Cutting The Cord Act 3 – Cordless Is A Myth

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Scene 1 – The Cord Was Already Cut
Newsflash – there is no such thing as going truly cordless not if you’re ditching the cable box for streaming services that require a data connection to stream.  My first act to cut the cord was to establish a healthy data connection and that meant dealing with a cable company since in my area the conduits are completely controlled by cable cos.

It’s at this point I feel a disclaimer is warranted – this is the one post where I will definitely be going into full-on rant mode so for those of you hoping to read an eloquent post full of practical advice (though there will be some) and void of angst then move on.  Nothing to see here.

Still with me? Good then read on as I scorch the cable industry as a whole as the reasons why so many customers like me are ditching cable become crystal clear!
My approach to cutting the cord and one I recommend for anyone else was to overlap my streaming services with my cable subscription for at least a month.  This takes the edge off the shock of cutting cable and allows some extra time to work out at least the biggest and most unexpected kinks.  Little did I know then but I would end up maintaining an overlap for almost 2 months as what transpires over the next few paragraphs is a colossal failure to execute a basic reconnect by a previous cable provider!  My current data connection was capped at a paltry 18 Mbps with my current provider which shall remain nameless (eh hum nickname Ma Bell).  Their tap (code name for the actual distribution box where their lines are distributed to several residences) was the limiting factor and it was barely adequate for our needs to begin with so I decided to return to a previous provider where the tap could feed us up to 300 Mbps.  We would settle on their 100 Mpbs plan which included phone and internet since we still maintain a landline.
This does bring up a good question, what’s the best data speed for cutting the cord?  Generally speaking, I recommend a minimum 25 Mbps if you plan on streaming from multiple devices including mobile devices.  Ideally go for 100 Mbps and above to future proof you for data-hungry 4K content.  Side note of caution…read the fine print when you ditch your cable programming package for internet only.  Since customers are fleeing profitable cable bundles cable companies are fighting back by capping their internet data packages, usually at 1TB per month.  For those of you who sleep with your tv on this may be troublesome for all others a 1 TB limit is more than adequate however as the amount of 4K content increases over streaming services it may become a factor in the future.
So now back to the task of reconnecting the cord (internet sic) so I could cut the proverbial (cable) cord and stream away.  Leaving my current cable service intact I contacted my previous cable provider (who shall remain nameless but whose name just might rhyme with fox) with faster internet to schedule a reconnect.  Bear in mind my last connection with them was only 3 or 4 years ago and since we were keeping a landline we also needed to get our phone number transferred to them as well.  The initial phone call was easy and pleasant.  I was told the cable would be on in a few minutes as it was just a flip of a remote switch for them though I learned that my old modem that I’ve kept won’t keep up with the data speed I’ve chosen so I had to purchase a new one.  I tell them I’ll get my own rather than pay their silly rental fee.  When I’m done reestablishing the internet connection I’m transferred to an automated system to request the phone transfer a process called “porting”.  I followed the instructions and was advised that the porting process would take up to 5 business days.  No problem since I was wisely overlapping my two services anyways right?  So VERY wrong!!
It’s at this point things took a diabolic turn.  I purchased the new modem that day and went online to register the IP/MAC addresses with the cable co. as instructed before connecting it.  It doesn’t register a signal.  After exhausting all avenues of troubleshooting including reconnecting my old modem and busting out a multimeter I’m convinced there’s no cable signal coming into my house.  I finally call customer service and thus enter a pit of misery that I won’t see daylight from for several weeks.  I’ll skip the blow by blow because honestly it could fill a novel and might just come off as so outrageous that it must be embellished and just do my best to summarize:
  • 2 visits by techs just to find out previous cable co. sabotaged box on my house by cutting all cords.  Apparently this is a thing and “I’m lucky they didn’t cut cables in my attic”.
  • Over the next several weeks after finally reestablishing a signal it will lock up on average once a day and sometimes once per hour.  The only way to resolve it is to reset my modem.  Call customer service.  More fruitless troubleshooting which leads to many more visits usually by clueless contractors and not actual cable co. techs not to mention at least two instances of being stood up at appointment times.
  • There’s constant squabbling over service fees and my insistence that nothing has been resolved meanwhile I continue to extend my other cable service until resolution.
  • Coinciding with all this a whole separate saga with transferring my phone unfolds.  It includes work orders never created to work orders mysteriously closed.  There’s confusion between cable co. and techs whether the phone box on house must be upgraded.  I’m also given a ginormous phone modem I now have to find a place for and a temporary phone number until old one is ported.  This would eventually be the last issue sorted out nearly 2 months later!
  • Related to the phone issue is nobody at any point ever asks me if I have a monitored alarm system. Once phone finally gets ported my connection with alarm co. is thus severed. Alarm co. begins making weekly robo calls 8 AM EVERY SINGLE Saturday morning to inform me that the line is not connected.  More visits by clueless contractors until I pitch an epic fit and finally get a cable co. expert tech out to resolve the issue.
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The Path To #INBOXZERO

