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The Movistar IQ (Idiot Quotient) Test

Posted by urufish on March 21, 2008

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This one’s easy.  Just go to www. movistar.com.uy, click on usuario and try to get anything important done. 

Earlier this week, I had emailed Movistar’s ‘attencion al cliente’ advising them that the credit card they’re using for autodebit had been cancelled.  I had another one and wanted to change it.

I immediately received an email stating that ‘due to large volumes of emails at this time, they would get to me when they could’. 3 days later I got a nice email telling me, among other things, that I could use the web portal.   It said that your user name is the last 6 digits of your phone number.  Your password is your cedula or passport #, whichever applied.

This caused me great joy, (still haven’t learned my lessons about Uruguay).  I now had access to my account on line.  Couldnt wait to try it out.  I went to the site, clicked on ‘usuarios’, after a few attempts figured out it was my wife’s cedula on file and I was in.  This caused me even greater joy, (still haven’t learned my lessons about Uruguay). 

Access gets you to ‘hello Sra Fisher’ screen.  The sub menus are: Telefonia, Internet, Cambio de Clave and Exit.  None of these seemed to apply to what I want to; change my autodebit credit card, so I started my journey by clicking Telefonia.  That takes you to a sub menu with one item.  Consultar Factura.  That wasn’t what I was looking for but since I have online access to view and print my other phone bills, I decided to add Movistar’s bill to my electronic stable.  I clicked it.  This takes you to, ready for this one, another login screen.  Duhhhh.. OK..  Let’s see if I can figure this one out.  It asks for your Cuenta and then your PIN.  We only have one account with Movistar so I pulled last month’s invoice and entered the cuenta (account) number.  That left me with trying to figure out what the PIN was.  The only place I’ve seen PIN used with Movistar is with the phone itself-the chip.  So I looked up the PIN and entered it.  No banana.  So I rooted around for any other possible PIN they could be looking.   Still no banana.  So I tried my wife’s cedula again.  That brought me to the 3 strike rule and you guessed it, I’m barred for life.  This particular service is now bloqueado.   I guess that puts me futher behind than when I had no access at all.

OK.. So much for consulting your phone bill on line..  Let’s try something else.  So I went back and clicked on the Internet option.

There are a lot more options here.  First is that ‘consultar factura’ thing.  No point trying that now is there?  Then there’s Consultar Accessos, Activar Direccion de correo en USA, Paginas Pesonalex, Busquedas Web, Humanizadas, Casilla de Fax, Aviso de Email, Email Adicionales, Consumos IPass, Llenar la encuesta

So I tried Consultar Accessos… This one sounds pretty good.  I always wanted to know the details of my usage but the invoices dont show that.  They just tell you how many minutes you use.  The screen defaults to Marzo (this is March) so I stupidly clicked on that.  Nothing.  That’s becuase no cell provider calculates your usage dynamically, (none I’ve seen anyway).  They put that information up when they calculate your invoice.  So I clicked on Feburary… Still nothing.  That concerned me, so I clicked January, then December.  Nothing.   There’s no construction sign.  I assume that either this thing is going to work someday, is broke now or I have to pay extra for this to work. 

Let’s try Activar Direccion de correo en USA.  Whoah.  That one took me totally by surprise.  It’s an advertisement for Miami Box.  You can subscribe to the service from this web page.  Just what I needed.   Yah right. 

Next stop is Paginas Personales.  It’s also an advertisement.  You can have your web site hosted with Movistar…  How quaint.  In fact, Busquedas Web, and Humanizades are all propaganda for additional services.

Casilla de Fax, Aviso de E-Mail and E-Mail adicionales are services you can add to your account.  This gives you a number people can send faxes to which are then forwarded to you via email.

IPass looks like the old dialup internet service thing.  Had that with Sprint many suns ago.

The last one, Llenar la ncuesta means exactly that.  You go there to rate their services.  I dont feel right doing this because maybe the reason I cant get anything out of the website useful to me is my comprehension of the language.  I dont see anywhere I can click ‘English’ 🙂

So here we are, no further ahead…. but you never know what can happen in the future.. intentionally or plain, dumb luck. 

 PS… When I emailed Movistar about the change of credit card, I also emailed Primus, my cell provider in Canada.  A Primus customer service rep replied the next morning, asking me for the new credit card info.  I replied.  Later that day I got a confirmation. 

