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shadows of echoes of memories of songs
Three's a shower
I should post more before I entirely forget how to write. So I'm going to post about something small and annoying (no, not myself): my Three micro-SIM for my iPad. (I can't call them '3' because it's too confusing when I'm also talking about '3G'.)

I bought an iPad because I'm an overpaid tech addict who's trying to fill the child-shaped hole in her life with, ironically, toys for grown-ups I needed a netbook for mobile internet and remote working, yada yada, also it is very cool and shiny. I had to buy it from PC World because Western Computers (the closest thing Oxford has to an Apple Store, yes I know Cambridge has a real one, sigh) didn't have the 3G model; buying something as quintessentially Mac as an iPad from PC World felt kind of dirty, but, y'know, if you're going to buy the thing at all then you've really got to buy it on the first day, and if the only way you can do that is by being a bit dirty... well, anyway. The PC World salesweasel gave me a free SIM from Three at the same time as I got the iPad -- I figured I didn't have to activate it, I could always get a different SIM, but in practice I wanted to get the 3G bit of the iPhone working right away, so I did activate it.

When I activated the Three SIM, despite the fact that it was supposed to be a PAYG SIM Three wanted to know everything about me: from the usual name/address/DoB etc to things like how long I'd been in my current job, and what my previous address was. This was presumably for a credit check, but when I asked why they needed to know this, all they could tell me was "we need to know these things, Mrs M—, because, Mrs M—, in order to set up your account, Mrs M—, we need to know these things to set up your account". Anyway, all this information was nothing they couldn't get off Facebook anyway, so I gritted my teeth and went through the mandatory 45 minutes of interrogation, and then the 3-hour wait until the SIM is actually activated, etc etc. It did work in the end, though; and I can now get MAGIC INTERNET FROM THE AIR on my iPad (hurrah!).

However, I then came to set up my 'my3' account, i.e. the ability to look at my bills etc online. I put in my name and address and SIM number, and so on, and was told that in order to activate the account I'd have to type in a PIN which they would send my SMS to my Three mobile. .... See the problem? The Three SIM is in an iPad. Not a phone. There's no way to receive a txt on the iPad (there may be apps that fake it, but that's not the point). And because it's a micro-SIM, I can't even just slap it in another phone. OK, I probably could find someone with an SMS-receiving device which would accept a micro-SIM, but I figure I shouldn't have to do this to make their stupid setup process work.

So I emailed them and pointed out the flaw in their process, and waited for a reply. They tried to phone me a few times; I was annoyed that they couldn't just reply to the email (I got an automated ticket response, but that just told me to phone their helpline), but figured that maybe they'd be able to give me the PIN over the phone once I'd cleared security, but couldn't do it by email.

Today I finally gathered enough round tuits to phone them back. First, there's no ticket number or other way to skip through the phone-menu and say "I'm following up this previous request that you told me to follow up". Second, when I do get through to a human being (or at least a slightly better AI than a phone-menu), I find that there is literally no other way for them to give me the PIN for the account. "OK, Mrs M—, the reason is, Mrs M—, the iPad does not support SMS." I pointed out that they knew that when they offered an iPad contract, but the point was lost on them. Apparently I can log into my 'my3' if I'm using my Three connection on my iPad, and then it won't ask for a username or password at all; but that's the only way to do it. "Mrs M—, we are looking into another way of doing this, Mrs M—, OK." Fortunately I will get notifications and bills and suchlike by email, i.e. I don't have to go into the 'my3' account to get them... but still. The only thing that's stopping me cancelling the Three SIM now is the knowledge that doing so would involve talking to them again. Well, that and the fact that I'd have to go and deal with a different phone company instead, who would simply be differently awful.

The moral of the story is ... I don't know. It can't be "don't buy an iPad" because it's absolutely great and has honestly actually been useful as well as being a joy to use. It can't be "don't deal with mobile phone companies" because if you want to use mobile phone technology there's no real alternative at the moment. Maybe the moral is "everything is a bit full of fail, but mostly works in the end". Not exactly catchy, but it'll do.

The concept of 'fail' is another subject for another blog, or maybe a book (in fact, I will gladly write a book about 'fail' if someone will pay me for it, because I've written most of it in my head already). Which means I probably won't ever get round to it, because of... well, because of fail.