When I start to nerd out on the latest productivity app I’ve stumbled on people’s eyes usually just glaze over but when I tell people I have reached the holy grail of #inboxzero their eyes pop open wide then begin to flutter in a jealous haze.  What is #inboxzero well simply put it’s when you manage to empty the entire inbox of your email client.  If you’re like I was for years your inbox has become so inundated that you may have resorted to entirely turning off your mail’s app counter icon or notifications because it’s just too depressing.  Honestly any time I’ve ever bragged about being at inbox zero I’ve never met anyone else who claimed to be as well.  We’ve gotten so acclimated to the furious pace of incoming mail that we’ve become numb to it and have resorted to workarounds to filter out all the noise so important emails raise to the surface.  Most people develop their own methods for keeping track of the most important emails.  Personally my strategy was to simply mark every one as read then leave the most important ones marked as unread until it’s been properly dealt with.
My process to #inboxzero began with a now-shuttered app called Mailbox.  It started the trend of swiping to archive email or to snooze an email to return to your inbox at a later time or date.  It worked exclusively with gmail and Dropbox snagged it up and soon after shut it down.  Meanwhile Google created Inbox by Gmail.  Its secret sauce, borrowed liberally from Mailbox, is a balanced blend of purposeful swipes and automatic smart filtering that enables any user to easily tame the beast that is most people’s inboxes and keep it tamed.  Swipe right archives any email and swiping left snoozes any email until a later time or date of user’s choosing making it quick and painless to dismiss email on the fly.  For the bulk of your incoming mail Inbox smart filters will automatically filter out most emails into 6 main categories (purchases, finance, social, updates, forums, and promos).  You can archive entire categories or train certain emails to skip your inbox entirely and go straight to your archive.  You can go deeper and create your own categories if you like.  My favorite feature is the ability to mute any conversation (automatically archive emails from sender) by simply long pressing the option to archive (checkmark).
Inbox makes email meaningful again by filtering out the noise and allowing only those emails that actually merit your attention into your inbox.  If you’re a gmail power user and haven’t tried Inbox yet I highly recommend taking it for a test drive.
Other features include the ability to pin important emails, display Google Reminders, Google Now events like trip summaries, and a handy Chrome web extension for sharing or saving web links.   Finally Inbox will group emails not assigned to a category together.  So for example that weekly newsletter you get might get grouped together with every newsletter from that sender and appear as one email.  Selecting it unrolls all the emails in a stack with a summary of the most recent at the top of the stack.
There are other email clients that adopt many of the same features but not many are available across all major platforms like Inbox is.  Inbox shines best in Chrome while I primarily use the iOS version.  The iOS version, as is to be expected from Google, is pretty stable.  In contrast, I also use the Outlook App (which was actually Accompli before Microsoft snatched it up and rebranded it) for my MS accounts and it’s consistently glitchy.  In any case, a few hours spent with an app like Inbox can lead you to #inboxzero heaven!  What are you waiting for?

How to stop AT&T from selling your private data to advertisers

BGR

Reports from earlier this week suggested that AT&T is ready to follow in its rivals’ footsteps and begin selling the private usage data it collects from its subscribers’ phones to advertisers. The data in question is anonymized, according to AT&T, but it includes very sensitive information such as customers’ locations, Web browsing history, mobile app usage and more. Privacy is something of a hot button issue right now, so it is likely that a number of AT&T subscribers would prefer to not have their private data sold to advertisers. Luckily, there is a fast and easy way to opt out of AT&T’s “External Marketing and Analytics Reporting” program, and complete instructions follow below.

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Swipus

1368693157_one_finger_swipe_gestureworksSwipus [swipe-us] – is a condition brought on through prolonged use of touch devices.  Affected persons are prone to unconscious periods of unlocking smartphone or tablet screens and swiping aimlessly through various home screens with no destination in mind.  Most people are carriers and go undiagnosed.