Friday, 30 December 2011

The end of a pin!

Years ago, as a naive kid I was lucky to receive these wise words from an elder - "learn from the mistakes and miseries of others, don't wait for your turn". I have periodically reminded myself of this adage since then. But that did not stop me from committing a crime that a techie should abstain from - I got baptized into a Blackberry Boy! And boy was it a disappointing ride all along. But nothing could have prepared me for the crashing dead-end in sight.

I don't know what it was that made me go for a Blackberry in the first place. I knew that it is not just a phone - it is a framework, an architecture designed for corporate use with the focus being security and exclusivity. Maybe I just wanted to be that rebel not-a-corporate who used a BB nevertheless :) I was never a fan of the BB services (email, messenger) since they came at a price too heavy for a student thriving on pocket money. But when it comes to jazzy gadgets, sense and sensibility don't have a quota reserved for them (unlike our democracy) in the decision making cabinet called the consumer's-mind.

Slowly but steadily, my entire online & offline identity was the BB. I stored my passwords, usernames, bank account numbers, credit card pins and every other verification/identification related information on my BB for the below reasons:
  • i can't carry a paper with me at all times, with the details written on it, this being for yet another 2 reasons:
    • paper is destructible (now I know its not as undependable as the BB)
    • paper is not password-locked: anyone can read the contents (the BB wins here)
  • my phone is always around me, either in my pocket or on my desk. With my data on the BB, I have my info with me at all times
  • the info is password-protected: the BB has a pre-installed application called PASSWORD KEEPER. You can use this application to keep all your confidential data like passwords, etc and lock the application with a password. This way, you only need to remember the password of the application to open it and read your data.

I always knew that the BB is unreliable. People who had been using the BB since 2008 have constantly faced glitches, slow-downs and repeated crashes. But they weren't techies and were not in a position to find alternative devices which could meet their needs - I was. I should have known better.

I bought a BB Curve 8900 in June 2010. Being a student living on a limited inflow of dispensable cash, I didn't activate the BB services (messenger, email, etc) and used the phone as-is for calls and messaging for almost a year. The very first thing that I did after my job is activate the BB services. Initial hysteria and jubilation of a brand new domain of apps and messengers on mobile kept me elated for a few days. And then my smartphone started showing signs of fatigue. Speed slow-downs, constant progress-icon displays, restarts became a known-issue. I would be so paranoid of installing a new app or doing any kida with it, that the phone regressed to what it originally was - a phone!

Last week my BB crashed while I was installing the twitter app from BB app store. The phone restarted and kept displaying a white screen with the message "Reload Software: 552". I visited the BB website and was momentarily relieved to discover that I could connect the phone to my PC and try to rectify the problem by updating the OS. That was not to be.
So I paid a visit to the BB store and explained my predicament to them - if I don't get my data back then I will be teleported to the stone-age. Their prompt response was "we can't recover your data. Your smart-phone has already formatted itself.". Wow! A smartphone that formats itself for no reason! Now why would I pay through my nose for such a phone I wonder. But then, stupidity and rash decisions are the hallmark of romance and impulse purchases alike :)

For a while I blamed myself - maybe I have been too rough on the phone; maybe I haven't showered it with enough love and adoration and the phone died on me out of neglect. But I could not help noticing that the 30 mins that I was seated in the store, sulking in one corner, a total of 15 irate BB owners walked into the store with handsets new and old, complaining of a crash! Curiosity got the better of me and I sat amongst these guys in the customer lounge and we got talking. Turns out, the BB can crash for any reason whatsoever. Two guys were playing games on their BBs when they crashed. Another was installing an app. Yet another guy simply unlocked his BB in the morning and it turned its back on him. One of the depressed souls had a convenient answer for all this - "nowadays all these things are made in China no...its not BB's fault". Hail the all-knowing ignorant Indian consumer :)

In that one-odd hour in the store, I saw it all - customers demanding replacement, some demanding refund and everyone sulking (the store told every customer that data-loss is imminent and that the store can't help them get their data back). The only one in the store who showed signs of empathy was the security guard - he got a stern rebuke from the manager & was reminded that his concern should be the well-being of the store, not the customers :)

I was so depressed all day that in anger, I committed myself to a new attachment; in an action of rash vengeance - I walked into the Samsung store and bought an Android Phone - Galaxy R.

