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Disclaimer: The entries you find in these pages are based on my individual opinions and thoughts. Some of the entries may be just plain wrong, and others harmful. Should you choose to act on, or try, anything you find on this site, you assume any and all risks associated with your actions. So there.


AT&T Rebate Complaint

February 10, 2008

Shortly after I got my iPhone, I flipped my wife's and an employee's phones over to AT&T. I got them both Motorola RAZR phones, each with $100 rebates ($200). After a few weeks, I got four (4) AT&T Rebate Debit cards, each worth $50. I thought, wow, cool, this will be easy to spend.

The first time I used a card, all went well. Then I realized that, in order to spend all of the money, I would have to track the amount spent for each card. So I put each card in an envelope and kept track of the balance on the front. I looked like a dweeb pulling them out, but I was determined to spend every penny.

The first time I tried to use two cards to cover a transaction was at the grocery store. I was successful at spending down to the penny the first card, but the second card, which had more than enough remaining balance, was rejected. I had to use a third card to cover the bill. Then I had two partially spent cards, which really bugged me.

The next time I tried to use a card was at a restaurant. The card had about $5 more available balance than the tab -- but it was rejected. I had to use my debit card because they could not let me use two cards to cover the bill. At a gas station, I tried to use a card, but it was rejected. Next I tried to use a card to pay for chinese take-out, and it was rejected. In five attempts, four rejections. By now I was totally put-out.

So I called up AT&T customer support. I got a very nice gentleman on the line. I promptly chewed him out, stopping to apologize and explain that, while I thought he was great as a person, I was completely pissed with AT&T. Nothing personal. BTW: I think this is a very important thing to do -- tell them you aren't pissed at them. It diffuses the situation, and helps them to want to help you.

He explained to me that many businesses, especially restaurants, have to authorize more than the total of the bill in order to accommodate tips, etc. I knew this, but this still didn't explain the first rejection at the grocery store. I asked him to give me a credit for the remaining balance and just be done with it. He told me he could not do that. I read the riot act again, and again I explained that it was AT&T, not he, that was the target of my wrath. Then he said a very smart thing.

He suggested that I just use the cards to pay my bill. Oooo, I was completely defanged. I thought "what an elegant solution, why didn't I think of that?" I thanked him and hung up.

When my next bill came, I called up the pay-by-phone line and explained what I wanted to do. After hearing me out, the customer service rep explained to me that there would be a $5 service charge FOR EACH CREDIT CARD TRANSACTION. That would be $20! What!? If I pay my bill with AT&T's own debit card, they charge me for every transaction?

I immediately asked her to close out my account. I told her that if they had such a ridiculous rebate system, and an equally punitive set of fees to use their own cards, I simply couldn't remain a customer. No way was I going to pay $5 per transaction. After all, it was their own card paying their own bill.

Thankfully, she decided it would be better to waive the $5 fees and just take the cards. So, one by one, I depleted the balances of my three remaining cards, and stuck the total remaining balance on my company credit card.

So, the next time you see a rebate offer, beware that you may be receiving a debit card, and not a check. Avoid trying to use the card at restaurants and gas stations, and ask other types of vendors up front if they will have to authorize for more than the exact value of the transaction.

AT&T Kudos

February 10, 2008

Ok, so my last entry was about my problems with AT&T Rebate Debit cards. That was resolved to my satisfaction, but it did take the wind out of my overall good experience with them. Still, I really must say something good about AT&T. I know, I know, they are the Death Star... still.

When I got the iPhone, I expected to be paying more per month than I had been doing for years. I decided that it would be worth it. Then I discovered the Unity Plan.

The AT&T agent told me about the Unity Plan when I went in to get my wife and an employee's phone numbers ported to AT&T. He explained that the pricing for the Unity Plan was the same as the regular pricing, but it required that you put your wireless phone on the same bill as your home phone -- of course, that means you must have an AT&T home phone, which we do.

The real kicker, though, is that the Unity Plan makes all calls to AT&T phones free. This includes wireless AND wireline phones. A quick mental survey, and I figured this would cut my minutes in half. So I jumped on the plan. It was easy to port the two phones, and I got all of the paperwork and purchases completed in under an hour.