Posted in Technology | 4 Comments »

Live – from atop San Antonio

Posted by urufish on March 1, 2008

piria-terrace.jpg

This is part 2 of Mobile Inernet in Uruguay (the previous post).  I said I’d write about what happened with our new mobile internet service on Monday.  But guess what?  It worked and here I am, sitting on the terrace (above) writing about how it went last night. 

We chose the USB modem instead of the PCMCIA modem.  We did that because with Mobile Internet, the exact placement of your antenna is critical.  With the USB, you can move it, not your laptop, around to get a good signal.  Personally, I prefer the PCMCIA because it becomes part of the laptop.  You dont have to lug peripherals around, no matter how small they are.  The other reason I preferred PCMCIA is power.  The manual indicated the USB requires 2 connections.  We only have 2 USB ports on our Dell.  That means while you’re using this thing, you can’t connect an external modem or keyboard or HD without adding yet another periphal, a USB hub AND a big, clunky power supply, which is only available here in single voltage, (which means buying another transformer or hub when we’re in Canada/USA.  I haven’t seen an electronic powersupply here that comes with a USB hub.   However, the good news is that (at least on this laptop), it works with a single USB connection only.   Some USB ports put out more power than others.  The modem’s needs exceed some laptop USB port’s power output.  My single ports seem adequate for this modem. 

The modem we got was exactly the same model that was advertised.  I asked the girl if the instructions were in English.  She said yes.  She was partially right.  The cover does say ‘Quick Start’ but that’s as far as the English goes.  I had to download a manual from the internet.  It’s a Huawei E226.  Had no problem finding Huawei’s website, but there was no E226 to be found.  There was an E220 which is identical for all intents and purposes.

When we got into the house last night, I first had to bring in the LCD TV and hook it up to my wife’s J-Win portable DVD player.  Got a chuckle out of that.  The video does work fine with the TV, but the audio is another story.  The volume control on the portable controls the output to the TV.  Even at full volume on the TV, it’s still louder on the portable unit.  Have to troubleshoot that back in the lab in Montevideo.  Dont have all my goodies with me here on the mountain :).

After the TV/DVD was done, it was time to try out mobile internet.  I did some Googling before I left Monevideo and all of the posts on the Huawei modem were positive.  One post in particular was great to know.  The poster detailed the entire bootup process.  That’s good for someone like me who would have been freaking out with the real boot process if I hadn’t read that post. 

When you’ve been around computers as long as I have, this process is always met with anxiety prior to starting it.  I long ago gave up having a stiff drink before I did this.  Had I not, I’d be a hopeless alcoholic by now 🙂   You get burned so many times, you figure the odds are against you and here I am, sitting on top of a hill, without any of my diag equipment.  But my wife was desperate to get to Latinchat, so I just bit down and started. 

The manual says you should turn on your computer first, then plug in the modem.  I read the instructions several times, to make sure I wasn’t missing any nuances.  There were two cables.  One normal cable with mini on one end and regular on the other.  Then there’s another cable with one mini on one end and 2 USB’s on the other end.  The picture and manual talks about the cable with 2 USB ends.  Based on comments from the first post, I’d say the single cable is used with a desktop unit, which has more power available per USB port than a laptop.  The one that I didn’t get the first time around was which of those 2 plugs goes in first.  Dont know if it really matters, but I followed it exactly as printed.  The plug that is part of the main cable goes in first.  I waited a few seconds, then plugged in the 2nd connection.   The sequence was exactly as the other post described it (and as Wilbur confirmed in the previous post’s comments).  The first thing it does is pick up the mass storage device.  That’s because there is a mass storage device built into the modem.  That’s where the software is located that it uses to install the drivers from.  That was kind of a neat thing.  Why have CD’s when you can put your software inside the device itself. 

It then installs a few more devices.  I believe one says it found a CD drive.  It doesn’t matter because it’s all automatic.  You just sit there and watch.  Eventually, it says it’s done, (which it really isn’t but who cares).  You agree to everything and it seems to be finished. 

After a while, this process starts all over again.  This is actually the important part.  This is where the modem itself is installed.  Then the software that runs it fires up.  The name of the software is Mobile Partner.  It’s equivalent to the wireless manager software you can run separately with most wireless cards.  The only difference is that this doubles as that and as your modem drivers.  Turn this thing off and you turn off your connection. 

