Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Digital Dilemmas

Roxy Music: Love is the Drug 1975
(In 1975 it was love, in 2015 it has shifted to the Internet for the many)

Subtitle: Internet Dependency

In the last 2 weeks Marcus and Agata have become aware that our reliance on the Internet has become high, a fact that has been highlighted most recently in France where Marcus had bought an Orange Mobicarte  but was unable to charge it leaving us without Internet for about 2 days.

Unlimited Internet Seduction
Over the last 12 months Marcus and Agata have been beguiled by the benefits of unlimited quota Internet.  Both for our fixed (fibre) line and also for 4G mobile.

The Benefits
- We stream all our music online via our mobile phones using Spotify  (and even use the extreme bandwidth settings)
- We stream all our UK, BBC content via the BBC iPlayer either on the go using 4G mobile or at home using a PC and the BBC website
- Photographs taken are uploaded automatically and instantly to both Google Photos and Dropbox.  This guards against loss of photos due to theft of the underlying Smartphone
- All our home machines are linked together using Dropbox.  It's pretty monstrously inefficient since anything in Dropbox is uploaded to the web and then downloaded to all client systems identically,  But it means critical files are in sync and available everywhere
- All mobile and client and computer servers are updated daily with latest fixes
- Our Vintage computer datastore is able to stream Terabytes monthly  and I do mean Terabytes.  Thousands of people are kept happy thanks to our generosity
- All our TV is available via Swisscom in HD quality and even viewable on any mobile device
- Our Youtube subscriptions can be streamed at HD or higher quality on all our devices, even our Smartphones!  Now that is luxury.
- All our important data is encrypted and backed up to Cloud Data service providers
- All our data, manuals, information is available using a Home Engineered, secured and encrypted stream built on top of Cloud providers (Means we don't need to take any manuals or documents with us whilst mobile)

The Disadvantages
- In the case of any Internet disruption our lives are monstrously disturbed.

The Internet Tripwire

Recently we drove to the German / Swiss border and parked up and started using our ASUS 4G-N12 wireless router. Although we had told the router only to use the Swiss Salt network it roamed to T-mobile.

11 minutes in, whilst Marcus was innocently commenting "Wow this 4G 20Mbit/sec download is really not so bad", up popped a brutal message from our mobile phone carrier Salt on my smartphone:

Agata and Marcus dived for the router power switch, but it was too late.  By the time the router was off another 350CHF had been spent.  Downloading just a 'few hundred' MB megabytes in total.

Our Automated Setups

It's been some considerable effort but an elaborate automatic system of transfers are implemented at home.  But this now also extends to our portable Smartphone and Laptop environments

- Laptops are backed up to iDrive in the Cloud
- Laptops app are auto upgraded e.g. Windows, Apps, Office, Itunes Podcasts
- Laptop Centos Linux instance is also updated
- Laptop: iTunes daily Podcast download
- Smartphone: Android 5.1.1 Cyanogenmod daily update
- Smartphone: Daily Play store updates
- Smartphone: Google Photos: Automatic Upload
- Smartphone: Dropbox: Automatic Video and Photograph upload
- Smartphone: Google Fit and Garmin Connect and Runkeeper: Automatic Upload
- Smartphone: Google Tracks and Location: Automatic upload

The upshot of all of this, is that my Smartphone is worked very hard either for it's own Internet traffic or acting as a hotspot for our Laptops. (The above shown is LTE only and not Wifi traffic )

French Internet
The Choices appear to be Orange Let's Go or Free

In principle both of these Pay as You Go services are for French residents but it can be that a visit to the Orange Fr shop will have you obtaining a SIM anyway

These cards

- Low initial outlay
- Pathetic Data allowance  e.g. 200MBytes for the Free Sim
- BUT:  Free unlimted access to Orange or Free Wifi Internet Hostspots.

Actually, all this is theory and not yet tested!   In our recent visit to France we saw an almost infinite number of Free SIM or Orange hotspots.

So the operational plan is NOT to use internet from a 4G datasource but only to use the wifi hotspot with credentials i.e. userids gained from posession of the SIM itself.

Comparison To Polish Internet

We recently visited Poland where Pay as You Go Internet prices continue to fall.

In July 2015 we were astonished to find that 1GB of data can be bought on the Orange Poland plan for 1Zl.  (Well, a 6GB packet is 6Zl)

6Zl is 0.15 Euros or 1 GBP or 1.6 CHF.

Yes, it is absolutely bonkers.

Comparison to UK Mobile Internet

We found Virgin Mobile was 15GBP for 3GB internet, pay as you go

So What is the Status Quo then?

In Switzerland, an expensive country, we ironically have unlimited mobile Internet for a relatively reasonable price

Our current usage is at >> 1GB per day mobile.  We recognise we are heavy users.

In France we don't find it's possible to satisfy this.

In Poland it is Possible to use Pay as You Go SIM, our usage was about 6GB daily!!


In Europe, Data Roaming at GB/day is still prohibitively expensive.  Local Pay as You Go SIMs don't expect you to use more than low Hundreds of MB daily

Ways Forward

- Get a phone with 2 SIM slots.  Though typically only one has 4G capability it means we can keep the Swiss SIM for voice calls outside of Switzerland and a local Pay as You go SIM for data whilst outside of Switzerland.

Technote: Two candidate phones Asus Zenfone 2 and OnePlus 2 , both appear to have this limitation of only 1 slot supporting 4G, the other slot is reported as 2G or 3G depending on different spec sheets I have seen.

- Correct the Software bug in our Asus 4G-N12 router that allowed it to roam and not stay on the network we selected manually.

- When in France or other Internet crippled countries  (!!) then we have to go thru a checklist to turn off  a) iTunes b) all Photo Uploading c) DropBox and GoogleDrive and other CloudAccounts d) Auto OS & App updating.   What a bloody pain and liable to fail due to human error.

- Try to make use of WiFi Points in countries where having a local SIM may give you unlimited WiFi (not 4G) access.

- Use a Fon router and Fon network whilst abroad.  (Actually, we tried this previously, but years back logging onto Fon Wifi spots never seemed to work).

- Get our Salt provider to block all data roaming on our subscriptions.   We have 2 SIMS, one for voice and data, second just for data.  Salt told us that they could only block data roaming on both SIMs, so we said yes.