24 hours without a (smart) phone

My phone died over the weekend.

It’s had a massive crack on the screen since January, but it still worked, so I ignored the cracked and carried on regardless. Although I have no real evidence of this, I’ve got a feeling the crack constituted to the crappy battery life the phone seemed to experience since that point - but that’s irrelevant.

What is relevant is that after 9 months of suffering a cracked screen, the backlight finally gave up. The screen still works, and you can just about make out what’s being displayed if you hold it at just the right angle against a lightbulb - but as I’m sure you can imagine, this isn’t practical for day to day use, so I needed a replacement.

With some joy, in January of next year, I’ll be in the position to get a Google Pixel, but until then I need something small and crappy just to get by, so yesterday I placed an order for the Wileyfox Spark X, which will be delivered at some point today. I’m not expecting great things out of it, but for what it is, at £135, it should be more than adequate for the task at hand, and once I get my Pixel, it’ll be a handy backup phone should the worst happen to the Pixel…

Which I’m discovering is a very good idea, because there are at least two important things which I want to do today that I’m unable to without a phone.

The first is check my Revoult transactions. Being the first of the month, I’ve got a ton of payments leaving the account. Most of these are going directly from my current account, but things like Heroku and DigitalOcean (being American compaines that charge in dollars) are on the Revoult card to avoid exchange fees. Unfortunaly, Revoult doesn’t offer a web portal for their customers, so I’m somewhat stuck in limbo until I get a replacement phone.

That’s not too much of an immediate issue, however, as that can happily wait until tomorrow. What can’t wait is the Uber I need to book to go visit the doctor. Uber do have a web portal, but that’s limited to seeing past transactions - to actually book a cab, I need to use the app.

What’s the point of this post? I guess it’s to act as a cautionary tale for people to take stock of the things they take for granted, and to make sure they have systems in place for when the shit hits the fan. For example, do you have backup 2FA codes for all your accounts?

Why don’t you download the Android SDK and boot a virtual device, sign into it with your Google account and install/use the apps you need on your computer?



That’s an interesting approach, but one which I think would probably take more time and effort than simply waiting for the new phone. I do have an android tablet, but I’ve noticed that some apps are incompatible with it. I don’t know about Uber and Revolut specifically though, I’ll check.


Because I’ve never had a good experience with cabs, even when booking them in advance. The final straw was a couple of years ago when I pre-booked one for an interview at Intercity. 20 minutes after the arranged pick up time, it still hadn’t shown up, and when I phoned them to ask what was going on, I was told it has been canceled. I had to phone another firm, who, thankfully, still managed to get me there on time.

Say what you want about uber’s business practices, but I’ve never had a bad experience with them.

That makes one of us, then. :slight_smile:

Oh? Is this a juicy story of scandal and intrigue?

I’ve just had a look, and while Uber works just fine on the tablet, Revolut says it isn’t compatible. TBH, I’m surprised at this, as I figured if anything, it would be the other way around.

Nope, just a couple of stories of incompetence and poor customer service :slight_smile:

  1. I’m in LA. I decide to try an Uber to get somewhere, since I’m in California and that’s what the locals do. So I jump in, and give the chap the address of the office I’m going to for a meeting. I’d looked and it was, roughly, 25 minutes drive away. Forty minutes later I say to the bloke: are we nearly there yet? Yeah, yeah, he says, nearly there. Another ten minutes of driving around. I’m now looking at the map myself (fortunately, saved offline) and we’re sorta in the area where the thing is, but it’s not very clear where this office is. Another five minutes. I decide to suck it up and ring the chap I’m meeting, at ruinous roaming charges; he explains where the office is, on a roundabout near to a couple of named restaurants. I explain this to the chap… who doesn’t know this roundabout. I can’t search for the restaurants because I don’t have any data; he then tries searching while driving around, going up and down streets. Eventually, we get there, after about an hour and fifteen minutes.

