Change of the Guard

It was time.  Say adios to Odin & Loki and say hello to Calvin & Hobbes.

Ok, I realize that doesn’t make much sense when put like that, but here’s what it means.

Typically (almost) every year I change the passwords and SSIDs to my wireless router access.  On the current router there are two options; 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz.  For the past two years, we’ve had Odin & Loki.  (I was going through my Marvel phase).  Before that was Amadeus & Poughkeepsie [2018], then Hephaestus & Ares [2015], and finally my Harry Potter phase of Dumbledore & Severus_Snape [2013].  Prior to that I had a different router, and I don’t remember what the SSIDs were.  This year I was looking for a duo that was whimsical, and I didn’t want to get bogged down in minutae so I went with the venerable Calvin & Hobbes. [I could have gone with Opus & Binkley, but Wattersons’s duo came to mind first.  Maybe in 2021.]

Of course, when I change the SSIDs, since so many of the tech we have are dependent on the info being correct, I had to go through the house and change everything that connected to the router manually in order for it all to continue to work as it should.  For example; as soon as I changed things, the cameras on the outside of the house went offline, the lamp upstairs as well as the lights in the living and dining room stayed on, and didn’t turn off when they were programmed to.  Tablets, phones, my tv in the den and both Roku boxes went offline and needed to be updated to the new SSIDs.

When updating things of this nature, I tend to ‘beef up’ the security on them as well.  When I first started password protecting myself online, passwords were pretty simple.  Nowadays one has to be aware of dictionary based attacks, and keeping track of 500+ passwords is impossible.  Especially when you have to try to remember nonsensical strings of letters, numbers and special characters.  tabby#0645 is a lot easier to remember than something like JsWnY=4m&hz}Lv}.  Sure the second one is way more secure, but there’s nothing to link it to in your brain to remember what the heck it is.  Consequently, for the last 12 years, I’ve been using Password Depot, it has saved my bacon more than a few times, and now it’s available as an app for my phone, which allows me to access my passwords wherever I am.  Truly a game changer.

So, Calvin and Hobbes are residing in the house for the next year.  Things are locked down (in more ways than one) and we’re secure for whatever comes in the months ahead.

Oops, almost forgot.  The guest SSIDs are ‘GuestOfUs’ and ‘StrangeWomenLyingInPonds’.  If you happen to visit, ask for the passwords.

Learning from exile

I’ve been back on Facebook for a little more than a day (spent a week in FB Jail for a faux pas) and I have to say I haven’t missed it a lot.  Sure, I missed the ease of messaging someone using the Messenger app, but it wasn’t a complete disaster.   There are other ways to keep in contact with the people who are important to you, FB isn’t the end all or be all of communicating, it’s been made easy over the years, and many people use it as the ‘go-to’ platform, because most of their friends use it.  But before there was a Facebook, there were other forms, and avenues, and without it, there’s not necessarily a dearth of communication.

Once back, I ended up getting into a heated debate with a woman who I went to primary and high school with.  About politics of all things.  And yes, Donald Trump.  It reminded me just how far removed I am with all those people who I grew up with.  I honestly haven’t seen many of them for going on 36 years, so are they really my friends anymore? I’m not really certain what the expiration date is on a friendship.  Certainly there are people I went to college with that I haven’t seen for 32-33 years now, we’ve moved in our separate directions, and I don’t keep up with their day-to-day goings on, (nor they, mine) as a matter of fact I haven’t seen more than one or two of them since I left Poughkeepsie in 1987.

Maybe I’m over the aura of Facebook.  This forced exile seems to have opened my eyes a bit, and I’m not enamored with the platform like I used to be.  I understand that my opinions have to be for the most part cached and edited before I express them there, as the algorithm they use for purposes of censorship have been violated (their word, not mine) three times by me in the course of several months.  I honestly don’t believe anything I’ve either said or posted has been that viral or bad.  But my opinion as they’ve made quite clear, doesn’t enter into their deliberations.  And that’s a sad commentary in and of itself.  In a country where we enjoy the freedom of speech, of expression and so on, where we can’t express ourselves in places like a social media platform is a bit jarring.

Although with the social media wars still going on, the behemoths are gobbling up the little ‘also-rans’ like Instagram, Telegram, WhatsApp, Tumblr, StumbleUpon and so on, so it’s not as if there’s a lot of places you can go that are considered ‘independent’ anymore. Social media programs come and go, and one has to be aware of who owns what, and how you might be running afoul of another conglomerate when you’re attempting to get your work or communication done.  Wordpress thankfully isn’t owned by a big media company, and I own my own domain and host it overseas, so I don’t have to be beholden to any large media company and spend time kowtowing to their rules and regulations for the most part. I don’t get censored here.  Too, I don’t yell ‘Fire!’ in a crowded place either, but I could if I wanted to.  Here.  Not anywhere else.

I think I’m still able to learn a few things from my experiences.  Whether or not they’ll stay sunk in, is anyone’s guess.  Let’s hope so.

 

Not cool Citibank, not cool

Over the last few days I’ve been attempting to re-acquire access to my online accounts using the laptop, since my desktop remains down for the count.  For the most part I’ve been successful, but my Citibank account has remained elusive in being accessible.  I encountered the first problem on Wednesday, when I attempted to log on, only to be told that there had been multiple failed attempts to access my account (more than likely by my continued efforts) and I needed to reset my password.

