Categories
Living in the Philippines

Globe Telecom Internet Services: Better Than Nothing, Usually

When my wife and I moved to the Philippines we were fully expecting to not have Internet, except for at Internet cafes, until we moved to Manila.  My in-law’s house is way up in a mountain valley.  There aren’t even phone lines here.  So, we were thrilled to find out that we did in fact have options for Internet service, though the only carrier with coverage in our area is Globe Telecom.  Globe offers two types of service here, Globe Tattoo USB broadband and Globe WiMax.

We’ve used both.  We’ve also spent quite a bit of time talking to Globe Customer Service reps about quality issues, and while I’m still happy we have Internet service out here in the boonies, I figured I’d write this blog post to let people know what they can expect and what they might be getting themselves into when they sign up with Globe.

Globe Tattoo Prepaid USB Internet Service

Globe Tattoo USB Sticks

When we first arrived, this was the option that was recommended to us.  We weren’t even aware of the WiMax option until much later and we were both using one of these USB sticks for our Internet access.  These things are convenient and portable.  You can take them with you and plug them into your laptop for access anywhere Globe has coverage.  They work ‘out of the box’ with both Windows and Mac OSX and with a little extra work you can even get them working on Ubuntu Linux, though with less features.  When you first plug the stick in, you’ll be prompted to install a software package that will allow you to connect to the network, monitor your usage and even send and receive SMS from your laptop (at standard rates).

The Internet service rate is really affordable, at 5 PHP (0.11 USD) for 15 minutes.  That’s great if you only want to use the Internet for an hour or so a day.  You could wind up saving by using it, rather than having a subscription plan.  You can also get deals like 24 hours of service for 50 PHP (1.10 USD) or 5 days of service for 220 PHP (4.85 USD), which is a discount on the regular rate.

The problem with the Globe Tattoo USD Internet service is the network itself.  From what I read there are very few areas where it works well, and more often than not you won’t be reaching the 2 MB/s advertised speed.  There are times when the service doesn’t work at all.  It will let you connect, and debit 5 PHP from your account, but it won’t actually connect to the Internet.  There was one instance where I signed up for the 24 hour access service, but was only able to effectively use the Internet for an hour and a half.  The fallback to that is that you can call Globe’s help line and if you complain enough, get the amount refunded to your account.  It’s a lot of hassle though.

Globe WiMax

Globe Broadband WiMax Modem

Globe WiMax is broadband Internet access, but without wires.  It works pretty much the same way any broadband Internet service does.  The set-up is just a bit different.  It typically comes in two parts, a white modem that looks like a lamp shade or blender and an external antenna that’s mounted to the outside of your house.  You can get the modem to work with a wireless router so more than one laptop can share the connection.  When my wife and I found out about the WiMax service we immediately switched to it.  Both of us like to surf the Internet, so it made sense for us to just use WiMax.  More often than not we were both signing up for 24 hour access on the Tattoo USB sticks, so we were paying more than what the WiMax costs.

Globe WiMax comes in different packages.  You can either get the Internet only 512 kb/s plan for 795 PHP (17.52), the Internet only 1 MB/s plan for 995 PHP (21.92 USD), or a 1 MB/s plan that comes with a phone line for 1295 PHP (28.53 USD) per month.  Those prices aren’t too bad at all, even on local wages.  We picked the 1 MB/s Internet only plan.

Where Globe WiMax fails is in the network, again.  Since it doesn’t use wires and relies on a broadcasted signal, any time the weather gets a little rough, your signal quality will suffer.  Sometimes storms will knock the service out entirely for more than a day.  Other times it just goes down for no discernible reason.  Right now we’re having a problem with the service speed and I’ve been working on getting that fixed for about 5 days.  The problem is with the servicing tower in our area.  My speed started capping at 300 kb/s this past Sunday and I can’t get better than that since, even though I was reaching 1 MB/s or more regularly before that.

Globe Customer Service

Globe’s customer service isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s annoying and disorganized.  Here are some problems we’ve had:

When we first decided we wanted to get WiMax we went to the Globe office at SM Taytay, or maybe it’s in the mall that’s connected by a closed bridge.  We were told that the company would check to see if service was available in our area and they would call us back.  They never called back, even though we waited for about two weeks.  We wound up running into a contracted employee of Globe, a licensed distributor, that hooked us up.

