Category Archives: My soap box

Internode & Vodaphone, a match made in hell

Trigger warning: major rant ahead.

I’ll start by saying that I have been with Internode [broadband ISP] for a very long time, maybe as long as ten years. In all that time I’ve always been 100% satisfied with both the product and the customer service.

Like most customers though, I paid absolutely no attention to Internode’s internal business, so I had no idea it had ‘partnered’ with Vodaphone [mobile network provider] until the screen on the Offspring’s mobile phone broke.

As both our phones are the cheapest smartphones money can buy, it was cheaper to buy a brand new phone than attempt to have the broken screen replaced. So the Offspring bought a new smartphone from Amazon.com.au. It arrived within 48 hours. Colour me amazed. Unfortunately, our good luck ended there.

After unpacking and decontaminating everything, I spent over an hour getting the old SIM card out of the broken phone. I’m pretty handy with tools but this damn SIM simply did not want to ‘slip out’. And of course, I was scared of getting tough with it in case I accidentally damaged it.

Long story short, I finally got the old SIM card out only to discover that it was miles too big for the new phone…

<<cue expletives deleted>>

So…I hopped onto my mobile phone and rang Internode [our mobile phone accounts are also with Internode, kinda]. I discovered that since moving our mobile phones to Internode, the company had left Optus [one of the major mobile network providers here in Australia] and moved to Vodaphone [another network provider]. Just as an aside, according to the Internode person, Internode ‘bought’ Vodaphone so they could have a mobile network of their own. According to the Vodaphone customer support person I spoke to today, Internode is only ‘partnering’ with Vodaphone.

<<whatever….>>

Still with me? Maybe grab a cup of coffee or a stiff drink; things are about to get a lot worse.

So…me to support: “The SIM card won’t fit.”

Support to me: “We can’t send you a new SIM card because your accounts are with Optus and we can’t source SIMs from Optus any more.”

Me to support: “What?”

Support to me: “The only way we can do it is if the account is ‘moved’ over to Vodaphone with a new plan. Then we can send you a new SIM from Vodaphone.”

This ‘move’ would prove to be $5 cheaper than our current plans, but only for 6 months. After that, the cost would become $5 more expensive than the current plan.

<<cue sigh>>

As getting to this point had already taken over a week, I authorised the change and waited for the new SIM card to arrive. It took a week and only arrived today. So all up, the Offspring has been without a phone for over two weeks. That’s meant we’ve had to share my mobile phone because we no longer have a landline.

<<cue another sigh>>

But at least the new SIM finally arrived, right?

The documentation that came with the SIM said that it had to be activated online. Fine, I login, get to the relevant screen and discover that step 1 of the activation process is that an activation code will be sent, via SMS, to the OLD PHONE. The phone that’s broken. The phone that triggered this whole mess in the first place.

<<What. The. Fuck?>>

Apologies, but I did warn you. 😦

So…I get on the phone to the support number written on the documentation and eventually get put through to someone we’ll call ‘Mary’. After explaining everything I outlined above, I told Mary that there had to be some other way of activating the new SIM.

After looking up the procedure manual [???], Mary said that no, there was no other way: the activation code had to be sent to the old SIM card to verify ownership of the phone.

<<cue tearing out of hair>>

Me to support: “But the phone is broken!

Support to me: “Could you put the SIM into another phone?”

<<cue grinding of teeth, loudly>>

The only other phone capable of taking the Offspring’s old SIM is mine. Unfortunately, getting the SIM out of the Samsung Galaxy J2Pro is bloody hard. You can’t just ‘slide’ it out. It’s in waaaaay too tight. I had to use a pin to dislodge it, then I had to use a pair of tweezers to get it all the way out. But I finally did it.

<<cue intense relief>>

The new ‘nano’ SIM is finally in the new Nokia 2720 Flip Phone, and we are a two phone family once more, but I’d like to say a word to Nokia about the phone: Getting SIM cards in and out looks easy until you actually try it. I wasted yet another hour attempting to ‘lock’ in the nano SIM card. The mechanism doesn’t ‘just’ slide.

I know it’s the cheapest phone in the Nokia stable, but for godsake, can’t you design something better? This is basic stuff.