I find Mobile Partner interesting.  In the image below, you can see most of what it does.  It tells you how fast you’re able to upload, how fast you download, and it tells you how much data you’re moving per session.  It also tells you how much data you’ve used in the calendar month.  I suspect this is how you audit the bills from providers like Movistar, that charge you by how much data you move.  CTI is ‘unlimited’.  I was surprised by the very slow rate it shows for upload.  Something must be wrong with the numbers because I’m writing this post and uploading images, and I see very little difference in the time it takes to upload an image between here and the 128 or 256 upload speeds I have in Montevideo. 

 mobile-partner.jpg

When the modem installation completed, it takes you to a configuration screen.  The first option is language.  It defaulted to English and that was fine with me.  The next option asks you which service you want to connect to.  The options are CTI, CTI Uruguay and CTI Paraguay.  The girl back at CTI told me to choose CTI Uruguay.  She said you can choose CTI Paraguay if you are there and for Argentina, you choose CTI period.  I guess Argentina/Uruguay is like USA/Canada.  The big guys think they’re the centre of the universe, so there is no country distinguished.  The rest of us are foreigners :).   After that, the little bubble came up in the bottom right corner (Windows users), that said I now had a 7.2mb Intenet connection.  Dream on dude.  Now I have no doubt that someplace on this planet, this puppy can handle 7.2mb, but not here atop San Antonio.  But that’s neither here nor there.  The important thing was that it got connectvity and it just ‘felt’ OK. 

After that, I punched up IE and away I went.  My wife was drooling on the other side of the table, waiting for me to be finished but I managed to divert her attention by turning on her favourite soap, (Canal 7).  That bought me an hour.  It turns out I needed it because on my computer, Yahoo Messenger wasn’t installed.  I had to download it.  First big test of the speed.  Worked flawlessly.  About 15 minutes later, we were in the Yahoo world.  Then I updated Windows Live Messenger and setup a shortcut for Latinchat.  The soap finished and that was it for me.  I was banned to the bedroom 🙂 

To sum it up, I’d say that it works as advertised as long as you’ve got a decent signal.  That’s a big if.  RF is always a big ‘if’ and the the greater the distance between the tower and the receiver AND the obstacles inbetween, the bigger the ‘if’.  Adding the experience last night with my experience using this technology in Toronto, I really believe that the key is the placement of the modem.  In Toronto, I had to park my laptop within a foot of the Western wall of my cousin’s apartment to get decent speed.  While I was using, I watched the speeds go up and down like a yoyo.  Reminded me of the early years of the cellular industry.  I will know more about ‘obstacles’ when I try this at home on Monday. 

In my own little piece of this planet, I have no idea if CTI’s tower is atop Pan D’Azucar or 60m behind my house atop San Antonio, but whatever it is, it works fine.  The installation went without a hitch.  They’ve got my UYP1800 by now from my NATIONAL credit card (jajajaja) and I’m sure the autodebit will kick in next month on that credit card.  For UYP500/month, I honestly have to say this is a serious altenative for anyone who is fine with this speed and UYP500/month.  If you’ve got a laptop, travel around Uruguay and want to use your laptop in Colonia, MVD, Atlantida, Solymar, Piria or Maldonado/La Punta, I’d say this was your only option. 

If Arrancopelito ever answers my request from last week, I’d love to take this over to her place and see if it works there.  She’s not close to the Punta tower(s), but she may have line of site and that may just be enough. 

Posted in Technology | 30 Comments »

Mobile Internet in Uruguay

Posted by urufish on February 28, 2008

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For the past several months, I’ve noticed an article here and there on the new mobile internet services being offered in Uruguay.  Movistar and CTI both offer this service. 