  2. Different trip. We’re in Martinez (also in California), at the Martini Festival. I’ve bought myself a black and white hat (which I have since lost). We’re done for the day: it’s about 5pm, bright and sunny. We’re stood on the edge of the festival, which is on a big grassed area near the centre of town. Friend (a local) calls an Uber. It says: five minutes. We wait ten minutes, then ring the driver. “Where are you?” says the driver. We explain: we’re at the Festival (which is a nationwide-famous event), stood on the edge of the grass, next to the road and next to the hat stall. “OK, be there in a sec” says the driver. Five minutes pass. No car arrives. Ring again. “Yeah, be there in a second,” says the driver. By this time my mate is saying “you know where we are, yeah? Just drive to the Festival and we’ll see you.” We can see from the app that he’s roughly here, but not actually here. This goes on and on for another twenty minutes. Eventually, he just vanishes. Never shows up at all, despite how he was presumably 100 yards away. Baffled. We eventually got my mate’s partner to come out and pick us up.

The common thread here? That the drivers don’t have to have any idea where they’re going or what they’re doing. Let’s ignore Uber the company’s appalling treatment of their staff. Ignore their approach to regulation. Ignore their internal culture. The only job a taxi driver has is to know where they’re going. Fine, if I get in a cab at New St and ask them to take me to, I dunno, Highcross in Leicester then the driver has an excuse for not knowing where Highcross is. But nobody ever does that. I’ve been in cabs – actual cabs – countless times where a road’s been blocked by roadworks, or by an accident, or it’s just been clogged with traffic, and the driver has merely taken another route. Didn’t have to ask, didn’t have to make a point of it… because it’s their job. This doesn’t work if you’re just a bloke with a Ford Cortina and a phone with Google Maps on it. Birmingham cab drivers don’t have to do the Knowledge like London ones do, but they do have to go through nearly as strenuous an exam, it just doesn’t have the publicity that the London one does. Now, this almost certainly isn’t the case for minicab drivers; don’t book minicabs. Book black cabs. They’re better for a reason. I use TOA Taxis myself, generally, but there are others. If Uber were amazing all the time then I’d be caught between my principles and my desire for an easy life. As it is, the firm has a toxic internal culture, they summarise all that’s worst about the Valley, using them means my money goes to an American firm rather than to someone in Birmingham, they mistreat their drivers, they refuse to allow booking on the web in order to lock you into their app so they can jack your contacts list, and every time I’ve got in an Uber they’ve been rubbish. That someone would consider installing Android in a VM in order to use their service makes me think of Morpheus: some people are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it. Stop looking at the woman in the red dress.


Also, just to note TOA Taxis (who have always been fine for me too) has an app where you can book and track your black cab. I’m sure it’s not anywhere near as flash as Uber’s app, but it works fine.

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They do indeed and I use it too, but it is not a very good app, so I’m not offering it as a selling point. I did actually mail one of their competitors (Seven Sevens: nice easy phone number to remember :)) offering to build a non-terrible app, but never heard back :wink:

What’s ‘a cab’? OK, I went in one once and it was only a bit slower than walking but isn’t everything being within walking distance one of Brum’s main advantages over London? This rule obviously doesn’t apply if travelling on the 50 is your alternative.

Do you mean hackney carriages, or private hires?

The point made about backup 2FA codes is one everyone should take note of.

For various reasons to do with privacy, I have always been in the habit of using PAYG SIM cards and never registering them. I also like using 2FA, to secure my accounts…

… So when my phone got nicked going back to a hostel (was apartment hunting…) from the Wellington back in June, with me not having made any backup 2FA things, I was effectively fucked. Got into work the next day completely locked out of all of my accounts - bar the ones I had open sessions on. Not having the number registered meant that the provider could not just give me a replacement SIM card or whatever.

So, seriously. Take the time to make some backup codes for services you use (where possible), in order to ensure that you don’t end up completely done for. I have regained access to my accounts through witchcraft, outright nonsense, and “helpful” support staff, but it has taken a couple of months to pick up the pieces.


TBH, I don’t know - probably private hires, mostly.

Yep. I have an AWS account I can no longer log into as root because of this. To be fair Amazon let you call to reset the account but it’s a company account that I don’t own so I can’t contact them directly – bit of a faff. I still have an admin user I was able to use to reset things, but it was a pain in the arse.

When I was in the lecky business, doing information risk management, I analysed that management of our encryption tree was one of the biggest risks to the survival of the whole business. We had the technical capability to lock away most data and backups so they could never be retrieved. You need ‘off-site’ (whatever that means now) backups.

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