And finally, before I end this rant, there are a few more things I’d like to say. The first is about the Vodaphone network:

  • outsourcing tech support to countries with a much lower minimum wage may be cost effective, but when that tech support consists of people reading off a script, or out of the procedures manual, the quality of the support is generally terrible.

The second thing I’d like to say is to Internode.

Guys, your support has always been excellent on broadband. It’s why I’ve been such a loyal customer. But on mobiles? Not good.

I now know that tech support for the mobile network is Vodaphone’s responsibility, but I bet most Internode customers don’t know that. I know I didn’t. All we know is that when we ring up for tech support [on mobiles] the quality plummets. If this keeps happening, Vodaphone won’t be the company blamed; it’ll be Internode. This is a problem you have to fix… somehow.

Okay, to all my online friends, thanks for letting me rant. I do feel a bit better now. 🙂

Meeks


Pet Circle – Buyer Beware!

This warning applies to https://www.petcircle.com.au/

As the name implies, Pet Circle provides all sorts of products for your pet. I made one purchase, ages ago, via the Pet Circle online store. As far as I was concerned, this was a one time purchase. Imagine my surprise when I checked my emails this morning and found this:

I knew I had not set up any kind of recurring purchase so at first I thought the email was one of those awful scams we all have to live with. I would have deleted the email out of hand if not for all the personal information that a scammer would not have known:

When I logged into the Pet Circle website and had a look at my account, I found an option about Auto Delivery that I’m sure I didn’t see when I made my one and only purchase:

I cancelled the auto delivery and rang the company. I was told that there was different pricing for one off sales and auto delivery sales. I’m damn careful with my money so you can believe me when I say I was not aware of this AT ALL.

The person I spoke to at Pet Circle said something along the lines of ‘it can be confusing’. Yes, it can.

You can see from the bit I circled at the top of the previous screenshot that it is not at all clear that the discounted prices are contingent on signing up for the auto delivery.

In fact, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that there was no ‘signing’ up involved at all.

I am no lawyer so there may well be some kind of legal ‘thing’ whereby if you accept a certain price, you are accepting certain terms and conditions that go with it. I assume this is the legal grounds on which the Pet Circle auto delivery function operates.

But…if a customer effectively agrees to an ongoing ‘direct debit’ on their account, that should be made very clear, multiple times before the customer makes that purchase. There should never be any confusion about a direct debit. Direct debits give the company access to your bank account. This is dangerous stuff and should never be entered into lightly.

What bothers me the most is that I’m soooo careful with my money and with everything to do with online security, yet if I had followed my first instinct and deleted the Pet Circle email as a scam, I would not have known about the transaction until a) an unwanted purchase landed on my doorstep, and b) my account was debited with an amount I could ill afford to lose.

This is the first time I’ve personally come across this kind of ‘confusion’, but I can’t help wondering how many other online companies are doing much the same thing? When you buy online, please read all the fine print and do NOT leave your credit cards details with any merchant unless you are absolutely sure that you want to give them access to your bank account.

I’m okay. Make sure that you’re okay too, now and into the future.

Not even a little bit happy,
Meeks


What is wrong with us?

This is the sentence that horrified me just moments ago:

Iowa Woman Admits to Hitting Children With Car Because of Their Ethnicity

It’s not click-bait. It’s real, and that makes it a million times worse.

The article is written by online blogging friend, Jill Dennison. You can find the full details, including the official statement by authorities, here https://jilldennison.com/2021/04/24/71725/

Be warned though, the account is chilling because the ‘Iowa Woman’ deliberately targeted two separate kids at two separate locations.

As a mother, I cannot conceive of any act more brutal, more evil. But the aftermath, sickened me almost as much:

‘What I don’t understand … this woman who attempted to murder children because she didn’t like the colour of their skin … is handled by law enforcement with kid gloves, while in North Carolina, a 68-year-old Black grandmother was dragged out of her car by her hair, slammed to the ground by police, stepped on, treated so brutally that she suffered a torn rotator cuff (part of the shoulder joint) … for exceeding the speed limit.’