Mobile internet is a 3rd way of getting internet service in Uruguay.  The first provider in Uruguay was Antel with dialup.  Then it introduced ADSL.  Dedicado opened up shop with point to point microwave internet.  Antel’s ADSL service works through a telephone line.  Dedicado uses point-to-point microwave.  You get a small antenna which is pointed at their antennas.  Mobile internet is also wireless, but you dont need an antenna pointed at theirs.  You just need a small USB device.  It can be a plug in, like a jump drive or it can be a small remote USB modem.   Both are shown below.

globesurfer.jpg   e226.jpg

The differences between CTI and Movistar as of today are several.  Let’s start with the way they promote it.  Movistar advertises it on their website.  CTI doesn’t.  Pricing is considerably different.  CTI launched the service at almost USD50 per month.  It’s now down to USD25.  Movistar is about the same, but not for the same service.  CTI offers unlimited use for that USD25 per month.  Movistar limits you to 10gb for USD25. 

Coverage is also different.  Whereas CTI supposedly claims coverage across the country, Movistar is a little more conservative, showing coverage in most of Montevideo, Colonia and Maldonado (Punta del Este).  If you go to CTI and look at their written promotion, it says the service is available in Montevideo, Zona America (I assume that’s Zonamerica-Canelones), Atlantida, Piriapolis, Jose Ignacio, Punta Del Este, Maldonado, Shangrilah and Solymar.  It says that more site are coming.  

The obvious advantage of mobile internet over fixed internet (as in cable, telephone line, microwave) is that you can take it with you, assuming that there is service where you’re going.  Not everyone needs this but for those that do, this is the answer to your mobile needs.  Not only can you take CTI with you here in Uruguay to Punta or up to Colonia, you can take it with you to Argentina, (eg. Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Cordoba, etc.) and to Brazil (Sao Paolo, Rio, Florianopolis, etc.) and Paraguay, (Ascunsion, etc.).  No roaming charges.  If Movistar lets you do this too, you can add Chile to the list. 

We went out tonight and purchased service from CTI.  Movistar was out because our summer house is atop San Antonio in Piria.  That’s the main reason we bought the service–so we could have internet in Piriapolis.  

I was somewhat prepared for CTI because of Wilbur’s (jajaja) post on totaluruguay.com, but like they say, you’re never fully prepared for anything in Uruguay.  We went to CTI’s Punta Carretas branch around 7:45pm.  There was no line.  We were served within a few minutes.  Before we could ask any questions, the girl went through a list of things we should know.  The service was up to 2mb but there was no guarantee what we’d get.  If you use it inside, the speed is usually slower than outside.  You had to take a contract for 2 years.  Your first month is free.  You had to pay for the modem–$1799 (pesos).  Then we got to ask our first question, ‘Is there service in Piriapolis’.  That caused a delay as our salesgirl asked her boss who went inside and asked someone else.  After 5-6 minutes we were told that ‘it says it works in Piriapolis’  That didn’t warm my heart but considering there was no alternative, I accepted that at face value.

We then asked what the return policy was if it didn’t work in Piriapolis.  We were told we had 5 days to return the product for full refund.  There was one catch though.  If we connected to the internet, that meant that we accepted that it worked and there would be no return possible.  I explained that if we connected to the internet for a few seconds, then it went away and then it came back and this went on, that wouldn’t constitute a reasonable service.  That was answered with a blank stare.  So I said, well what if the service is so poor, that we get a very poor connection speed.  The supervisor said it wont connect under 256kbps.   Impasse. 

After a minute of indecision, we decided I knew enough to stay out of trouble so we said OK, we’ll take it.  That’s when she asked for a cedula and a phone, water, electricity bill.  Uh oh.  It’s been so long since I dealt with a new vendor, I forgot that you need to show that you actually have a contract with any company in Uruguay.  You could show them your Black American Express card and they’d still refuse to service you unless you show them an Antel, OSE, UTE or Montevideo Gas bill.  I went home to get one while my wife looked around. 

When I got back, there was a bit of a line, so we had to wait 10 minutes to see the girl who originally served us.  She smiled and took the Antel bill.  Then she printed out a 5 or 6 page document which my wife dutifully signed.  While she was doing that, I got a chance to read the posters in the store.  I guess I was bored because I read the fine print on the bottom of the mobile internet poster.  And that’s where I saw the published coverage.  There was Piriapolis… I was happy. 

After we signed all the forms, they asked us how we intended to pay.  As soon as my wife said ‘by credit card’ the girl said ‘it cant be an international card’.  This goes back to Wilbur’s post when he got frustrated, tore up his contract and walked out.  We were OK because we use our local credit card for small stuff in Uruguay.  When we told the girl we had a ‘national’ credit card, she was genuinely relieved.  I guess after hearing my wife and myself talking in English, she feared the worse. 

