Internet

Retiring in Sri Lanka?

Last year I made a trip to Sri Lanka.  Edward has asked me a couple of times if I would write a rough and ready evaluation of whether I would consider retiring there.  So, just off the top of my head, here is a quick response.

I might consider it, but I would need to do a lot more research, and I think at the moment for me the answer would be , “no”.  I liked travelling there, and kept on meeting people and families (often from the UK) who were having their third holiday there.  But I am not sure about living there.

I don’t know the visa situation, nor the cost of rental, or the possibility of property purchase.  Hotels were relatively expensive.  Having only been through Columbo I don’t know the availability of any goods that I might want to buy if I was staying. This is also a problem in Malaysia – if it’s not a mobile phone or its accessories  you want then it may not be so easy to find.  I also don’t know if importing one’s household goods would be easy and tax-free.

Being an island I find Sri Lanka a bit isolated.  I don’t know how many flights out there are, their availability and costs.  I think there is now a ferry to India, too.

I don’t know how good Internet access availability is in general, but mobile Internet was cheap and speeds reasonable.

Domestic transport was cheap, but crowded, although the country roads seemed quite empty and the standard of driving reasonable. I haven’t checked the statistics on that, though.  I’d have to check car prices.  Tourist sites can be expensive to enter.

And it was quite annoying that it was too risky to use a credit card as reportedly so many people will copy the numbers and use them.  So I never used a credit card there. And I only used an ATM there twice – the second time the bank stopped my ATM card as the ATM machine I’d used (in the middle of Kandy) had been used in the past for fraud.  I had a backup card with another bank, but this could have caused a terrible problem when I was doing everything right, correctly, carefully and honestly.

What about the future of the economy and the stability of the currency?  I don’t know.

Alcohol prices and availability are not so good, which may or may not be an issue.  And I don’t know about health facilities, either, but apparently malaria is not a problem now.

Certainly it was easy just to communicate in English,  the food was good and inexpensive, and the scenery and variety of scenery wonderful.  It seemed safe enough, although there is sometimes political violence.  If you don’t attend demonstrations you would likely have no problems.

So, after doing my research on these and other matters I still imagine probably would not want to retire there under current conditions.

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Yes says “no!”! Dealing with Malaysian telecommunication companies

Yes is a 4G telecommunications (teleNOcommunications in my case) company in Malaysia.

Their response to customer service is, paradoxically, to say “NO!” I think they should change their company name to “NO!”. It would be more accurate.

But in my case, it’s more “no, no, no, no, no!”  I continue to try to get them to atone for their mistake instead of me bearing the burden of their mistake.

I am currently dealing with four telecommunication companies – Celcom, Maxis, Telekom Malaysia & Yes.

CELCOM

First up, I think the problem with Celcom, the mobile phone service provider I am currently using, should be sorted.  The problem was that they have a ridiculous system for billing new customers, but the initial bill is now paid and it should be OK from now. I wrote about this last  month.

MAXIS

Next, I have finally got my deposit back from Maxis, my previous mobile phone service provider, after almost three months.  It took visits to their shop fronts, office, and a great many phone calls, followed by complaining to the Consumer Forum Malaysia (CFM) www.complaint.cfm.org.my I had my money back within a week after complaining to CFM. This involved filling out a form on their website.

TELEKOM MALAYSIA

Telekom Malaysia rang me and talked me in to upgrading my Internet connection from 4mbs to 8mbs. They told me to ring them in about 10 days and ask if the upgrade is done, and then I can go and pick up the free Hyptv box from one of their offices. No one will visit my house. Fine.

I rang on the appointed day, and it wasn’t yet done, but I rang again today, and they told me it will be done tomorrow.

When I rang today I was out, so looked on the TM web site for their phone number.  Now, they are a telephone company. You would think they’d show a telephone number.  I had to look at five web pages on their site before I could find their number.

Then later I get a text to say someone will visit my house tomorrow, and give his phone number.  I am surprised, as no one is supposed to visit, and I already had plans for that time. I ring, and the technician tells me that it is not him that will do it, but that he doesn’t know the number of the person who will. They have given me the wrong number.  So, I have no idea what is happening.  And I am supposed to reorganise my life to fit in with them.  Of course, the text is one you cannot reply to, which is very rude – more like an order from them to fit in with their plans than a request for an agreement for an appointment. If they ring me I’ll tell them a time when it’s convenient for me – and if that delays matters I don’t really care. If they just show up, then they’ll have to ring to find out where I am.

YES

Finally No – I mean Yes.  I will try to escalate the matter within the company to reach an amicable decision.  But they seem so intractable I will probably have to take things further.  Then it will end up costing them far more than if they just gave me the credit I paid for, or they refunded me.

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UPDATE

Yes rang me and tried to configure my modem to the unwanted account.  Now it doesn’t work at all.  He suggested I drive half an hour to their shop to get them to try to do it. Of course, this also implicitly means losing my normal email address that I have had for years. They don’t seem to care about that, either.

Despite asking for the decision maker’s contact details twice, that have not provided them.  Now I have to continue this outside the company as there seems no hope within.

No one visited from Telekom Malaysia. Luckily I didn’t reorganise my life to fit in with their suddenly imposed visit. But on doing a speed check it does seem they have upgraded the connection. Which is good news.  Next I have to go pick up the box from their Gurney Paragon shopfront.  Hopefully they have it there. And then configure it to work.  But I am happy now that TM is half successfully completed.

FURTHER UPDATE

I received another text from TM on Sunday night saying they will come to my house Monday from 9.30AM to 12.30AM.  Again, they didn’t come and didn’t phone.  They had told me I could pick up the Hyptv box at any TM agent.  As it appears to have been upgraded I thought I’d do so.  I spent 10 minutes on the web trying to find the phone number of TM at Gurney Paragon to see if I could actually pick one up there. I couldn’t find a telephone number, so I thought it’s faster just to walk there. So I did. Unsurprisingly I had been misinformed and I have to go to Burma Road.  I asked at TM what their phone number was, as it may be useful in the future.  They don’t have a phone number.  A phone company without a phone number.  Brilliant. Of course, the staff member at TM could not understand the irony.

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My advice – this blog is supposed to offer help and solutions rather than just moan:

At present, if you want a mobile phone service, I tend to think Celcom or Umobile are best.  But do a lot of research before deciding, as changing companies causes so much aggravation due to the low quality of “customer service” here. Maxis, from experience, has the best coverage, but the highest prices and the worst deals. And good luck getting your deposit back.

As for Internet – try to get what you need through the same mobile company you are using if you don’t need so much bandwidth.  For more bandwidth TM’s Unify is supposed to be good if you can get it in your area.  If you live in a condo you tend to have more choice of companies.  Research well, though, as any changes tend to cause aggravation.

Penang Free WiFi could work for you if you can get it where you are.

I used Yes as a back up. Their coverage is poor, and I couldn’t use it as the main phone or data provider. I have travelled all over Malaysia, and sometimes I could get Yes, but even in a hotel in the centre of KL I couldn’t. Even at their own shop in Gurney Plaza there is no coverage. As for the east coast – a disaster if you rely on them. In my house in an urban area I can only get it in one or two rooms. But where I get it the speed is fine. Before my current problems I would have said to very carefully check the coverage where you want to use Yes before signing up. Now I would say to avoid it all together as their customer service is so poor.

And deal with as few companies as you can.  Don’t believe what anyone tells you if it’s important to you, unless it’s in writing, – double or triple check. Try taking anything you can’t resolve to CFM.

Cut the phone line for non-payment of bill, then later send the bill!?

Two months ago I changed from Maxis, the mobile phone company I used, as despite many years with them they never offered any good deals.

Now, despite many phone calls they still have not returned my RM1,000 deposit for the two lines I had.

So now I use Celcom – for about the same price per month I get about 10 times the data allowance.

In the first month they don’t bill you. I went to their counter in Gurney and asked, and they told me this.  So I waited for the bill to come in the second month.  Instead, last night I noticed they’d cut the phone line when I tried to call.  So the billing cycle ends on the 13th of the month, and they send the bill on the 21st of the month.  But because I hadn’t paid for over four weeks – due to their own policy – they cut they line.  I will receive the bill next week.

The way you find out that it’s time to pay is they cut the phone line – and then you get the bill a week later?  I asked the guy at the counter today why they handle things so badly. It’s the Malaysian way, he tells me.

Starbucks and WiFi

Up until a few months ago you could go into any Starbucks in Penang, and use the WiFi while you were there.  You had to connect, then open a browser and wait for 20 seconds (why?) and then connect.

So you could connect your phone and also tablet or computer, and even if you are exclusively using the computer, it’s handy to have the phone connected, for example if you want to sync something from or to the phone, like a photo you just took or Evernote etc.

And if there are two of you or more, buying on one receipt it was no problem for both / all of you to connect to the WiFi.

But maybe too many people were taking too much advantage – staying for a long time, making big downloads etc. So they changed it.  Starbucks seems emptier nowadays, but the WiFi doesn’t seem any faster.

Now you get a code on the receipt which is good for two hours and one device.  So if there are two of you, you need to buy separately so you each get a code.  And as you can connect only one device at a time, to sync something you have to log off one device and onto the other using the code, and then log off that device and back onto the other.  All too much trouble.

My wife’s iPad won’t connect, and a couple of other people I asked couldn’t connect their Apple devices. Starbucks staff couldn’t help.

So we use Starbucks a lot less. I would rarely stay longer than two hours, and didn’t make big downloads there anyway.  Sometimes I take my own MiFi device so I supply my own Internet connection.

So I don’t know how this new policy is working out for Starbucks, but it’s not working well for me.

 

unfinished blogs – no. 14 – Dissatisfaction with life in Malaysia and how to improve things

I’ve been writing this blog for three years this month, and have accumulated many partially written blogs that remain unpublished. I may as well just publish them as is, and if I ever feel inspired to finish any, do so later.

 

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March 21st, 2014

Generally I try to be positive, but there is nowhere perfect, and one should be aware of drawbacks, and evaluate if one’s choices are still the best. Many things are getting better, such as the cleanliness and state of repair of George Town, the English ability of Malaysians – even the standard of driving. But some things are disappointing, so here are some dissatisfactions…

Recently the rapidly rising prices concern me. These are both from governments increasing taxes and charges, and from companies doing likewise. With the government acting as it is it is no longer possible to plan your housing or local investments as they increase taxes whenever they feel like it.

The Internet speed is still as slow as years ago, and you are still paying the same amount – it is not getting cheaper as in most countries – for the same slow Internet. I pay RM 140 per month for 4mbps speed. I note in the UK with TalkTalk you pay £2.50 (RM12.50) per month for 16mbps, with unlimited allowance. Four times the speed, 1/11th the price of Malaysia.

A great many Internet services are available in other countries, but Malaysia is way behind. Not only in Internet shopping, but in other innovative services.

It is still hard to get many things that are slightly less common.

This last problem is compounded by the total lack of knowledge about anything by almost anyone in retail and services. And their lack of interest in actually finding out for next time a customer asks.

Dengue seems to be an increasing problem.  Try as you might you can’t avoid all mosquito bites, only decrease the possibility of getting bitten.

unfinished blogs – no. 12 – I survived without Windows for over a month – so wonder what operating system I should have on my next PC.

I’ve been writing this blog for three years this month, and have accumulated many partially written blogs that remain unpublished. I may as well just publish them as is, and if I ever feel inspired to finish any, do so later.

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October 12th, 2013

Having learnt of the evil that Bill Gates perpetrates, having learnt how Microsoft built in a back door allowing the US government to spy on us using Windows, having learnt how Bill Gates got (took from others) the idea from Windows in the first place and was backed by his family’s contacts and not for his ideas – but denounces anyone else doing the same (he calls it piracy if others do what he did) – who wouldn’t want to move to another platform.

But I had a Windows phone, and a Windows PC.  For years. They synchronised with each other so data was safe. Contacts, emails etc. Sure, synchronising often didn’t go smoothly, or even work at all, but sometimes it did.

But Windows phones lost the plot.  Plus the most useful app, Outlook, suddenly became very expensive. It wasn’t included in the basic Office program you could buy.

Apple has their own back doors for the US government, exploits people in China we are told, is proprietary and expensive.  Android comes along and looks better.  Not that Google is perfect – not sure about their Israel connections – which Microsoft also seems to have.  But their operating system is free, and is frequently updated, and easy to use.

So end up with an Android phone and an Android tablet.  I have been away for almost two months and haven’t touched Windows.  And survived.  It just stores my old emails in Outlook, and some Office files.  That is about all.  Windows 8 is certainly nothing magnificent – I bought it when it came out, and am still unimpressed.  If the latest version is a free upgrade I guess I will get it. But on my old PC – it’s seventh birthday will be coming up in the new year.

For years I have been playing with Ubuntu – but some things are still difficult to do.  I remember entering obscure commands to the system when managing a call centre’s Linux / Unix system.  And although they say Ubuntu or Linux is undemanding on computer resources, it is still too demanding for a netbook I installed it on.  I feel you still need a reasonable specification of PC for Linux.

So, for a new computer, what are my choices?  Windows 8 1/2 or whatever, Apple Mac, some flavour of Linux – but only available on a limited number of PC’s;  or buy one and install on it what I wish.  The problem being the availability of drivers and the difficulty installing them.

unfinished blogs – no. 8 – A home communication, entertainment and network in Malaysia setup

I’ve been writing this blog for three years this month, and have accumulated many partially written blogs that remain unpublished. I may as well just publish them as is, and if I ever feel inspired to finish any, do so later.

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December 5th, 2012

Nowdays we have all these gadgets, but many connect with each other. I am going to suggest one way you can set up your home communication, entertainment and network.

Home cinema magazines write that home cinema is not a DIY project, as there are so many complexities, so much different equipment, and a lot of expertise is necessary to choose the right components for your environment and to meet your aims, desires and budget. And then the equipment must be set up and tuned for the best performance.  So they suggest working with a home cinema shop to do this.  They must visit your home at least twice, once to evaluate the environment and see what equipment you already have, and once more to install and tune the equipment. Just reading equipment reviews and buying the recommended components, or alternatively, buying everything from one manufacturere will not, they write, produce the best results.

25 years ago we were living in Tokyo, and I set up my own home cinema surround sound system, and it worked really well. This is not to say a professional could not have done better, but I was very happy with it. Watching films the sound was fabulous. We lived in a tiny flat, and I had to be careful with the volume if the neighbours were around, but still, I was very satisfied.

From memory the components were:

  • a large Pioneer TV
  • a Pioneer 5.1 AV amplifier
  • Pioneer surround speaker set and subwoofer
  • VHS stereo recorder
  • CD player
  • Sony 8mm video camera
  • Sony 6″ TV and 8mm video tape recorder (used for editing videos)

Later, when we livied in Sydney I consulted a home cinema shop, and they did indeed provide good service, and I had a home cinema in the living room, and several zones around the house and outside to which I could provide music.  I had switched to a Yamaha AV Receiver, which was very good, still had the Pioneer speakers, and can’t remember the brands of the other components.

After this I got tired of dragging equipment around the world, and for the intervening years have had a very basic setup where we have lived.

After these experiences I do tend to think that working with a specialist home cinema shop is preferable, so I will largely assume that this has been done.

Having said which, there seems to be no shop that will cater for this in Penang- hi-fi or home cinema shops are not usually staffed by helpful people, and you want to integrate far more equipment, anyway. If you go to one of the bigger stores, the salesman will come out of the vaccuum cleaner department, tell you the price of whatever you ask, not be able to answer any other questions, and then ask if you want to buy. Then he’ll go back to the vaccuum cleaners.  They used to have, but seem to have no longer, listening rooms set up in SenQ at Gurney Plaza, and at Harvey Norman in Queensbay Mall, where you could switch between different equipment and listen and evaluate it. Now these rooms are just displays of whatever they are selling.  Any hi-fi stores I have found have a very limited range of products they sell, and they may not sell what is ideal for you.

Kuala Lumpur may be different, but they will hardly visit Penang to look at your home, in order to make recommendations.

So, I will make some references to home cinema, but it being so complex, leave it at that. And I will make some assumptions:

  • There are one or  two of you
  • You have a three or four bedroom apartment on one level – I don’t, I live in a two level house, but most people in Penang are in apartments
  • You don’t want to hack your walls to put in Ethernet wiring – because it’s messy, or you’re renting
  • Wi-Fi is convenient, but not good for one’s health, so you use alternatives, and when you do need Wi-Fi  turn it on only when using it
  • You want to keep costs down
  • You want to minimise the time you spend supporting the equipment.
  • If the Internet goes down you want some kind of backup
  • You’re not using mainly Apple products – I object to their exploitation of workers in China, insistence on using wireless instead of having options to use wired, lack of options to add additional storage such as SD cards on their iPads etc., and their much higher price.
  • You already have much of what you need

You have or will probably acquire:

Good warranties

  • Digital Camera
  • Video camera
  • Phone
  • Mobile
  • router
  • switch
  • network
  • powerline network – devolo
  • Internet provider
  • NAS
  • printer/scanner/fax
  • UPS
  • TV
  • Media Server
  • DVD or Blueray player
  • speakers

You will want to think about where to place your IT gear to minimise wiring snaking around the apartment, but to be convenient for how you use it.

It is hard to know where to start, so let’s start with the Internet.  The signal comes into your modem / router. On this you will have at least one Ethernet port.

It may have WiFi, too. If you are lucky you will have an on-off switch on the router for the Wi-Fi. Otherwise you will have to turn it on and off from a web browser, which is not very convenient.

If there is only one Ethernet port, you should connect this up to a switch. These come in configurations from 4 port up – an 8 port costs little more than a 4 port, so this should be the minimum size. Also, ensure the speeds include 10/100/1000 mbps. A switch enables you multiply the number of devices you can attach, and very efficiently manages the network so very little speed is lost to any of the devices.

As the Wi-Fi is not healthy, it is better to connect your networked devices by wire. If they are close to the switch you can use an ethernet cable from the switch to your device – you may have a NAS server near it to store your files, photos, music and videos on, for example. It might be convenient to place your printer nearby, too.

Unless you want to hack your walls and install ethernet cable, or attach conduit with ethernet cable within to your walls, or can run wires easily through your floors or ceiling, or under carpet or mats, although not recommended, then quite a good alternative is to use powerline networking.  You can attach a special plug to a power point near your switch, and run an ethernet cable from your switch to the plug.  Then you attach other such plugs where you want the network, and run a cable from the plugs to the devices. You are using your electrical wiring for your network.

If you wish the devices near the router to work if there is a power outage, and be protected from electrical surges, then purchase a UPS, and Uninteruptable Power Supply.  It will not run for so long unless you buy a big one, but it will give you time to shut down your equipment gracefully, rahter than have it crash.  It can also be set up to shut down equipment automatically if the power goes out.

So, near where your router is located is a switch, and perhaps a powerline setup, printer, UPS, and NAS. The advantages of a NAS must be mentioned before we move on.

If you also want a fax and a scanner, consider a combination fax and a scanner and printer.

The NAS (Network Attached Storage) will allow you to back up anything on your PC’s over the network, and to store music, photos, and video etc. to play on your TV or home entertainment system. You will want all equipment releated to home entertainment to be DNLA certified.

Your TV can be connected directly to a network cable, or via composite cables or HDMI cable to a Digital Media Adapter, which is connected to the network.  It is best if the DMA is DNLA certified, as it will work with other useful equipment.