We arranged to have our service installed two days after our application was approved.  The day before our installation date we went to Manila.  While we were in Manila thinking about what to have for a late lunch, Globe installers called us and asked us why we weren’t home.  We had to argue with them about what an appointment means and wound up leaving Manila (and not eating til much later) to make sure we got our service and they didn’t just leave and not ever come back.

Our service was installed at about 4 PM. That night the service went down at 11 PM.  I called the next morning to complain at about 6 AM and, luckily, repairmen were going to be in the area that day so they stopped by.  Right when they came in the door the service came back up.  The problem was with the tower and another crew had repaired it.

The next day another group of Globe employees showed up to install our service.

Two days later another group of Globe employees showed up to repair our service.

A few days after that I got tired of the bad signal quality and unreliable nature of the connection and called to have it checked out.  When the repairmen showed up, they said the antenna should be mounted on the roof so it can get better signal, not on the side of the house under the eaves where the original installers put it.

I discovered that if you don’t have a certain amount of prepaid credits on your phone, you can’t call Globe’s free help hotline.

Last Sunday my service suddenly dropped down to 300 kb/s max download speed, instead of the usual 1 MB/s.  Because my phone was low and I was too lazy to go get it topped up, I tried out contacting Globe via their Twitter account.  After dragging the conversation on for a few days, the Globe employee finally told me: “Btw the 300 kbps result of the speed test that you have submitted is an acceptable speed for wimax, … We hope you understand. Thanks.”  My problem with this is that I have the 1 MB/s plan, not the 512 kb/s plan. If I had the 512 kb/s plan I wouldn’t care, because that IS fairly acceptable.  However, my minimum speed should at least be higher than the speed of the lower tier, or what the hell am I paying more for?  And common sense should tell you that the speed wouldn’t just suddenly drop off and cap at 300 kb/s like that for no reason.  There had to be a problem.  So, I contacted Globe via the 211 help hotline and gave the rep some information from the modem admin panel.  He said that one of the figures wasn’t within acceptable limits and sent technicians, which in turn said the problem is with the tower, which is what I told the Globe guy on Twitter to start with.  I’m still waiting for them to fix whatever the problem is.

 

Like I said initially, I’m glad we have service at all way out here, but if a company is going to offer service, could they at least do it correctly?  Can they meet their own service standard by doing installations properly and properly diagnose problems and then fix them?  Can they not send multiple crews to do the same job? Can they train the person running their Twitter account properly?  And why do I have to have more than 1 PHP in prepaid load to call their free hotline?  It’s free!

Categories
Living in the Philippines

Adjusting to Limited Internet Access

One of the things I knew I’d be dealing with after moving to the Philippines was limited internet access.  In the US and in Singapore I’d come to think of the Internet as a utility, just like water.  It’s just always there as long as you pay the bill, and it’s usually cheap.  That’s not the case here in the Philippines.  At least not for me right now.

You see, while there is DSL and I think cable Internet available in the Metro Manila area, I’m currently residing in a rural area outside of Antipolo, in Rizal Province, which is in turn north of Metro Manila by about 45 minutes.  It’s in the mountains and in the US this is what you would refer to as “the boonies”.  It’s out there.  It’s so out there that running water is also in short supply at the moment.  I think I mentioned that before, but the water only runs for about two hours in the morning so we collect water to be used throughout the day.  I’d expected things to be a little difficult, but the last time I was here the water was still running.  All of the inconveniences start to pile up to the point that I’m already looking forward to finding an apartment in Manila, sooner than originally planned.

Something that surprises my wife regularly is how I’m able to take this all in stride.  She had the impression that I would balk at the idea of living in a place that has no air conditioning, no running water, and limited Internet access.  I suppose the reason these things don’t bother me as much as they might the next person is that I spent a lot of time in the military, where doing without these things was a common occurrence while on training exercises or during deployments.