She gave us all the forms and we went upstairs to the cashier who stamped everything.  We went back downstairs and picked up the modem. 

When we came home, I opened up the box, took out the modem and looked at the manual.  One of the very few I’ve seen in Uruguay that come from China that aren’t in English.  Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem but there was a description of how to read the lights and another question in my mind about the cable.  I always resort to English when a misunderstanding could cause damage.  Checked on the internet for the manual in English.  The model we had, the E226 wasn’t there but the E220 was.  I figured that was good enough.  It was. 

The question I had with the cable was that it had 3 ends.  One for the device and what looked like 2 USB connections for the computer.  At first thought I figured it was to share another device if you only have one USB port on your computer.  But, believe it or not, it isn’t.  This device actually needs two USB ports on your computer.  One for data and one for power.  Maybe I’ve been away from the hardware side of the business too long but in all my years in IT,  I never saw a device that needed 2 connections to work. 

A device that requires 2 ports presents a dilemna for my wife.  She uses a Dell miniature laptop which has only one port.  I will have to give her my full size dell notebook to use in Piria.  It has 2 ports.  Or maybe I’ll purchase an external USB hub with a power supply.  Decisions.  Decisions.  Decisions. 

As of now, the chip is in the modem and it’s ready to go to Piria tomorrow evening.  I will have to bring my box of electronics with me in case I need to modify or fix something to overcome a glitch.  I’d do it here, but if I connect to the internet tonight, I cant return it if it doesn’t connect tomorrow.  This is typical of the kind of annoying problems you face in Uruguay that are unheard of (for at least the last 50 years) in North America. 

On Monday, I’ll write about the 2nd half of this project… Getting it to work. 

Posted in Technology | 8 Comments »

Antel has online bill payment (sort of)

Posted by urufish on December 3, 2007

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Today, I was doing my December budget when I noticed that my daughter’s phone bill never showed up in November.   Up until this month, Antel held the distinction of being the only utility that always mails invoices, more or less on time.  So now we have a clean sweep.   All the utilities are into the 10% multa scam. 

 I decided to go on line and print the invoice… http://www.antel.com.uy/portal/hgxpp001.aspx?2,358,539,O,S,0,MNU;E;278;1;MNU;,

While there, I noticed that Antel has added the ability to pay on line if you have a major credit card.  Oh good.  So I clicked on the link…  http://www.antel.com.uy/portal/hgxpp001.aspx?2,358,539,O,S,0

At this point, you enter your account number (cuente), you click the link and unfortunately, that’s the end of the journey.  If it does work, I dont have enough hours in the day to wait for the link…

I’ll try it again next month.  It could be working by then.  In the meantime, I printed the bill and will take it to the Abitab around the corner later today. 

Posted in Banking, Daily life, Technology | 4 Comments »

Dedicado vs Anteldata – Round 2

Posted by urufish on November 19, 2007

And the winner is….  Anteldata by a KO. 

 bad-dedicado.jpg  Dedicado is struggling today.. I’m being kind. 

Today, after a month of peace, Dedicado fell off the wagon… again.  This is the 3rd or forth time in the past couple of months.  This is what Dedicado looks like when it goes bad…  uuggllyyyy. 

It’s at these moments, one appreciates having their 2nd connection..  I just switched over to Anteldata and life goes on. 

If you’re planning on working here, and you value your time, the extra 50-60 bucks a month is worth it.  I’ve got a teleconference at 17:30 today…   Making excuses when you’re a few thousand miles away isn’t a smart way to keep your job.  No one wants to hear your excuses. 

Based on the last 2 years, I’d give Anteldata the nod if you must work with a single supplier.  Dedicado simply is too flaky if you need serious connectivity.  If your only option is Dedicado, have a backup plan.  Maybe a friend somewhere you can drive to who has Antel.  My friend in Arica, Chile made a deal with a local Cybercafe to cover her before she got her 2nd connection. 

Posted in Business, Technology | 11 Comments »

Dedicado vs Anteldata

Posted by urufish on October 24, 2007

visualroute.jpg 

For those of you considering an internet connection here in Uruguay, these tests below are indicative of each provider’s performance, on normal days, when nothing is going wrong. 