After I got my first phone bill, I wasn't sure what minutes were what. So I let a couple of more phone bills come. Then I took a good look at just how many plan minutes the three of us were using. It was definitely half of what we used to use. In fact, less than half.

I called up AT&T to reduce the total number of shared minutes on the plan. My target should be about 1,800 minutes per month. But AT&T only offers 1,400 or 2,100 minutes. Since I had a BUNCH of rollover minutes accumulated, I opted for the 1,400 minute plan. When, if, we burn through the rollover minutes, I'll flip to the 2,100 minute plan.

The good news is that my phone bill has actually gone down. On SunCom I used to pay for four phones. Now, with three phones, my bill works out to be less than the amount I would have paid for three phones on SunCom.

Back to My Mac on Bellsouth

February 10, 2008

According to Apple's documentation, in order to support the .Mac "Back to my Mac" features, your router must be an Apple router, or be able to support UPnP (Universal Plug and Play). It's not quite that simple, at least not with Bellsouth.

This assumes you have more than one Mac, and that you have paid for .Mac, and that you have configured .Mac on each Mac.

The short version is this: your Bellsouth Modem/Router doesn't support UPnP, but you can buy a second router that will work with it to do this. I use a Linksys WRT54G.

The trick is to setup the Bellsouth modem/router NOT to do it's own PPPoE. Instead, you configure your second router to do the PPPoE. Then you can configure the second router to enable UPnP and it works. If you want an overview, keep reading.

This requires a bit of TCP/IP knowledge, so this is not for novices. You will also need to have a second router in hand -- brand new out of the box is fine. If you don't have a passing familiarity with configuring basic home routers, stop and call the 11-year-old next door to help you.You will need your Bellsouth login and password, so do not proceed without this. Here are the basic steps:

1) Your Bellsouth router should already be configured and working. Make sure you can get to its config page (check your TCP/IP settings to find the router address, and plug that into your browser address bar). Note this address.

2) Now, disconnect your computer from the Bellsouth router and Plug the WAN port on your second router into the LAN port on the Bellsouth router. Then plug your computer into a LAN port on the second router (or access it wirelessly). If your Bellsouth router was configured properly, you should be able to get on the internet after you do this.

a) If you can access the internet, go on to step 3.

b) If you can't access the internet, unplug the second router from the Bellsouth router, but leave your computer plugged in to the second router. Power cycle the second router. Now access the router config page (check your TCP/IP settings to find the router address). On the main page, change the third number in the "Local IP address" to 10 (actually, any number from 0 to 254 will do, so long as it is different from the current number). Save the change, then connect it all back up and try again.

3) Now you should be able to access the internet. Check to see that you can access the Bellsouth Router's config page (the one your noted in step 1). Also check that you can access your second router's config page (check your TCP/IP settings, AGAIN because they have now changed, to find the router address). If you can access them both, you're ready for the next step. If you can't, you've got something else going on I can't cover here.

4) Log in to your Bellsouth router config page. Go into the advanced configuration. Look around for the passthrough-mode, or the bridging mode (varies). Enable this mode, choosing to pass through to your second router (it should be the only available device). Save the change. After you do this, you will probably not be able to get back on to the Bellsouth router config page. Don't worry, move on to step 5.

5) Access the config page for your second router. Configure the internet connection type to be PPPoE, and plug in your Bellsouth login and password. Save the settings.

6) After the router restarts, your will probably NOT be able to get online. Disconnect the ethernet cable from your computer (or turn off your wireless), wait a few seconds, then plug it back in (turn it back on). Now you should be able to connect to the internet.

7) Go back to the config page for your second router, and find the Admin page (Linksys Administration). Poke around until you find the UPnP setting -- enable it and save the settings.

That's it (that's enough!)! Now, when you leave your household and get on a normal internet connected network, you should be able to see your other, home, Back to My Mac computers under "Shared" in your Finder Sidebar. I said "normal" because some public networks block this. Have fun.