Apple Music, and help I got from Tim Cook

I was interested in trying the new Apple Music subscription service. In fact, I gave a demo to the Hibikinokai group last Sunday.

But I ran into a strange problem when I tried to create my own three month free trial in my main US account.

After signing up, I noticed I was charged $9.99 for the first month, even though it’s supposed to be a three month free trial.

I thought that was strange, so I emailed iTunes support and they promptly refunded me the $9.99.

But… After that, I was not able to sign up for the free three month trial. At the last step, I would get a warning telling me that since I had previously paid for Apple Music I was no longer eligible for the free trial.

I contacted iTunes support, and they told me there was nothing they could do about it, because that’s just the way it is. It didn’t matter that I was accidentally charged to begin with and refunded. The system saw that I had previously paid, and as far as it was concerned that was that and I just could not have the free trial.

That didn’t make sense to me, so I sent an email directly to Tim Cook. His email address is easy to find.

Within less than a day, one of his assistants got back to me to help.

We tried various things. First she tried to reset something, but when I went into try I ended up with the same warning at the last step that if I pressed the button I would be charged $9.99.

She also had me try from a different device, but it was the same result.

Finally, she emailed me back to say that she had deposited $30 credit to my iTunes account and I could use that for my three month free trial. Or for whatever. Sure enough, when I checked, there was $30 waiting for me.

So problem solved.

Now I can say I’ve written directly to both Steve Jobs and Tim Cook and gotten a response both times. Of course with Steve Jobs, he actually emailed me back directly. With Tim Cook he had an assistant write back. But that’s fine.

Now I can check out Apple Music and see if it can improve my mood. I’ve been rather down lately.

Tech note – StrongVPN vs TunnelBear vs my native connection – speed tests

I was demonstrating something at my Sunday volunteer class. To make it work, iOS and Android users needed to temporarily use a VPN so it seemed they were in the U.S.

I myself use StrongVPN, but I needed something drop dead simple for these users. Somebody recommended TunnelBear. It is incredibly simple to use with iOS or Android. Unlike StrongVPN you don’t have to install certs and go into the VPN settings. It “just works.” And the students found the animation of the bear tunneling from Japan to the U.S. very amusing.

Also, there is a free level – 500 MB per month (with an extra 1 GB per month if you press the “tweet” button and promote them).

For a beginner it is a very simple system to use, and I would recommend it for those users.

When I got back from class, I was curious – how does TunnelBear stack up against StrongVPN which I’ve been using for several years. I quite like StrongVPN and the service has always been outstanding.

Well, there is no comparison. StrongVPN speeds blow TunnelBear out of the water with speed.

TunnelBear speed: 7.36 Mb/s down and 3.9 Mb/s up. Certainly not a problem speed.

StrongVPN speed: 60.64 Mb/s down and 109.28 Mb/s up. That’s 8~28 times faster than TunnelBear!

Native speed: 277.66 Mb/s down and 85.44 Mb/s up. Nothing to complain about for sure.

Anyway, if you need something super-simple to quickly install on iOS or Android you might be satisfied with TunnelBear. For consistently high performance and outstanding support service I’m sticking with StrongVPN though.

One suggestion for StrongVPN – it would be great for beginners to have a very easy to install iOS and Android app. I didn’t have problems doing it, but I knew what it meant to install the certs and then go into the VPN settings. A less experienced user might not. The beginners in the class I taught had no problem with the TunnelBear mobile apps though – and found it amusing and cute.

Both are good systems. I will stick with StrongVPN. But if I need to explain VPN to an iOS or Android user quickly I will point them to TunnelBear.




The new Google Photos app is quite cool

I’m enjoying the new Google Photos app. In addition to unlimited storage for photos and videos, it has lots of interesting features, including search of photos by recognition – you don’t need to add descriptions. For example, I searched for “birds” and up popped Mon and Monta.

There is an “assistant” which automatically creates collages, effects and “stories” for your approval.

The unlimited photos are if you agree to 16 MP per photo and 1080 HD for videos. Very reasonable. If you have demands for higher resolutions than that it will still work but eat into your Google account quota. But if these sizes are sufficient, backups don’t count towards your quota. What could be better? 16 MP image resolution is higher than I can shoot anyway.

There are features to save space on mobile devices, and sync works very well.

It works on the web, in iOS and on Android.

This might be my photo backup and sharing feature app of choice going forward. It’s certainly a better bargain than Apple iCloud Photos backup.

Here is an example of a “story” it automatically created and notified me about. I elected to save it, and so I can share it. Take a look! Make sure to click the right-arrows to the end of the story.

Notice how it even agreed with me that Hachioji is not near Tokyo. :)

And no Google+ is required! They have separated from that.

I recommend giving it a try, even if just for backup.


Verizon “support”

Note: Here is a transcript of a support chat I just had with Verizon. After this I just gave up and used my bank’s bill pay to mail in a check for $3.49.



Your Question: I’ve been using online bill pay for 6 years, but 2 months ago it stopped working. Both Customer Service and Web Support are giving me run-arounds and not helping. I posted in the support forums and a moderator opened a support ticket where they gave me a link to this chat.

A Verizon Representative will be with you shortly. Thank you.

Agent Laura has joined. (11:41:21)

Laura : Chat ID for this session is 05201518491. (11:41:21)

Laura(11:42:01): Thank you Doug for using Verizon Social Media Support, my name is Laura. I will be your chat agent and apologize in advance for any inconvenience you are experiencing

Laura(11:43:07): Before we can proceed Doug, I need to verify the name, address, and telephone number that is associated with the account. This is standard Verizon policy and procedure to help secure your account and personal information.

Doug Lerner(11:44:04): The name is my mother’s name, Rita Lerner. The number is 617-xxx-xxx. It is installed in her room at her senior center at 1xxx Centre Street in Boston.

Laura(11:46:10): Thank you Doug, what is your relationship to Rita Lerner?

Doug Lerner(11:46:23): Are you asking me what my relationship is to my mother?

Laura(11:47:10): Thank you Doug, one moment while I secure and confirm the account.

Laura(11:54:00): Ok Doug we will have to create a Social Media Case for you and research this issue during the when our DSL customer service center is open.

This session will automatically timeout in one minute. Please respond.

Doug Lerner(11:54:47): What is a “Social Media Case”? And what does this have to to with DSL? This is an ordinary landline with no Internet services.

Laura(11:56:18): I apologize…the account is not DSL

Laura(11:56:29): It’s for a regular phone line.

Laura(11:56:40): At this time I do not have any access to your username and password.

Doug Lerner(11:57:01): Do you want access to my username and password?

Laura(11:57:12): We will have to contact the Customer Service during regular business hours to rectify this issue.

Laura(11:57:27): It’s nothing I would be able to do with it.

Doug Lerner(11:57:27): Will you be doing that?

Laura(11:58:08): My system does not allow me to change the password on regular copper accounts.

Doug Lerner(11:58:32): I will end the chat. Goodbye.

Your session is now closed.