For work, I prefer the Dedicado service at UYP 1900/month for 512/512 (up and down).    I need at least 256kb upstream to support multiple, concurrent VoIP connections. 

The Anteldata service is UYP1268/month for 1mb/128 (down and up).  My family uses this connection unless Dedicado is struggling, at which time I comandeer it for my use. 

Separating connections like this protects me from my daughter’s indiscriminate use of Limewire and spurious downloads, video streaming and other bandwidth hogs, intentional and otherwise. 

I use Visualware’s MySpeed Voip to monitor performance and generate these graphs below.  The picture at the top is from Visualware’s Visualroute program.  This picture represents a graphical and mapped analysis for the connection between Montevideo and Toronto, Canada.  This specific route is the most common.  Notice the large delay between Uruguay and Miami.  This has been there for at least the last 3 years.  For greater detail, click on the graphs for larger images. 

Dedicado

dedicado-voiptest.jpg

Anteldata

anteldata-voipspeed-test.jpg

Posted in Business, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Technical update for the geeks

Posted by urufish on October 20, 2007

Sometime ago, I wrote about internet here.  I rated the two providers, Antel and Dedicado pretty much even.  It’s time to revise that.

As you know, I work from home.  I consider my work pretty important.  I’m sure my employer considers it important enough that they rely on me to be reachable and workable 24/7 and to be there during my regular hours, because other people rely on me.  Because of that, I have redundant connections in the house.  One from Antel and one from Dedicado.  Until last week, both performed equally well.  But this past week, Antel has definitely pulled ahead.

Most of us who use the internet, measure the quality of our connection subjectively.  We’ll say things like yesterday was creal crappy.  Or today it was unusuaually fast.  Because of the work that I do, I am familiar with LAN and WAN management but until recently, I’ve never applied it to myself.  Usually, I get involved with connectivity management when there’s a problem with the corporate LAN/WAN.  But this week, I’ve had to deploy those tools here on my connection. 

Early last week, we had bad weather.  I heard stories that Dedicado doesn’t like bad weather.  That during bad weather, its service worsens.  I never found that myself.  Not even sure I found it this past week, but I sure did find something. 

Starting late Monday or Tuesday, I started to get outages that lasted 2-3 seconds.  To most people, in most applications, this isn’t a big deal.  But in my job, I’m connected via a couple of technologies that get upset when things go dark for a few seconds.  I also take calls, mostly from staff.  Losing speech for 2-3 seconds on and off isn’t an ideal way to communicate. 

So I downloaded one of my favourite tools, a product from Visualware which measures several aspects of the connection in real time, and allows you to slice and dice it to analyze it.  The most interesting day was Thursday with Dedicado.  My service is 512/512 (like Glen’s).  When I first got it, I ran a day of tests and it pretty much delivered what it promised.  But Thursday was a treat.  When I sat down at my desk, first thing I noticed was my PBX connection was gone.  So I logged back in.  By the time I’d booted up, it was gone again.   When I ran the connection diags, I was getting 48kb down and 250kb up.  Jitter was all over the place.  Packet loss was 1-2%.  To us geek types, this is interesting, but nothing particularly unusual for a crappy connection.  Rather than call Dedicado and complain, I had work to do..  So I switched over to Antel and that was the end of that.

But I kept monitoring the Dedicado connection and the strangest thing was going on.  The quality of the connection (a combination of all the measurement features), was slowly going up.  And I mean slowly..   Over a period of 10 hours, it climbed all the way up to around 170kb downstream…  nearly 400kb upstream.  On Friday morning, I turned back on and voila, everything was back to normal.  high 4’s up and down..  0% packet loss.  No jitter to speak of..  Weird….. 

I’ll be running these diags now 24/7 for the next month.  I find it interesting.   

Posted in Business, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Telecollaboration

Posted by urufish on September 22, 2007

 

Dont know if that’s a real word, but it gets the point across…

When you’re telecommuting from a place like Uruguay and you’re NOT stuck in a pod like Ant, you can get into trouble very quickly if there’s a major crisis back at the office.

A couple of years ago, I was in the Geant, at the rear of the store in the electronics section.  My phone rang.  I couldn’t make heads or tails of the call because Movistar, in the electronics section of Geant sucks.  I thought it was one of my staff, so I ran out to the parking lot and called the office.  It was one of my staff.  She was hysterical.  She had just uploaded something and it wiped out a large section of our processing facilities.

