Teetering on the edge of the abyss

Melvyn Magree

I apologize to my dozen readers for not submitting a column for last week.  I was still in Internet purgatory and could not give you any further information about my accommodation to our surprises with cordless access.  I did have a couple ideas on politics, but I just couldn’t come up with more than 200 words for either of them.

Because you are reading this you know that our provider, Consumer Cellular, has let us have Wi-Fi access again.  But even that was iffy.  Our access was not turned on until I called around 9:00 on the morning of the first of September.  Then for some reason it was blocked again.  Another call.

I still have no idea why we were having run-away data in the middle of August.  Over a gigabyte in one six-hour period when I wasn’t even knowingly accessing the Web!
I did learn from a search of Apple Community Support that one can close all open apps.  My run-away problem could have been a run-away app that kept pinging the web.  Anyhow, to close open apps push the home button twice.  Miniatures of all of your open apps will appear from left to right.  Swipe up on each miniature and the app will be closed.  When you click on the app in the home screen, it will open again in the same state as when you closed it.

Don’t worry about closing your phone and message apps.  When a call or text message come in, your iPhone will open the necessary app.

I am carefully monitoring my usage both by checking usage with the settings app on my iPhone and with the Consumer Cellular website.  Already I have used 826 MB of my 4,096 MB limit, and we are not even five days into the month.

I am not going to be downloading podcasts or updating apps on my dime.  I used 135 MB updating three apps and 250 MB getting the latest episodes of four podcasts.  Since I download podcasts once a week that would be 1,000 MB a month.

I will definitely be updating these from coffee shops.

I use seven to twenty MB per session accessing accounts and paying bills.  I use about twenty MB reading newspapers.  These may be doable from home, but I will wait a few days before I resume accessing these from home.

So far today I have accessed the web from an Essentia Health cafeteria before exercising and from Whole Foods Co-op while my wife shopped.  I plan to send this from Mt. Royal Market when I’m done.

Let’s see, two coffees a day at two to three dollars each.  That would be $120 to $180 a month.  That is more than my savings from cutting the cord!  Well, I should be getting out of the house more often.  And we are not getting all those robocalls on our landline.

Robocalls remind me of diatribe letters that I get every so often.  The writer puts on the outside of the envelope in big, oversize, multi-colored capital letters some diatribe about Obama.  I don’t even bother reading all the outside message, the letter goes unopened into the recycling box.

Actually, I am apolitical about all of these dire consequence letters, surveys, whatever else some group sends out:  Back Obama!  Stop the Republicans!  Save the whales!  All of them go unopened into the recycle box.  We get at least six a week.

Back to our regularly scheduled article.

Some glitches cause one to wonder what is going on.  I would access my bank account, enter my ID and password, and then get a big message about “System Error”.  But it didn’t happen all the time.  I think the first time might have coincided with Consumer Cellular turning my account off again on the first day of restoring service.  But it also happened yesterday, and today it worked fine.

One app I thought would eat up a lot of data is FaceTime.  Our son called my wife’s FaceTime account and they chatted for fifteen minutes or so.  The usage on her phone only went up by about 50 MB.  I think this might be because FaceTime has some excellent data compression.

Apropos data compression, I hope newspaper sites that play video ads automatically have good data compression.  I hope the same for those interesting videos in the New York Times Science section: like two octopuses fighting.

From some of the postings in the Apple Support Community, I did learn that one can increase the data limit with AT&T.  I believe it was well beyond the 4 GB we can get from Consumer Cellular.  I think also AT&T provides 4G service rather than 3G service.  I should look these up as well as LTE.  I believe the higher level of service gives better quality and faster speed.

Ah, speed!  Sometimes I watch a page come up in a blink of an eye, and sometimes I wonder if the progress bar is even moving.  Is it that a site has a large number of users, the site has some other problem, the network has a problem, or my computer has a problem?  Or all of the preceding?

Apropos AT&T, we received a card this week offering “$300 in credits when you switch to AT&T”.      You have to visit a store, shop at a website, or call an 800 number.  There is also a square to scan with a smartphone.

I read the square and found prices per month to buy individual iPhones, but it was unclear how much monthly service would cost and how much data would be available.  So much for the free market (buyers have all the information they need).