FreedomPop – Just be really careful

*** Update Feb 11, 2018 ***

OK, to their credit, FreedomPop did *not* back bill me for the previous month’s use. So I take back that claim (crossed out below).

What happened was that I missed a service that I enrolled in when I first signed up that I didn’t know to go look for. It was not obvious to me it was a thing that I needed to address. So Mea Culpa even though I think the site is laid out to promote such confusion. I knew this and did not exercise due diligence.

Using their mobile app today I tracked down the service and will disable it next month and see what comes of it.

*** End Feb 11, 2018 Update ***

I wanted a hotspot for my car so my Dashcam could be available to me whenever I wanted.

So I chose FreedomPop as an inexpensive alternative. For $20 (supposedly for Activation) I get an OK hotspot and a promo for 3GB free for the first month.

I knew I was intending to downgrade from the promo after a month so I put a credit on the account for $5 knowing they would not permit a zero balance when the time came.

So, here I am 2 days before the initial month expiry and find my credit has “expired” and I have a zero credit balance.

Apparently any credits “expire” around 30 days and you can activate them again by clicking a tiny link at the bottom if you know about it.

Then, moving on to downgrading, it took a bit of searching to find the tiny little “Downgrade” link located within the dialog that appears when you click your current plan.

I went through a series of confirmation dialogs, one of which asked if I wanted to add a $15 credit to my account, to which I answered “no”.

Finishing the downgrade process should leave me with a very reasonable free plan that gives me 500 MB included and costs 2 cents per additional MB. This is what I was looking forward to and expect I’d pay $5-$10 / month.

When I checked I found:

  1. My credits are going to expire each month so I will need to “reactivate” them each month
  2. When I downgraded my plan, it appears FreedomPop went and back-billed me for the amount I used during the trial that’s over and above the data included in the free plan. Dirty pool there.
  3. They billed me for a $15 credit even though I explicitly instructed them not to.

Ironically, this is *less* shady than my dealings with the major mobile provider I used to use for my personal mobile needs.

I’m expecting my monthly usage to be in the 700 MB range which means that my out of pocket should only be about $4-$5 which is what mobile service really *should* cost.

I’m going to try FreedomPop for a few months and see if they do anything else similarly shady. I am certainly feeling a bit uneasy. They seem to be hoping people don’t read and don’t challenge them. If they just charge me what they say they’ll charge me and stop all this *gotcha* nonsense then I’ll stick with them. The surprise costs so far are low enough that I’ll just suck it up for this start month and be happy that I ended up with a $30 hotspot (adding in the back-billed charges) which is still not a bad deal.

Posted under Retail Experiences, Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on February 9, 2018 at 2:08 pm

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USPS Still looking for my (not so much) missing registered letter…

I originally posted the below on facebook at the end of September 2017. When they lost my final mortgage check I asked them to find it and NOT deliver it.

Of course they subsequently delivered it a week or so after that. I found it funny that about a month ago I received an update letting me know they are still diligently looking for it.

I thought I’d post this today to track exactly how long they keep “looking” for it. Today I received ANOTHER notification that they are still on the hunt.

It’s kind of too bad their “Search” doesn’t include checking their own system to see that the letter was delivered.

 

 

Original Facebook post:

Yay? US Postal Service finally delivered my check! Only 12 days late and against my express instructions! I guess it could have been worse, it could have been food…

Now to see if the mortgage folks try to apply the Stopped-Payment check and try to give me grief over that…

Well, what’s a little challenge in your life, right? It could be a *whole* lot worse.

 

Posted under Fail, Retail Experiences

This post was written by Marc
on January 20, 2018 at 2:07 pm

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SmartThings Hub V2 and WEMO

Last month there was a pretty major update to my SmartThings Hub and, once it was done, I found that none of my WEMO switches worked with that ecosystem any more. The things still showed up in SmartThings “stuck” in the last state that it had known them to be in prior to the update. But the state would not update as the switches were cycled, nor could I control them via SmartThings any longer.

The WEMO app continued to control the switches just fine so I knew it was unlikely to be an issue with the switches.

