Back to StrongVPN for my proxy server needs

Well, I’m coming back to StrongVPN. Actually, I never left it. But in May I started experiencing problems connecting to Hulu and Netflix from Japan. It was the “anonymous proxy server” errors many people were getting. I tried their new client at that time and it didn’t help. And then they started talking about an extra paid service to get around the problem, which didn’t seem right to me.

I have to admit I was frustrated in May. Yet… I liked the StrongVPN people. Their support has always been good, and the people friendly. So I did not request a cancellation and refund. Instead I just requested not to auto-renew on September 15th and I would “wait and see.”

In the meantime, I’ve been using unblock-us, which works a different way, by using their special DNS servers and streaming from their servers.

Now it’s the beginning of September, and my past good experience with StrongVPN was tugging at the back of my mind, and so I decided to try StrongVPN again. Their 24 hour tech support immediately helped. They gave me a link to their new client for my Mac, I tried it, and everything worked perfectly. I even tried and was getting really fast speeds. Faster than back in May.

At the same time I’ve started noticing some odd things about unblock-us. For example, some sites which should not be affected, such as NY Times, Forbes and Apple Forums, were not working well at all. They suddenly started getting very slow, with broken images, etc. I turned off unblock-us and everything started immediately working quickly and normally again.

So I am “returning home” to StrongVPN. What can I say? Until the problems in May, I had been using StrongVPN for several years and had frequently recommended them to my friends. And while they definitely had a rough spot in May, the problems seem to be fixed now and things are running better than ever. So I’m happy to be back. I’m also happy to be able to turn it on when I need to and disconnect when I need to and not fiddle any more with my DNS servers. Oh, and they are a bit less expensive than unblock-us as well.

All the major carriers in Japan now have unlimited calling plans

All the major carriers now – AU, Softbank and DoCoMo – are competing and have introduced “unlimited calling plans” and all for about the same price. The basic cost is 2,700 yen/month for calling. This is 24 hour calling, to any carrier, and to regular phone lines as well. Then you choose a data package, typically starting at 2 GB per month and going up from there.

As I mentioned the other day, starting tomorrow my new AU package will kick in. I chose the 2 GB plan (which comes with an extra 1 GB per month for the first 13 months) since I checked and have never used more than 1 GB per month.

Today I helped a friend on Softbank switch to their equivalent package. He will save a lot of money because he makes lots of calls. His plan will kick in on 9/11. They also checked and saw he never exceeds 1 GB per month of data, so the lowest cost data package will be perfect for him.

And we both get to keep our tethering option.

There is one contractual difference between the Softbank plan and the AU plan though. In typical Softbank fashion, if you switch to this new plan you are recommitting for another two years as of the date it takes effect. With AU there is no contract extension; they just consider it a “change of plan.” In that sense, AU is nicer about it.

Anyway, it’s a good deal in both cases. It looks like the age of unlimited calling has come to Japan.

But as they say, what good are unlimited minutes if they all have to be spent on the phone?