And similar acts of brutality are being carried out, by police, right here in Australia. Against people whose

skin.

is.

not.

white.

What is wrong with us?

Meeks


WP Media Library – ‘Uploaded to’??

I’m not usually stumped by what appears to be a common ‘feature’ in WordPress, but I’ve just found one that has me utterly baffled.

This is a screenshot of the Media Library as accessed from the Dashboard:

I have the view set to ‘list’ instead of ‘grid’, but the column heading of ‘Uploaded to’ doesn’t mean ‘this picture was inserted into XX post’ because most of my pictures are shown as ‘Unattached’, despite the fact that I know they were inserted into posts.

The blue ‘Attach’ option doesn’t do what I thought it should either – i.e. it doesn’t insert a saved picture file /into/ a post. I actually tried it out and when you select the ‘Attach’ option, you’re given a list of posts to attach the picture file to:

But…selecting a post and clicking ‘Select’ does NOT place the image into the post. I tried. It doesn’t do anything that’s visually obvious. The only thing that changes is that for that file, ‘Attach’ changes to ‘Detach’.

I tried searching for an explanation of what the ‘Uploaded to’ column means, or what the ‘Attach’ option is meant to do, but found only programming type gobbledegook that sounded as if it had nothing to do with inserting a picture into a post.

To save /my/ sanity. Does anyone out there know what this is all about? -cough- In plain English?

Meeks


WordPress Media Library

Meeka’s Mind is a ‘word’ blog rather than a picture blog. Nevertheless, I do use quite a lot of graphics – 2,172 at last count – so when I tried to insert an old pic into a post and couldn’t scroll past 2017, I dashed off a help request to WordPress. The problem is now fixed, but in the process, I learned that the Media Library you see within a post is a dumbed down version of the Media Library you see from your Dashboard.

This is what you see from within the post:

It’s a basic grid layout with the ability to filter your pics by the month [Filter media], or via a search function [not shown]. If you have over 2000 pics like me, finding one particular thumbnail is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

But have a look at what you can do from the Dashboard!

See the small blue icon circled near the top left of the screenshot? That corresponds to the ‘Details’ option in Windows Explorer. It lists all your pics according to 5 different categories: file [filename], Author [some sites have more than one], Uploaded to [name of post], Comments and…ta dah…Date. Clicking on the name of the category – e.g. File – causes all the files to be sorted in alphabetical order. Or date order etc.

So instead of scrolling through hundreds of thumbnails, you can narrow your search down by year, or filename [if you happen to remember what it was called] and so on. And because the icons on the list are so small, everything loads so much faster.

Now, the reason I did not know you could sort your pics in a list view was because I never use the Media Library from my Dashboard [that’s the black panel on the left]. I upload new pics from within whichever post I’m writing or editing. Or, if I know I’ve already got the perfect pic in my Media Library, I also look for it from within the post. And I have to tell you, that can be excruciatingly painful.

Anyway, I thanked the nice tech person who answered by original call for help, and then I asked him why such a useful function was not available in the one place where it would be most needed – i.e. in the post. I haven’t received a reply yet, but I assume this is all part of the mobile phone devolution. Thumbnails in a grid can be rearranged to fit smaller screens fairly easily. Columns cannot, and who’s going to swipe sideways every time they want to see the Date column?

So you see, I do understand. I also understand that the bulk of WordPress users are probably quite young and very efficient with their thumbs. They probably don’t want to write, or read, long word posts. They probably write multiple, very short posts, with pics, whenever the mood strikes them. And that may be the direction in which all social media is heading…but…those of us who’ve been with WordPress the longest signed up for a blogging platform focused on…words.

Have we become the old demographic, in all senses of the word? A dying breed?

What say you, fellow dinosaurs?

Meeks

p.s. As a form of protest, I decided against including a graphic. Instead, please picture me in fluffy slippers, taking on all comers as I wield my trusty rolling pin. 🙂

p.p.s. I notice that the preview function is back the way it used to be! Glory be. Must have been a lot of people complaining.


Bushfire funding rort?

Australia’s Black Summer of 2019/20 shocked the world. Scott Morrison’s Hawaiian holiday in the middle of the fires shocked Australians. But then Covid happened, and we just assumed that all the money promised to bushfire victims would be distributed.