I conferred with SmartThings’ support folks and they pointed out that WEMO integration is a SmartThings Labs initiative. Which basically means it’s not a collaboration between Belkin and SmartThings and that Belkin can change things at any time and mess things up.

The long and short of it is that I needed to remove each WEMO switch from SmartThings, then let it discover them anew and then update every routine, SmartApp and webCoRE piston that used them as well.

This was driven home a couple of weeks later when I had to shut down my SmartThings Hub for several hours and again found the WEMO devices to be unresponsive.

The same technique worked to resolve the issue this time as well.

I’m still not 100% clear on exactly what it takes to cause the issue. Whether it’s the amount of time the SmartThings Hub is offline or if there is a confluence of events that has to happen. But I thought I’d post this to help folks who might be experiencing the same “zombie” Belkin WEMO switches in their SmartThings ecosystem.

You just need to suck it up and re-do. It’s a bit painful but you’ll resolve the issue and get on with life that much faster if you just go for it.

 

Posted under Smart Home

This post was written by Marc
on January 15, 2018 at 7:18 pm

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LG LMXC23796S Fridge Review

Our last fridge was a Whirlpool side-by-side that we bought back in 1996. It still works well but the door started rusting in spots and we were tired of the cramped freezer side. Also, I’m told on all fronts that newer fridges should be less power hungry. We’ll see.
Besides the freezer/fridge difference, the LG LMXC23796S Fridge is also counter depth and fits much more nicely in my kitchen. This size difference necessarily came with some compromises.

Pros:
– Love the wide fridge area and generous shelving
– The doors are pretty easy to open, especially the door-in-door
– The door-in-door feature is surprisingly handy, especially with the ability to see what’s there before you open it.
– The latched drawers are IMHO *much* easier to open than magnetically sealed ones. We tried many in the showrooms and the latches hands-down are the way to go.
– The stainless steel looks very nice
– The LED lighting fills the fridge with no dark areas except the bottom-most freezer drawer
– See the “Con” on water filters below. The “Pro” here is that they are not required if you so choose, so Kudos to LG for that.

Cons:
– Less Ice available than I’m used to. I use a *lot* of ice in the summer when I go bicycling so I’m not sure yet how this will affect me. This was a known trade-off so I’m not harping too much on it
– Also the ice maker tends to spray a bit of moisture when dispensing (even in cube mode) which makes things a bit messier than they need to be.
– The touch switch to change between cubed and crushed ice is finicky and requires you to put your whole thumb over it rather than just touching it like all the other buttons on that panel. It does work fine once you figure that out.
– Water from the dispenser is MUCH less cool than I’m used too. This is probably my biggest annoyance so maybe I’m just nit-picking. I’m working on adjusting the overall fridge temperature settings to correct this but I’ll probably just get in the habit of filling up my water bottles and keeping them in the fridge.
– The fridge can be web connected but it’s a bit of a nuisance to set up as the website is NOT synched with whatever backend system the iOS app talks to. Helpful hint: just create an account on both using the same email and password and save yourself headaches. Beyond that the IOT connectivity isn’t being used for anything that I find useful at all. And I have my home “SmartHomed” out the whazoo.
– OMG I can’t believe how expensive replacement water filters are. $50 retail! I knew this going in though. So we’ll see if they become more reasonable or if they become the “Inkjet cartridges” of the Fridge world.

Neutrals / Notes:
– The compressor makes a different noise than I’m used to. Not bad but will take a bit of time to get used to it as the fridge is quite near my office. I would say the compressor noise is on par with that of my old fridge.
– I haven’t really figured out what to do with the “Customchill” drawer – I started with setting it to a “cold drink” temperature but it’s not really great at holding free cans (they just topple over and/or roll around). So more experimentation is needed. I’m sure I’ll find it invaluable once I figure it out. Some suggestions from LG would be useful on this front.

I tend to buy good quality and expect it to last. Everything about my old fridge still works perfectly so it’s being used as my overflow now. I’m expecting this new LG Fridge to live up to that expectation.