Anyhow, the main point here is that I’m having to find new ways to occupy my time.  The Internet access I’m using now is a prepaid USB stick through Globe.  The price isn’t too bad.  It’s 5 PHP per 15 minutes with discounted options for a whole day or for a 5 day chunk of unlimited access.  Still, that adds up.  I was doing the math and if both of us were to keep re-applying for the 5 day unlimited access we’d wind up paying about double per month what we do for cable Internet in Singapore.  That’s rough, especially considering that the quality is a fraction of what we became accustomed to.

So, I’m relearning the joy of reading.  I picked up a book on Filipino history that I’m digging through.  I think that’ll help me to understand the people here and help me relate, especially when I start working and/or going to school later this year.  I’m also finding ways to optimize my Internet experience.  One way for me to do that is to type up my blog posts in Windows Live Writer prior to connecting and then to simply publish them.  Then I can use my time to surf the net, rather than sit in a browser window typing, unnecessarily burning up my prepaid time.

Of course, I don’t have a lot of free time right now.  We did just get some painting materials yesterday.  I want to get started on that sometime soon.  I’m not sure when.  We’re starting to burn out and we need some relaxation time.  It’s amazing how even when we say we’re not going to do anything for a day, just picking up around the house to get ready to relax winds up taking the whole day.  By the time we sit down to just surf the net or watch a movie, it’s after 10 PM.

We have another day of doing nothing planned for tomorrow.  I’m hoping it’ll be successful.

Categories
Thoughts

Sexism on the Internet?

Every time I turn around someone is crying discrimination or sexism on the internet, even in situations where it’s blatantly obvious that the original writer’s intent was something else entirely.

People nowadays can’t seem to distinguish between what true sexism is and what’s meant to be taken lightly or meant to be used as an example. At the merest hint of something that seems not completely “Politically Correct” people are up in arms and there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth, as though the world will end.

Get over yourselves. Not everything is sexism and not everything is about you! Sometimes it’s just illustrating a point.

What’s got me going is that a recent article on Mashable was talking about Internet Explorer 6 and the need for people to stop using a legacy browser, as it’s slowing down advances in internet technology.

Here’s a quote from the article with the supposedly offensive text colored in red:

“While it’s great to see companies taking a stand against the broken browser, we can’t help but wonder whether this type of campaign will make any impact, given that many users of IE6 are only using because of work/IT restrictions or are in underdeveloped countries. David, co-founder of Weebly, gave us his thoughts on the matter:

“We think we can have a huge impact: For those users that are just unaware they are using an old browser (mothers, grandmothers), we’d like to encourage them to upgrade and have a better experience using our sites. For those users in corporate environments, we’d like to start putting pressure on the IT department to upgrade — the more users who complain about seeing the prompts (especially if coming from the top), the more pressure the IT department will have to either upgrade IE 6 or install FirefoxFirefox side-by-side with IE 6 for compatibility reasons.””

The real kicker in this case is that actual statistics shows that this particular demographic, as well as corporate users, are in fact the highest demographic of people still using IE6.

Right away though, someone jumped in with this comment:

“It’s pretty dumb and sexist to label “mothers [and] grandmothers” as the people who are ignorant of technology, and to separate mothers and grandmothers from the corporate world. Mothers and grandmothers don’t work? Males don’t use IE6?”

Are you serious? In the same way that IE6 is holding back the internet, this mode of thinking in which everything has to be politically correct is holding back the entire world in terms of self-expression.

Should we go ahead and ban all of our classic literature, because it contains mentions of things that aren’t politically correct?

Get real, and if you’re so damn sensitive that something as innocent as what was mentioned in that article offends you, then maybe the internet isn’t for you!

Here are some amusing images to put this all in perspective:

I’d just like to emphasize one more time that this mode of thinking is ass backwards. I’ve even seen people complain that a person is being sexist just because of their personal preference in women. What? Is a person not allowed to have a preference for what he considers attractive anymore?

This insanity has got to stop.

Categories
Travel

3 Days in Kuala Lumpur: Part 5: Hotel Chinatown 2 Review

Hotel Chinatown 2 is located on Jalan Petaling in the Chinatown area of Kuala Lumpur.  It’s a little tricky to find it, because there is also a Chinatown Hotel Inn or something like that a few doors down.  Also, the only visible sign is the one high up on the building, that you can see in the above picture.  There is a sign at the street level entrance, but that entrance is hidden from the main walkway by street vendors.