Now, it appears that even this emergency relief has been rorted.

First we learned that the Blue Mountains area of NSW received next to no community funding at all. Then we learned that a sky diving complex [not in the Blue Mountains area] was not only approved, it was given roughly four million dollars more than requested.

The shock value of these funding inequalities lasted for about a day before it faded into obscurity, at least in the main stream media. Not so on Twitter. There, independent journalists, such as Matt Lloyd-Cape have been trying to get to the bottom of the bushfire funding. What they found was that matching promised funding to actual funding was not so easy because of the lack of transparency in the process.

‘Not easy’ and ‘impossible’ are not the same though. This is some of what they found:

‘Of the $566 million promised in emergency support to people whose homes and /or businesses were burned by the fires, only 43% had been spent by the end of October 2020.’

https://www.michaelwest.com.au/bushfire-money-mystery-recovery-funds-withheld-to-fight-the-election/

This is the funding allocated for immediate emergency relief, for people who lost their homes or businesses in the fires. Let me repeat that. The funding was supposed to be for the most destitute of victims.

Or how about this:

‘Of the $228 million released by the Morrison Government under this program so far, more than 77% went to NSW, 8.75% to South Australia, 7.5% to Queensland and just 6.4% to Victoria. While this split seems to disproportionately favour Coalition controlled states, there still may be good reasons – it could be a matter of different reporting schedules among states, or that the states have agreed to such a division for federal resources – but without better publicly available information there is no way of knowing.

https://www.michaelwest.com.au/bushfire-money-mystery-recovery-funds-withheld-to-fight-the-election/

There’s more, of course, and I strongly recommend that all Australians read the entire article: https://www.michaelwest.com.au/bushfire-money-mystery-recovery-funds-withheld-to-fight-the-election/

I think you’ll be shocked to learn how much news you have not been getting. I know I was.

The disruptions caused by the internet are still rumbling through the news media, and traditional news suppliers have either been forced out, or forced to toe the funding line just to stay in business. As for the journalists employed by those suppliers, their jobs have never been more precarious.

Hmm…. I wonder what that sort of financial pressure does to a journalist’s ability to report the news, without fear or favour?

I recently read about a media company that supplied a list of politicians that new, young, female journalists should stay away from. Yet not a word leaked to the general public because those journalists live or die by their ‘access’ to sources within the Canberra bubble.

On Twitter, these news suppliers are known as the MSM – main stream media. They include #Newscorpse [Rupert Murdoch’s News Corps], the Fairfax press, what’s left of it, commercial TV news, and…the Australia Broadcasting Corporation.

‘…the ABC was originally financed by consumer licence fees on broadcast receivers. Licence fees were abolished in 1973 and replaced principally by direct government grants,…’

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Broadcasting_Corporation

I stopped watching commercial TV when I realised how biased ‘Sixty Minutes’ was in its presentation of genetically modified organisms [GMOs] and genetic engineering in general. I switched to the ABC because I grew up thinking the ABC was stodgy but accurate. I’ve recently had to revise even that article of faith. The ABC may not lie, but all the funding cuts have forced it to be very…selective…in the news it presents.

In my world, you’re judged not just by what you do say but by what you don’t say, and the ABC has been not-saying a lot lately.

I stopped watching the 7:30 Report a couple of years after Kerry O’Brien left. I stopped watching The Drum about a week ago when it became obvious that the discussion about Victoria’s recent 5 day lockdown would become a Daniel Andrews bash-fest. What else can you expect when the only Victorian on the panel was an ex Liberal politician?

Why was he an ex Liberal? Because we voted him out at the last election. Did he agree with our elected State Government’s strategy on Covid? Of course not. Yet the 5 day lockdown worked, just as our months long, hard lockdown worked.

It’s possible that someone else on The Drum disagreed with the bash-fest, but I didn’t see it because I stopped watching and haven’t watched since.

So why the heck am I writing all this now? I’m writing because I know that most people of my generation:

  • still believe that the news media ‘can’t’ lie.
  • still have faith in the ABC,
  • and don’t use Twitter, or watch podcasts by The Friendly Jordies, or seek out independent news sources etc etc.