Posted under Opinions, Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on January 13, 2018 at 8:57 pm

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Looks Like Amazon’s Tracking system is just a *wee* bit confused this holiday season

This isn’t the only order I’ve seen this with. It appears that something between Amazon, the shippers and the sheer volume of traffic is right about at the breaking point these days….

Posted under Amusing

This post was written by Marc
on December 21, 2017 at 6:42 pm

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Kudos to AT&T Support for my Internet Gateway issue

On Monday (Dec 4, 2017) I recycled my AT&T Fiber gateway and my routers as I tend to do every couple of weeks. Only problem was.. the Gateway refused to come back. It just showed the power light as green and nothing else for about 3-5 minutes and then EVERY light on the device went to RED. It did this a couple of times regardless of power cycling, reset or full factory reset.

I decided to pull up AT&T’s internet web app to see if there was anything else that could be done (Reset something on their end perhaps?), but after some perfunctory troubleshooting steps the app concluded that a technician visit was needed. Not the best news but I knew my path now and was sure it wasn’t going to be a quick fix…

The app then offered to schedule the appointment for me. The first available date available was… today (Monday). Well.. color me surprised. The first available time slot was… 10 AM – Noon. Keep in mind I was doing this at about 9:00 in the morning. I figured this was a mistake but scheduled myself for that time slot see what happens.

About 9:30 I get a call from AT&T’s automated service confirming the appointment. 20 minutes later the tech calls me and tells me he’s about 30 minutes out.

Long story short by about 10:45 AM the same day I was back up and running just fine.

So credit where credit is due. Thank you AT&T for the swift response and getting me sorted out so quickly after that hardware failure.

 

Posted under Retail Experiences, Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on December 10, 2017 at 8:40 pm

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Amazon Dot vs Airplay

It seems that Amazon’s Alexa app doesn’t coexist well with my Philips AD7000W/37 units. These are speakers that support Apple’s Airplay protocol.

Last week I picked up an Amazon Dot (baby brother of their Echo product) and liked it so much I ordered another one a day later. I was then away from home to attend a wedding so it took a couple of days for me to realize that my Philips speakers were not regularly showing up on my Airfoil panel any more.

After doing some research on the web it seems there are a small number of folks who are complaining about similar issues (check reddit). But the symptoms vary somewhat from mine. While my issue is exclusively through Wi-Fi connectivity, many of the other reports seem to be for hard wired devices. Also, I have a few Apple TV units and an Airport Express that all participate in my AirPlay ecosystem and none of these seem to be affected.

The issue, where my Philips speakers would just drop off the network, seemed to happen at random at first but I eventually sorted out that it had something to do with the Alexa App’s Smart Home Discovery feature. If I’m using those speakers and initiate discovery manually they immediately disconnect.

I just got off the phone with Amazon’s Alexa department and they were pretty understanding about it. Unfortunately I got disconnected before we could complete (my phone’s fault not theirs – thanks AT&T) and am presently trying to get back to them.

From some of the other solutions I’ve seen out there it seems the issue is some kind of Multicast Broadcast the App (or the Dots, it’s not clear to me) puts out is the actual cause. Whether it’s a poor Airplay implementation or Alexa is doing something it shouldn’t is not clear to me.

I’m asking Amazon to consider an advanced setting to simply disable auto discovery of Smart Home devices. Whenever I add or update a device I manually trigger such discoveries on any devices that interact with them anyway so I gain nothing from having the Discovery feature running in the background anyway.

Maybe something as simple as “Alexa, Disable Smart Home Auto Discovery” and “Alexa, Enable Smart Home Auto Discovery” would be a suitable enough interface for this kind of setting.

I’m posting this in the hopes that other people who are experiencing AirPlay issues since adding an Alexa device to their home find it and can realize what the problem is before they get frustrated with either or both of the technologies.

*Update* I was able to get back with Amazon and we created a ticket, I’m not sure if you can reference *my* ticket but if you can and it can help you here it is: # 0094625730

They will follow up with me on Wednesday (Nov 2, 2016), I don’t have high hopes for such a fast resolution but.. we are in a nimble age so we’ll see what happens.

Posted under Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on October 26, 2016 at 7:57 pm

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