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jiggery_pokery From: jiggery_pokery Date: July 10th, 2010 09:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
You'll always be a very fine writer. I'm glad that you've managed to sort out the mobile phone company indignities and that the iPad has proved to be worth the hassle, as well as the expense.

Another friend of mine has written about fail already, which might save you writing your book, but might just be another interpretation to add to the overall notion.
j4 From: j4 Date: July 10th, 2010 10:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ah, no no, not that sort of fail. I mean the sort of "fail" that failblog deals with (which your friend doesn't even list except to say it's a joke); the sort of "fail" that banks and post offices and ordinary people perpetrate on a daily basis; the sort that is without personal blame, it's more like a kind of ambient fallibility in things that are made by human beings. The sort of "fail" your friend seems to be primarily talking about is the sort where you have to get your privilege checklist tattooed across your face before people will believe you're not Hitler, and even then they won't be sure. I wouldn't dream of trying to write a book about that, because I'd get burned at the stake.
j4 From: j4 Date: July 10th, 2010 10:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
That is, I think there are interesting social points to be made about the way large systems are inevitably imperfect and the way that gets classified as "fail", and the way people describe themselves as "full of fail" and why they do that. It may be that some of these things overlap with all the r***fail-drama, but a) I'm not in that fandom, and b) I'm not qualified to think about it anyway because of privilege.
jiggery_pokery From: jiggery_pokery Date: July 10th, 2010 11:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
I want to read more about that concept, too, and think you could write about it admirably. (Many other people could do so too, though.) I do not wish to, even humorously, imply that you could do so as a result of (quantity or quality of) past failure.

Mostly I'd quite like to live in a world where people at large don't worry nearly so much about perfection.
jiggery_pokery From: jiggery_pokery Date: July 10th, 2010 10:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Fail fail! Fail!

On my part, not yours.
ghoti From: ghoti Date: July 11th, 2010 06:51 am (UTC) (Link)
I find that when I talk to T-Mobile, it might take me a while to get through to someone, but they are unfailingly helpful and polite (and flexible). So maybe it's not all mobile companies.
cleanskies From: cleanskies Date: July 11th, 2010 08:51 am (UTC) (Link)
shame you can't un-experience their adverts, though
ghoti From: ghoti Date: July 11th, 2010 12:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Apparently I can. I'm unaware of the adverts of which you speak.
venta From: venta Date: July 12th, 2010 12:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
My phone and 3G dongle are both from Three, and to date my experiences of them have been that their speaking style is exactly as j4 describes, but that in general if you can bear with the annoyance of speaking to them they do (a) know their stuff and (b) will sort things out for you.

It's kind of disappointing that a company which has formerly given the impression of being technically competent would do something as ridiculous as requiring an SMS to be sent to a non-SMS receiving device.
cleanskies From: cleanskies Date: July 11th, 2010 08:49 am (UTC) (Link)
I like your motto
qatsi From: qatsi Date: July 11th, 2010 09:39 am (UTC) (Link)
The moral of the story is ...

to copy your experience to The Press so that FAIL can be exposed?
j4 From: j4 Date: July 11th, 2010 11:17 am (UTC) (Link)
The Press wouldn't be interested unless they could co-opt my quite boring experience of mild-customer-disservice into one of their stock narratives i.e. "middle class people can save lots of money by having lots of money to start with" (Guardian Money) or "MOBILE PHONES CAUSE CANCER" (Daily Mail).

Anyway, this sort of thing isn't a Huge Scandal, it's just the inevitable 'fail' around the edges of any big system. Doesn't make it any less annoying at the time, of course! -- but I really don't want to collude in the myth that everything could be perfect if we only complained a bit louder and/or sued people a bit more. Or the myth that we have some kind of divinely-gifted right to get everything we want instantly without having to wait and without any annoyances on the way.