Why do I know this? Because that was me just a short while ago. 😦

The Fourth Estate has changed, and the old guard are dying out. A new generation of fearless journalists are rising up to fill the void, but thus far it’s mostly the young who know about them. Those young people will be our movers and shakers very soon, but they’re not there yet. That’s why it’s up to us, the over 50s to start asking questions too. And if we don’t like the answers, we have to make ourselves heard.

I do not like learning that emergency funding for the most desperate of bushfire victims has been withheld, for any reason whatsoever. This is not only morally wrong, it’s obscene.

The rort we ignore is the rort we condone.

Meeks


What the hell, Amazon? Update

Firstly, thank you to everyone who checked their Amazon accounts to see if my paperbacks were available. Your feedback has helped me narrow down some possible answers – i.e. that the problem has something to do with my use of Ingram Spark for countries not covered by the Amazon marketplaces. I’ve sent an email off to KDP support outlining what the problem is and what we’ve ‘found’. I’ll keep you posted about the outcome.

And while I was messing around with my KDP dashboard, I came across a new, beta version of the Reports. I rarely used them in the past because they were so…useless. I’m thrilled to say that the new, beta version is MUCH better.

As I was tootling around the beta version, I discovered that I’ve earned roughly $15 AUD from sales in Australia! That really surprised me. It also made me dance with joy because it was so unexpected. I do have online friends from Australia, but I just didn’t think they’d be buying.

Okay, okay, I never think anyone is buying. That is more of my upbringing at work, and it’s not helped by the fact that Amazon US will only pay me when, or if, my total sales reach $100. So far I’ve only had one payment that passed that threshold so it’s not all my fault.

I’ve often wondered what happens to that residue if you unpublish with Amazon. Or die. Or never reach $100. Are they allowed to keep those funds, however small, forever? Hopefully one day, Amazon will change its payment system so we can be paid via Paypal or something. Ah well.

Anyway, thank you for all your help, and an extra thank you to the Aussies who’ve taken a chance on my stories. 🙂

cheers
Meeks


What the hell, Amazon?!?

My thanks to Gradmama for alerting me to the fact that for some reason, NONE of my paperbacks are currently available on Amazon. Not. One.

The ebooks are fine, but it seems that Amazon has reset each paperback version to the ‘Order author copies’ step:

I now have to go through each of the print versions and effectively click the last ‘Save and Publish’ to get them ‘available’ again. To all intents and purposes they were either unpublished by Amazon, or never published at all?!?

I don’t sell many paperbacks. I never expected to sell many paperbacks, but I did expect them to remain available after going through all the effort of putting them up on KDP. What infuriates me even more is that Amazon/KDP didn’t inform me of this rather big change. Perhaps they don’t even know. I miss Createspace. 😦

Not happy, Amazon/KDP, not happy at all.
Meeks


‘Native Sponsored Posts’? – it’s time to leave WordPress

So…Wordpress is ramping up its long term plan of monetising our content. First it was those shitty ads taking up valuable real estate on everyone’s blog page, now we’ll be hosting full length infomercials in place of our own blog posts:

‘WordPress.com has begun testing Sponsored Posts on free WordPress.com sites. These sponsored posts promote WordPress.com content, other Automattic products, and brands for the purpose of driving traffic and sales for users and advertisers.
For now, you may see these Sponsored Posts running on your sites as we expand testing. To remove Sponsored Posts from your site, upgrade to any paid WordPress.com plan which comes with many more benefits including the ability to use your own custom domain!
In the longer term, we hope to offer Sponsored Posts to our users as a way to help drive traffic and promote content discovery.

https://wordpress.com/support/native-sponsored-posts/#example

How it will be done is hidden behind opaque words like ‘testing’. Will our blog posts be replaced once a day? Once a week? At random so we never know when to post important marketing posts of our own?

And what happens when we want to post something new?

Will our new posts replace the obnoxious shit placed there by Automatic? Or will we have to wait for the cuckoo to run its course before we can post again?

