Thursday, April 7, 2011

Procrastination Payoff


We live in a hole.

Not a literal hole, exactly, but a technology hole. We cannot get TV reception or DSL or cable TV/ internet. Our landlord can. He lives next door. People farther up the road can. But we can't. We live smack dab in the middle of a technology hole.

As far as TV goes, I think this is a good thing. With a few exceptions (like the NFL playoff season, the Olympics, and Turner Classic Movies), we really don't miss TV that much. We did get DirctTV for the first year we lived here (it came bundled in a deal with our internet service), but that year seemed to only confirm or desire not to have TV in the house... at least not until it goes on an a la cart system. In the meantime, we film buffs are very happy with our Netflix subscription. Despite our inability to stream. Which brings me to my topic du jour: internet.

We have satellite internet. Being a grad student, self-employed family, we have the cheapest satellite plan available, and we have been pretty happy with it. I need internet for work, Kyle needs it for school, and it has been very helpful for keeping in touch with family and friends, for the kids' schooling, and keeping up with various household tasks (bill paying, banking, shopping, etc). Generally, it has been a time and money saving tool that has been worth its cost. Do I wish we could stream video (and thus reduce our Netflix subscription) and use internet phone? Sure, but those are luxuries, and we've survived okay without them.

Like the price of gas, food, and utilities, the cost of our satellite internet service has been creeping up and up. So after finally acknowledging that the local cable and phone companies weren't going to heed our quarterly calls to extend their lines to our house, we decided to look at another option. The 3G network. Although we'd love to be able to get a couple of smart phones (and AT&T has a great deal on refurbished iPhone3s right now), we really need to be able to connect our laptops to the internet, not our phones. We could get smart phones with tethering ability, but 1) thanks to a complicated, stressful kerfuffle (love that word) with our current cell phone carrier, we still have a little over a year on our current contract (Kyle did finally get us the $150 rebate they had previously stiffed us on, though), 2) our current carrier's service isn't stellar in our house (we often walk around the front yard when we talk on the phone to ensure reception), and 3) the iPhone is not available (yet) on our current carrier, and we'd like to streamline our technology into all Apple products at some point. So we started shopping around for 3G personal hotspots. In case you don't know what these are (I didn't until I started researching them), these are phone-ish routers that connect to the internet through the same network that smart phones use to connect to the internet but they also allow multiple WiFi devices to connect to the interwebs through it.

I researched online and finally decided on AT&T's Mobile Hotspot MiFi. It costs $50, but the monthly connect fee is $20 less than we are currently paying with satellite and they waived the activation fee, so we decided to go for it. I spent the next hour trying to check out on AT&Ts site. The customer service rep who I finally got to "help" me was very nice, but all he did was have me try everything I had already tried and although he did succeed in stopping the error message I had been receiving from popping up it was just replaced with another one. He told me he didn't know what else to do and suggested that I try using another browser. That's when I remembered... I was using Firefox for Linux on my netbook. Ugh. I *heart* my Linux netbook, but sometimes it prevents me from connecting properly to some websites. It was late and my sweetie and an episode of The Wire were waiting for me, so I decided to just try again on my Windows laptop the next day.

Then life happened. The kids wanted to be taught and get fed. Laundry needed to be washed. The dog needed to be walked and played with. A bunch of homeschool materials I had just sold online all had to be hauled to the post office and shipped. In short, I plain-old forgot to go back to the site and finish checking out.

Last night, Kyle asked me if I had finished the AT&T purchase (I think his meds are working too well), so I went to my email box where AT&T had been sending me "your shopping cart misses you" messages for the past few days. I clicked on the link in one of the emails, clicked "check out now", then started laughing hysterically. Apparently, AT&T was afraid of losing our business, so they had attached a discount code to the link back to the shopping cart. Our free MiFi personal hotspot should be arriving by the weekend.