I went through the motions that the site said was necessary, having a code sent by text to my phone, and inputting it in the appropriate place when prompted.  At that point I was prodded to change my password and when I did, I was presented with a screen that said ‘the content you’re looking for doesn’t exist on our website’, or words to that effect.  I tried the same process twice more just to get the same response, so I shelved my efforts to another day.  Which turned out to be Friday.

Friday was the day that we were getting our vehicle (finally) inspected prior to the end of  our lease, so I had to be awake at 6:45 in order to make a call to the dispatch people to be certain the inspector was coming at the right time, to the correct place.  We’d been through the merry-go-round more than once with this and I wanted to be completely certain there weren’t any screwups this time.

After successfully handling that (vehicle came out clean, no issues) I took the time to call the 800 number referenced by Citibank when I was unable to access my account.  After navigating through the myriad of automated menus, I was finally able to speak to a real person.  I told the woman what my problem was, she asked for my checking account # and I told her that I wasn’t a member that had a bank account, I had a credit card.  “Oh,” she says, “you called the wrong number…this is the customer service arm for bank accounts.”  But…this is the number the website gave me.  She proceeded to apologize for the error on the website and transferred me over to the credit card customer service section.  Where I had to wait on hold for another 10 minutes.  No pleasant music on hold either, just dead air.

The next customer service rep asked for my account number and SS #, which I told her the account number but said I wasn’t willing to give out my social # over the phone.  She asked a challenge question and I answered it, these were preset when I originally set up the account 12 years ago.  Thank goodness for my password storage program, or I might never had remembered the Q&A.  But having been given the correct response, she asked what she could do to assist.  So I proceeded to relate my problem again.  To which she had no offering of assistance on her own, I was going to have to be bumped to the technical support people.  Wonderful.  I was beginning to get a little despondent of ever regaining access to my account.  The only lament I had been, my bill was due in about a week and I wasn’t completely positive I still had it on auto-pay, so if I had to do a transaction over the phone, they were going to charge me a fee to do so, because they always do.  It’s not convenient for me if you’re going to charge me more money for taking my money.

So it was back to holding.  And finally I reach tech support.  The woman who I spoke to this time, doesn’t have the information of why I called, but she does want to know my account # and social again.  I mention that I’ve already spoken to two different sections of her company and both have asked me the same questions and been rewarded with the proper responses.  She replies that she has no record of it, and do I want the help or not.  Seems a bit snippy to me, but what the hell, I wasn’t in a good mood at this point either.  So I give her the account #, and tell her I’m not obligated to give out my SS # and she accepts that.  Asks again my problem and I tell her.  She asks what browser I’m on.  Chrome, I reply.

Tech Support Lady: Do you have a different browser you can use?
Me: I have Microsoft Edge, but I’m not confident in its ability to do what I need it to do, which is why I have Chrome.
TSL: I see.  Can you try it anyway?
Me: Sure, but I don’t see the point.

I bring up Edge and attempt to go through the Citibank credit card website. I get the same result as when I was using Chrome. I relate it to the woman and she’s perplexed. Enough to mutter under her breath ‘It should work‘. I’m with you lady, it should have worked the first time.

She asks if I can delete my browsing history and cookies etc. from Chrome. I can, but I have to log out of Chrome so I don’t lose my history etc from all the other devices I use. She wants me to delete ALL of my browsing history, all the way back from when I first started using Chrome. Which admittedly was a while ago. I’m really not interested in losing all of that history. So I log out of Google on the laptop and proceed to delete the browsing history on that particular version of Chrome that’s running on the computer. And then Chrome crashes. Perfect. Have to reboot the computer so I tell the woman who it was going to take a while (truth), and if I needed further assistance I would call back. No sense me wasting her time while I’m waiting for an old Thinkpad to reboot. So I bid her good-bye and wish her a good day, anything to get her off the phone.

Needless to say once I rebooted, I still wasn’t able to access the account. I even tried to use the Citi app on my smartphone but every time I attempted to use either the old or new password, the app replied there was a ‘long wait time’ and kicked me out of the app. Finally this evening I tried a different laptop that hasn’t been used online in over a year. Again I got the same result, but this time I was able to change the password successfully. And when I did that, it all clicked and fell into place. I was logged on. About damn time. I checked my account, the auto-pay was active, so I didn’t have to worry about missing a payment after all. There was a blurb from Citi asking if I wanted to see if I qualified for a credit increase. Just for the hell of it, I clicked yes, answered their questions and was rewarded(?) with a $2300 increase in my limit. Granted the interest rate is still ridiculous, but just about any card is these days. Even if you’ve been a customer in good standing, the banks are inching up the rates little by little about every six months or so, knowing that people are inured to them with more debt so they don’t have a lot of recourse.

I certainly could have done without the merry-go-nowhere that I had to deal with, but anymore customer service is a crapshoot. I know many people who work in call centers, and they say that the people they deal with, have no patience. Well, when things go to shit and you get raked over the coals time and again, there’s a good reason. And this is coming from someone who works in the customer service industry.