The fix required myself, her and a few other people, all in the Toronto office. Together, with them altogether at head office and me in the parking lot of the Geant, we got everything back up in a half hour. 

Today, we’re spread over a much wider area.  So what happens the next time a crisis comes along?  Blackberry is what.  Blackberry has a conference function in chat mode, just like MSM, Yahoo, etc.  When something requires more than 2 heads to collaborate on, we initiate a group chat and we ticktack type back and forth until we get agreement on something.  Of course, if it doesn’t lend itself to ticktacking, we can always set up a conference call… but most of these things are better done on a white board so to speak.. 

I had a chance to use this a couple of days ago…  Very kool…  

Posted in Business, Technology | 12 Comments »

Telecomuting for technicians

Posted by urufish on September 21, 2007

 

This is a short little post tonight about an interesting little twist that we’re implementing in the next 2 weeks..   Adds another dimension to those of us in the technical world, working thousands of miles away from the sites we support….

One of my responsibilities is making sure the devices that report back to our facilities in Canada and the USA work 100% of the time.  These devices are similar to those swipe machines used with your credit or ATM cards.  Imagine how many swipes there are every day in the USA?  Mind boggling.  We dont do swipe machines.  But it’s similar.  A couple of hundred thousand of them chattering away 24/7 and they’re supposed to accurately transmit the information without fail. 

So what happens when they dont do that?  When they dont work.  Well, when I worked in the core processing facility, I could flick a switch and scope (when you do it enough, you can just listen.. but it sounds better–like Fubarrio’s multi-zero’s money transfer post) it and go, well this is the problem.  But that’s not possible when you’re telecommuting.  So we’ve decided to record all those calls, just like voice calls, and when I need to find out why something didn’t work, I transfer the recording of the call down here and scope it locally. 

The point is that if you break out the components of many jobs, even tech support that required physical presence to see or listen to something, you can probably build solutions to each of them that works with a remote employee.  Remoting extensions, remote access to computer systems (Citrix, TS), VoIP are ‘blue sky’ fixes that cover the major elements of working remotely.. but I am a firm believer that most (if not all), jobs can eventually be done from a remote office or even home. 

Once Uruguay gets real broadband… like we have back home, a lot more possibilities will open up for us telecommuters down here. 

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More on Blackberry

Posted by urufish on September 4, 2007

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Yesterday night, I had an hour to kill so I went surfing for information on my little amigo, mi Blackberry.  After a few days, I got used to it and I decided it was time to move to the next level.

 For a long time, there were no decent 3rd party applications for a Blackberry.  A few years ago, there was a good selection.  I dont see a big improvement now, but what I was looking for was there–an English/Spanish/English dictionary.  I had this back in 2005.  I used it a lot.  When I switched to the Nokia in 2006, it didn’t have this.  Yesterday I downloaded it and started using it this morning.  Makes a huge difference when you can find words quickly without having to arm yourself with a 2nd device or worse, a dictionary. 

I like this particular product.  It’s very clean.  And extremely fast.  It always finds what I’m looking for.  I dont think it conjugates verbs though.  Once I’ve got the infinitive, my french kicks in and I’m usually OK. 

I also downloaded a 2nd piece of software.  A bluesky messenger program.  MSM, ICQ, Jabber, Yahoo, G-talk, etc.  All in one.  I’m not a chat person, but I loaded up MSM because few of my friends or relatives have Blackberries.  This way my wife can get to me from her desktop instead of having to pick her way through an SMS message.  My daughter uses an Oggo and she’s running MSM 24/7.   It works great…  except I have to get around to turning off the ‘knocking’ when someone appears on line.  I was sitting watching TV last night (on a break), and I heard a knock and walked half way to the door before I realized it was my Blackberry. 

There’s a pile of software avaialble at Handango.  Lots of games.  I’m not a game person.  I bet a lot of business people sitting at airports and on planes are though.  I noticed something funny about Handango.  Lots of comments from Argentinos.  They could be checking my ISP and presenting more ‘local’ information.  Dunno.  Tonight if I have time, I’ll tunnel in from Toronto and see if the comments still have a lot of SA content. 

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