All of which is part of the separate rant/ramble about 'fail' which I have, um, failed to write.
pjc50 From: pjc50 Date: July 11th, 2010 10:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, as you say there's no alternative to dealing with the mobile phone companies; they make their profits as rent on their capital and spectrum assets, so they can afford to behave like an unregulated landlord and run customer service that's just above the level at which people storm their offices and kill them all.
From: scat0324 Date: July 12th, 2010 09:11 am (UTC) (Link)


For what it's worth, one potentially useful way of removing the 3 ambiguity is to refer to the phone company as H3G (Hutchinson 3G).
j4 From: j4 Date: July 12th, 2010 10:48 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: IHNJ, IJLTS Whampoa

Smart. :-)
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 12th, 2010 10:38 am (UTC) (Link)
Interestingly (I have low standards), I just got a shiny new Ubuntu-filled netbook with built-in 3G, so I got to experience what should have been the same procedure with a standard PAYG 3 SIM, but in my case I didn't get asked for any personal details (except for credit-cardy stuff to make it go) and I managed to find a (rather faffy) way to wrestle text messages out of my modem so that I (a) could get my password and (b) got the message telling me to visit my3 on the netbook.

There's something wrong with the world when using a SIM meant for phones in a Linux PC is much easier than using a SIM meant for iPads in an iPad.
bjh21 From: bjh21 Date: July 12th, 2010 10:39 am (UTC) (Link)
Sigh. Someone ate my login cookie.
j4 From: j4 Date: July 12th, 2010 10:48 am (UTC) (Link)
I KNOW WHO ATE YR COOKIES: http://dawnchapel.com/2010/07/firefox-has-crashed/

Seems relatively unsurprising that you managed to find a workaround on a Linux PC (a generally open-up-able and hackable computer) while I couldn't on the iPad (a sealed appliance) ... though that doesn't stop me being impressed that you managed to get an SMS out of a modem. 8-)
brrm From: brrm Date: July 12th, 2010 09:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
My ISP (A&A) is making inroads into mobile service[1]. Because they have a track record of Clue and Helpfulness in ADSL provision (albeit at a higher cost) I am watching with interest. It's a bit beta at the moment, though.

I'm also going the Three PAYG route for my *cough* iPhone 4 when it arrives *cough*, though now reconsidering. But with the beauty of PAYG, I can jump ship if they suck. Hurrah!

[1] With exciting-looking extras like being able to forward your mobile to SIP, but I need to understand them before I know if I need them. :-)

PS Pub soon?
j4 From: j4 Date: July 13th, 2010 09:08 am (UTC) (Link)
iPhone 4! *ENVY ENVY*

I want to get one, but I want a contract. But all the contracts look really rubbish. I wonder how long I can hang on to my unlimited data contract? I wonder what would happen if I just put this SIM in an iPhone 4 (if I could buy one SIM-free)? Or does the 4 have a micro-SIM?

I wonder if O2 would give me any sort of discount if I'm already with them and getting my broadband from them.

PS yes! but this week is chaos. :( Next week?
brrm From: brrm Date: July 13th, 2010 09:27 am (UTC) (Link)
But all the contracts look really rubbish

As far as I could tell, all the contracts are really rubbish. :-)

I would think you can just carry on with your current contract, though they may not give you a micro-SIM (which, as you say, the 4 requires) - though I understand it's not hard to cut down (literally, with a knife) a standard SIM to fit.

I think discounts are hard/impossible to come by with the iPhone, though haven't really investigated. I think I might potter around with the Three SIM for a bit before porting my number, and see if the coverage is any better/worse than O2. Possibly repeat with a PAYG SIM from other provider(s).

Next week is good; earlier rather than later for preference i.e. Mon/Tues/Wed... does that work for you?
j4 From: j4 Date: July 13th, 2010 10:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Could do Mon or Tues - which is better for you? Weds is Oxford Geek Night!

I think the micro-SIM is a big fat excuse to force people to change contracts, so I'd very much doubt they'd let me keep the current contract... but I suppose there's no harm in asking... Likewise with the discounts, I suspect you're right, but worth a try.
brrm From: brrm Date: July 13th, 2010 11:18 am (UTC) (Link)
I think the micro-SIM is a big fat excuse to force people to change contracts

Oh no. It's to save space internally in the phone. Honest.

Tuesday's good for me. Oak? :)
j4 From: j4 Date: July 13th, 2010 11:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Plan. :-) See you next Tues (actually, will I see you tomorrow at the conference too?)
brrm From: brrm Date: July 13th, 2010 12:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sadly not. We have a conference here this week so couldn't spare the time :-/. I dunno, it used to clash with Glastonbury, now our Summer Doctoral Programme - you really ought to check with my schedule first :-D

Have fun, though, and if there's any spare freebies mine's the iPad. Thx.
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