This hotel is a great find, if you go into it with the right mentality.  If you’re looking for luxury, you’ll have to look elsewhere.  This place is all about price and location.  For two nights in the hotel (check-in Monday afternoon and check-out on Wednesday morning) we paid a total of about 188 ringgit.  That’s a good deal!  As for the location, the door to the hotel opens onto Jalan Petaling, which is a touristy type area in Chinatown with lots of shops where you can browse for souvenirs.  Also, it’s two blocks from the Pasar Seni train station, which we put to good use.

As for the hotel itself, the lobby area is very comfortable.  It has a few cozy couches, a TV, a book rack with a guitar on top, and a few computers for public use at 1 ringgit per 10 minutes.  There’s free wi-fi, which worked for me on my Nokia E51 in the lobby, but I couldn’t connect properly up in the actual room.  I kept getting a “no reply from gateway” error.  I don’t know what that was all about, but it didn’t really bother us too much, so I didn’t ask about it.  We just used the paid computers for a little while in the evening to keep up with e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

The room we booked was the “standard” room, which came with a double bed.  It was a bit cramped, honestly, and that feeling was compounded by the fact that there was no window.  At first that bothered me a bit, but then I realized that it probably had no window because it was on the back or side of the building.  That’s a good thing, because it meant we wouldn’t hear as much of the racket from the street below.  The paint was worn and scuffed, the floor was a bit dirty, and there were no toiletries provided.  The TV in the room only picked up 5 or 6 channels.  Only one of those channels was in English and it seemed to rotate between different stations.  What I mean is, if you left it on that channel, which was 12 I think, it might be National Geographic at 8pm, Animal Planet at 9pm, and then a local station at 10pm.  I thought that was kinda odd, but again, it didn’t bother us that much.  We weren’t really there to just lay around in the room watching TV.  If you do happen to be up late though, around 1 or 2 am, flip through the channels until you find a program where there’s a girl sitting behind a laptop, presenting requested music videos.  Neither the program nor the videos are in English, but it’s hilarious!  They played these crazy Indian music videos, complete with “Slumdog Millionaire” dance routines and the accompaniment of the high pitched female vocals.  Besides that, the videos are just hilarious!  I don’t think they’re meant to be, but they were to us!  Also, the music really isn’t that bad at all in most cases.

I think the best features of the room were that the water was nice and hot for showers, and the air conditioning blew nonstop and got nice and cold at night.  Even under the thick blanket it was a bit cool.  Both of these things were a nice change for me, since I’ve been living in Singapore.  Here, the air conditioning isn’t used much and the water heaters are small and I can rarely finish showering before the hot water runs out.  I think I stayed in the shower for 30 minutes each time, enjoying how hot the water was and the fact that it stayed hot.  Plus that cold air conditioning is a relief after a day out in the sun there.

Another thing the hotel has going for it is the staff.  They’re very friendly, very helpful, and very knowledgeable about the city.  They helped us find the train station and also told us how to get back to the airport for the best price (a cheap bus from the downstairs area of KL Central).  Also, the guy at the counter had a conversation with me while I enjoyed a cup of coffee and my wife was busy on one of the public computers.  Oh, and the rooms are cleaned daily.  At least, I think it was cleaned.  The bed was made at least, and nothing was missing from our bags.  That’s always a bonus.  If you do have something expensive, the place has safe deposit boxes in the lobby too.

The hotel also has some dormitory style areas that can be rented out.  I didn’t look around there too much, except for one time when I passed through it to get to a bathroom.  It looked clean and the beds were set up two to a cubicle.  There was a youngish looking girl writing a paper on her laptop at a table in the dormitory area.  I guess it must be fairly safe.  I did see a TV behind the front desk that was showing views from security cameras, so that area must be kept under surveillance to make sure nothing happens to the guests.

Overall, we were satisfied with our stay there.  If we find ourselves in Kuala Lumpur again and need to stay the night, we’ll definitely be trying for a room there again.

Here are some of the photos we took inside the hotel: