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 speedtest.net 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.

Switching to Nuro – the Sony fiber optic network

I feel a bit nostalgic after all these years as an NTT Flets fiber optic customer, but I’m a sucker for persistent salespeople (please don’t give out my address!) and I checked this out and it does seem like a good deal.

There is a campaign going on for the new Nuro fiber optic network by Sony. The salesman claimed that Nuro actual throughput speeds are 20 to 30 times faster than NTT. The maximum download speed for the new fiber optic line is 2 Gbps and upload is 1 Gbps. He said the actual throughput I could expect is typically 800-900 Mbps, which would indeed be much faster than I have now. Of course that would be further limited by my wi-fi maximum bandwidth, but still, in real practice it could be even faster than what I have now, by a lot.

At the same time, I’ll switch one of my two analog land lines from NTT to the Nuro optical phone network, reducing that cost as well.

Economically it also seems to make sense. The current total costs for my fiber optic line + analog phone line + Asahi-net Internet provider service is about 8,100 yen/month.

With the new system I have to switch my provider from Asahi-net to So-net, but there is no provider charge, the phone line drops by 2/3rd and the fiber optic line cost is also cheaper, so the total for everything will be 5,505 yen/month. That’s a savings of about 2,600 yen per month. Not unsubstantial.

Plus as additional incentives, the first two months are free. And it includes a new wi-fi router with a maximum 450 Mbps speed to replace my old Apple wi-fi router, which I believe only has a maximum speed of 100 Mbps (it’s the old type). And they set it all up for me. Also, after 3 months they deposit a “cash back” of 20,000 yen in my bank account.

On the downside, there will be a 2,100 yen NTT fee for switching my analog phone number over to Nuro, an 840 yen contract fee and the way the setup/construction fee works is that it technically costs 31,500 yen which they divide over 30 months to 1,050 yen/month. Then they deduct the 1,050 yen/month so long as I keep the service. So it becomes free, unless I quit before 30 months, in which case I owe the unsubsidized difference. It’s a typical Japanese contract pattern.

Also, it’s a two year contract. After two years there is a free “window” in which you can quit with no fee, but if I quit outside the window there’s a 9,800 yen early termination fee. That’s also a pretty typical Japanese contract pattern which cell phone providers use. I don’t particularly like that system, but I agreed to it in this case.

I figure the 20,000 yen “cash back” after 3 months, plus the first two months free service, will more than cover the minor initial expenses. And having the newer, higher-speed wi-fi router is something I’ve been wanting to do.

Anyway, I’ve been sucked in. I’ll let you know how it goes.