the recipient might get charged, of course, depending on their specific plan)

E-mail to text

There are some e-mail to text services, but the recipient usually has to have signed up and paid for this service, unlike the web forms above that are free:

[10digitnumber]@txt.bell.ca (Bell and Solo)
[10digitnumber]@pcs.rogers.com
[10digitnumber]@fido.ca
[10digitnumber]@msg.telus.com
[10digitnumber]@vmobile.ca (Virgin Mobile)
[10digitnumber]@mobiletxt.ca (PC Mobile)
[10digitnumber]@msg.koodomobile.com
[10digitnumber]@sms.sasktel.com and [10digitnumber]@pcs.sasktelmobility.com
[10digitnumber]@text.mts.net (MTS Allstream Inc./ Manitoba Telecom Services Inc.)

Note some providers (such as Fido) are forcing the recipient to pay an extra monthly fee in order to receive e-mail to text messages.