And what of the content? Once WordPress start offering this new ‘service’ to paying customers, we could find ourselves hosting absolutely anything on our blogs.

Remember when paid ads first started appearing on our sites? I found a delightful adv. for some kind of porn site on my blog. This is the pic that went with it:

https://acflory.wordpress.com/2018/02/14/wordpress-do-you-know-what-your-blog-really-looks-like-to-visitors/

But at least that advert had no naked bits, and people knew it was a paid commercial. Once our actual posts are replaced by someone else’s paid content, I could wake up to find that Meeka’s Mind has hosted an infomercial for a porn site complete with full on visuals!

Automatic says I can complain and ‘ask’ for objectionable content to be taken off, but the damage will already have been done. Not only will that kind of awful content be on my blog, notifications about it will have been sent to all my followers, exactly as if I had posted a new article. Exactly as if I’d sponsored that content.

That scares me most of all. I’ve put nine years of my life into this blog. To have it, and my reputation, abused like that would be unbearable.

Yes, I could probably scrape together a monthly fee to be saved from this blatant ditigal blackmail, but as more and more of us pay to escape having our blogs hijacked, the price will go up. That’s how this marketplace works; corporations charge whatever the market will allow – i.e. whatever us poor saps are prepared to pay.

I simply can’t afford to pay that kind of protection money to Automatic out of my pension.

There’s also something else. WordPress would be nothing without our content. It’s like a digital shopping mall that offers us somewhere to create and display our ‘goods’. Take those goods away and you’re left with a great big empty building. Or maybe it won’t be empty. Maybe your blog will be surrounded by porn sites and 2 dollar shops. I’m moving mine before that happens and I waste more of my life on WordPress.

If I must pay to retain control of my blog, my brand and my content, then I’d rather pay a company with some integrity. And if that company abuses my trust, I’ll move on again. It’s called ‘churning’, and it’s the commercial equivalent of voting with your wallet. It is a lot of work, but it’s the only way we consumers have of forcing corporations to actually compete for our business. Given that these corporations are big enough to buy and sell small countries, I feel no guilt at punishing them when they abuse my trust.

I’ve been blogging with WordPress.com for nine years, but I won’t be here for the tenth. The price of free has become too high.

Meeks


Guest post: The First Year of the Third Decade of the Age of Stupid, by the Venerable Bede

Trigger warning: snark ahead!

Scifi author Chris James has a secret talent – he channels a Venerable from the 6th century called Bede. Chris was kind enough to allow me to reproduce some of the great man’s words of wisdom to start the New Year.

“And lo, at the beginning of the First Year of the Third Decade of the Age of Stupid, a Great Pestilence did make its way from the East along the Silk Road, and did cause much harm and bring vast Misery and Death to the countries of the West and the New World.

“But this was the Age of Stupid, when people turned their backs on the Men and Women of Knowledge. Yay, verily, in the New World, the disciples and acolytes of the Orange Shit-Gibbon did follow their Master’s teachings, unto the arms of Death itself, for they did not believe the Great Pestilence was real because they could not see it with their own eyes. Indeed, His disciples and acolytes did curse and spit on the Men and Women of Knowledge, and did reject the evidence that Knowledge brought forth even as the Great Pestilence did fill their lungs with foul liquid and they breathed their last. Such was the Age of Stupid.

“In Perfidious Albion, the Greased Albino Piglet strove to pretend to care for all the common people; but, lo, He gave out all of the Gold to His associates of knaves and charlatans, who did cluster about Him in the same manner as insects do weave and dive and fret about excrement. In Perfidious Albion, too, did thousands perish needlessly from the Great Pestilence, but this did not matter because the Hoarders of the Gold could protect themselves, and did reason that because they hoarded all of the Gold, they were better and their lives worth more than the common people. Such was the Age of Stupid….

To read the entire post from the Venerable Bede, please click here.

Sadly, the Venerable Bede had no words of wisdom about the #LiarFromTheShire in the Antipodes, but I guess travel was a bit restricted back then.

Have fun, and may the Bede be with you. 🙂

Meeks

p.s. Just corrected a boo boo I made when copy pasting the opening paragraphs of Chris’ post!


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