Wherefore By Their Fruits Shall Ye Know Them…

Back in January, I blogged about the fact that my Internet Service Provider, XS4ALL, was going to be swallowed up by its parent company KPN. XS4ALL customers were not happy about this – over 50,000 of them (including me) signed a petition to keep the XS4ALL brand alive.

KPN naturally claimed that we would not notice any change in quality:

“With the focus on the KPN-brand we are going to extend the KPN service with the best elements of the individual brands, such as the highest rated service by XS4ALL, the affordable advantage services of Telfort and the personal service and expert business advice from Yes Telecom”

Well, pardon me for being sceptical, but the words “quality”and “KPN service” have not usually been used in the same sentence, judging by the experience of many of their customers.

And now, I have another piece of evidence of my own to add to that dossier.

Since 2017, to get increased speed alongside the slow ADSL connection of XS4ALL, I have been subscribing to a KPN service: Sneller Internet Buitengebied 4G (faster internet for the countryside 4G). It uses the KPN 4G mobile network to deliver internet connectivity to routers in the home.

There were some problems when I first started using it, web pages would frequently would not load, slow response, and loss of internet connectivity. However, after some discussions in the KPN user forum, the solution was found: the Access Point Name (the gateway between the internet and KPN’s Mobile Network) had to be given as “advancedinternet”. The other APNs were designed for mobile phones, and did not work well with the 4G router supplied by KPN for its Sneller Internet Buitengebied 4G service.

I suppose that I should have heard a bell ringing by the fact that the problem was not solved by KPN staff in the forum, but by other customers. Be that as it may, the problem was solved, and I was a happy bunny.

Fast forward to two weeks ago, and all the old problems had returned, even though I was still using the advancedinternet APN. At the same time, customers started complaining on the forum that the port-forwarding function of the service had stopped working. Port-forwarding is necessary for customers who require to connect to their systems remotely – for example to check their security cameras when travelling.

After two days, the forum moderator eventually discovered that KPN had pulled the plug on the advancedinternet APN, and all traffic was now being routed through the basicinternet APN. This had three consequences:

  • Port-forwarding was no longer possible
  • The old problem of web pages not loading, slow response and internet connectivity problems was back – with a vengeance.
  • A speed cap of 30 Mbps download and 15 Mbps upload was imposed.

Forum moderators scrambled, and produced a link (to a hitherto unseen – by the customers – internal KPN document) – a FAQ that stated that port-forwarding was not supported on the service. This despite the fact that it had been happily working since 2017, and despite the fact that the service had been recommended by KPN salespeople to certain customers precisely because it supported port-forwarding.

So two weeks later, we still have a crappy service – for which I am paying €41.50 monthly. The forum moderators tell us that KPN is investigating what can be done – but we knew two years ago that this would happen.

Frankly, I think KPN would rather that we all go to their new 4G service for internet at home. Unfortunately, this requires an ADSL connection supplied by KPN, which many of the existing customers (including me) do not have, and I have no intention of being tied to a year-long contract. I shall just have to put up with KPN’s crappy service until our fibre-optic service arrives in a few month’s time.

As someone said on a forum:

Adjust the subscriptions so that existing customers lose features without informing the customers? The KPN manager who has thought that this would be a good idea urgently needs to be on a customer friendliness course. I will summarize what this manager is going to learn there: for existing customers you keep everything as is, for new customers offer new services. If you want a simple, unambiguous information structure, you make it attractive for existing customers to switch but you do not force them. And you do nothing at all without informing the customers!

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Apocalypse Now?

The Guardian review of “The Uninhabitable Earth” by David Wallace-Wells has the subtitle “Enough to induce a panic attack…”

I can attest to that. I started reading the book today on the train to Amsterdam, and got thoroughly depressed. Considering that I was on my way to attend the birthday party of two friends, it probably wasn’t the best choice of reading material. Nonetheless, it’s an important book, delivering a wake-up call as solid as a punch to the solar plexus.

I think the most salutary lesson that comes through is that the effects of climate change are already with us, and that the scale will only ratchet up. The best we can hope for is to take action to ameliorate the extent; we cannot hope to reverse it and you can abandon all hope of stopping it.

And with his calm recitation of the facts of recent events – hurricanes, droughts, floods and the like – he makes it abundantly clear that we are not heading for an apocalypse, we are already living in its opening chapters.

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Put it to the People…

A nice selection of placards from the anti-Brexit march today…

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We’ve got troubles of our own…

And at the same time that I’m shaking my head in despair over Brexit, here in the Netherlands, we’ve just had elections for the Provinces. And it appears as though populism is rearing its ugly head here as well. The Forum for Democracy (FvD) party has (according to the exit polls) made substantial gains.

While it wears a gentler face than Geert Wilders’ PVV party, at its heart it seems to embrace the same sort of worrying ideals. As Wikipedia says:

The party opposes the European Union and campaigns for a referendum on Dutch EU membership. It also adopts a nationalist viewpoint in which the Dutch culture should be protected; the party is in favor of reinstating border controls and ending what it perceives as mass immigration. It campaigns against unchecked immigration, and says it would introduce a “Dutch Values Protection Act” and wants to ban Islamic face veils and other face coverings.

A Dutch Values Protection Act… Oh dear. I’m reminded of the song and the scene in Cabaret: “Tomorrow Belongs To Me”.

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Pathetic, incoherent, chaotic…

Apparently that’s Europe’s verdict on the Brexit shambles, as reported in today’s Guardian. It pains me to say it, but I think Europe has got it exactly right. Indeed, I think we have a clear case of omnishambles here.

The cherry on the top of this (Eton) mess is likely to be that Boris Johnson will replace Theresa May as Prime Minister. Out of the frying pan…

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RIP Magenta

Sad to hear that Magenta Devine has died at what, to me, is the young age of 61. She co-presented an impressive series of Rough Guide travelogues on BBC television in the late 1980s. The woman had style and wit. She was also the neighbour of my best friend who was living in a London Mews at the the time. I’m sorry I never had the opportunity to meet her in real life, but I’d probably have been too tongue-tied and star-struck anyway.

Magenta Devine

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Microsoft Health – Life Support Withdrawn

I see that Microsoft has announced that it is pulling the plug on the Microsoft Health Dashboard applications and services. I can’t say I’m surprised; the writing has been on the wall ever since Microsoft dropped the Microsoft Band two years ago.

When the first version of the Microsoft Band was introduced in 2014, I thought that the most interesting thing was the backend services of Microsoft Health. The combination of Big Data and AI could have been game-changing, and as recently as a year ago Microsoft made a series of announcements to push this further.

It may well be that these cloud-based initiatives in conjunction with the medical industries will continue, and all that is now being killed off is the consumer-facing tier of products and services.

Still, I regret the demise of the Microsoft Band and its application services. Although the device was flawed physically (wristbands split all too easily and could not be replaced), the design of the functionality was very good. I eventually replaced my (third) Microsoft Band 2 with a FitBit Ionic smartwatch, and frankly, it’s not a patch on what the Band offered me.

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