Now I had been researching about android phones for over 6 months and had amassed fair awareness of the android world to know that this is the phone that I want. Though the decision making process was hasty and rash on that day, the decision itself was long pending, awaiting a signal - and I had got the signal that day in the form of the BB crash & the data loss that followed.

While i sat at the customer service desk, brooding and blankly staring around, the technician who had come out for a coffee break gave me a heart-rendering consolation - "you should always backup your data on the PC (this is stupid and impractical). You can alternatively try BB Protect". That rang a bell like one never rung before - I had installed BB Protect many months back! Reason - it was free & was recommended by BB. Face it, we Indians are suckers for free stuff :) But free is not always bad as I discovered in this case.

Now friends, I cannot stress enough on the importance of this app. BB Protect is a free app that you can download from BB app world. Its by Blackberry and is one app that you should have on ur BB. It schedules regular backups of your contacts, messages, calendar entries to BB server.

BB Protect
I hastily installed BB Protect and checked the BB server for the last backup - it was 3 days back! This means almost all my messages, contacts, calendar entries (yea i will wish you for ur birthdays now :) ) are safe. It took me just a few seconds to download all my BB data back on the phone. But this app doesn't sync data from the Password Keeper app which had all my usernames, passwords and other sensitive information :( Why BB, would you not sync that when you are syncing my supposedly sensitive and highly confidential emails and contacts? You guys are a pain x-(

Learnings from this episode
Android Logo
This episode was the final push that I needed to fulfill my longtime ambition - buy an android phone. I have learnt something valuable through this mishap though which I would like to share with you. Though I did get back much of my data (the contacts and calendar entries were important to me), I have to now go on a clicking spree for "forgot my password" and "reset password" links on I donno how may websites x-(

  • its a phone god damn it! its not your PC. Don't keep your life on it; if you do, sync it on cloud.
  • no matter what brand your phone belongs to, it has to weather much more than your PC. It is out on coffee tables, in factories, near electromagnetism generating phones/gadgets, has to deal with physical shock (we often dump our phones on beds/tables/sofas/desks instead of gently placing them). Our phones are abused on a daily basis - so count on them to die on you someday. Add to that the time spent in conflicting climatic conditions (rains, air conditioned rooms/cars followed by hot humid/dry climate when you step out, etc) which is not good for any gadget.
  • If you prefer to use your phone as more than a phone and keep a chunk of your identity on it, use a phone that has cloud-syncing capability like the android phones. For example, since android is by google, all my media and contacts are synced with my google account. I can burn down my phone right now, buy a new one and just login with my google account and i have my contacts and media on the phone in no time :) Messages are not synced by google but i sure do hope that they give us the option of doing that in future.
  • use a wallet program on your phone which has cloud-sync capabilities. The BB Password Keeper comes under the category of wallet programs but has no sync capabilities. There are many paid wallet apps on android with sync capabilities.
  • though you can sync ur data using BB Protect, the sync is not real-time (it happens every week/month). With android, your contacts, calendar entries, media is synced in real-time(right away). But android doesnt sync your SMS/MMSs unlike BB.
So bask in the glory of your nondescript pin while the party lasts. For there will come a day when you will break free from the shackles of the tyranny of your unreliable pin and will be liberated in the arms of a more reliable technology. Until then, sync and be safe. Or just, use the old-fashioned paper and pen for your reminders and passwords :)

1 comment:

  1. Welcome to the galaxy. I have everything on cloud now. Hope it wont rain :)