Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Notes on hotspots and smartphones / Follow-up: Stay away from Unitymedia

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A few notes on sub-topics from an earlier text.

I spoke of an automatic disconnect* from the Deutsche Telekom hotspot every six hours, which appears to be overly pessimistic. I got this number from the webpage presented after login, and there has indeed been a number of automatic disconnects; however, nowhere near as often as every six hours. While any type of disconnect is a user-unfriendly annoyance, the current rate of disconnects is acceptable.**

*I assume that we speak of a “disconnect” in the sense of “user must log in over the page again”. A mere “the WIFI-connection is severed” (unless combined with the need to log in again) is a lot less harmful, because a properly setup client can just automatically reconnect. Of course, this makes a severing of the WIFI connection fairly pointless.

*However, the setup could be unacceptable to others and/or for me with only a minor change in circumstances. For instance, the same page spoke of a disconnect after fifteen minutes of inactivity, which could be a very severe restriction, and it is easy to imagine scenarios where a user logs in, opens one web page, reads it for a while, tries to call the next, has to log in again, etc. In my case, an inactivity is unlikely to take place, because I have both Tor and a VPN running, which causes some amount of recurring traffic even when I do nothing in person. The same likely applies to my email client.

As an aside, I was positively surprised by the low restrictions on ports, where I had feared that this-and-that would not work due to blocked ports. Similarly, unlike with the Unitymedia WIFI-spots (cf. [1]), ping does work.

As to the increasing need to have a smartphone (or, at a minimum, cell-phone), I note e.g. that it becomes harder and harder to use Internet banking and credit cards without a smartphone, that Deutsche Bahn (“German Railways”) has begun to retire ticket machines in favor of ticket-by-app, that many input forms on the web require specifically a cell-phone number (not a telephone number in general), and that there is a growing trend among businesses towards ignoring over-the-Internet functionality in favor of smartphone apps.

The latter is particularly annoying, because the combination of this with the use of texting over email, the obsession with Facebook, etc., could spell the end of the Internet. (Which once seemed set to be the dominant medium for decades or, in a modified form, centuries.) Things might still work out for the best, but if the current trend continues, we might regress to an 1980s setup of limited, limiting, and proprietary technologies, as if dial-in BBS crap and AOL had developed into Apps and Facebook while by-passing the Internet era. Indeed, some early Internet technologies, including the once greatly successful newsgroups, are reduced to niche use without a better replacement. Or note how reluctant many businesses are to give out email addresses, while pushing their Facebook, Twitter, and whatnot, accounts/identities down the customer’s throat, and while using his email address as a means to one-sidedly send unwanted messages. Absurdly, it is often impossible to even reply to such emails, because they use unethical “no-reply” addresses as senders, and insist that the user go to a user-hostile web form to reply …

Written by michaeleriksson

February 8, 2020 at 11:33 am

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