Archive for the ‘Internet dependency’ category


April 16, 2009



The nightmare scenario; or, three generations of the home telephone.

November 21, 2007

So yesterday I’m syncing my iPhone, and iTunes offers me the 1.1.2 iPhone software update. What the heck, I think, it’s been out a week or so, and I could use me some bug fixes. The update gets downloaded and installed on my phone without incident. While the phone is rebooting, though, my internet goes out.

Now, when the phone comes back up after the reboot, it wants to talk to iTunes and reauthorize the phone. This step fails, because the internet is out. Bouncing the router doesn’t bring it back up. I confirm that I’m paid up. TV still works. So, time to call RCN and complain. But the iPhone is a brick; it shows a cute “Please connect me to iTunes” graphic and doesn’t allow anything but emergency calls.


I do have a land line, but the antique Bell System telephone I have hooked up to it stopped giving a dialtone a few days after I plugged it in. I figured the problem was with RCN — how could an indestructible piece of solid state technology like that phone fail? — but I didn’t want to have to call them up and convince them that my sixty-year-old phone wasn’t the problem. So dead it remains.

This is pretty much a nightmare scenario. No regular internet. No fancy wireless GPRS internet, which was supposed to prevent me from ever being without the web or email again. No phone, and no way to get help.

Except, of course, to leave the house.

I go into the office and try to reactivate my phone via iTunes there. Unfortunately, my work desktop runs XP x64, and Apple doesn’t support the iPhone on 64-bit Windows. Whoops.

After work I have dinner with a friend and try to reauthorize with iTunes on her laptop. It sees the iPhone, but I get a message that I need to enter my security code on the phone before connecting it to this computer. Now, under normal circumstances this is a sensible security precaution*. If I’ve put a code-lock on the phone, the phone should refuse to sync to a strange computer unless I’ve unlocked it first. Problem is, the “emergency calls only” UI doesn’t allow you to enter the unlock code.

At this point it looks like I have two options: One, do a full reset of the phone, losing all my un-synced pictures, text message history, etc., and authorizing it using my friend’s laptop. Two, restore my internet and reauthorize the phone on the one computer that it’s already paired to.


I’m flying home for Thanksgiving in just a few hours, but I don’t want to lose my data if I don’t have to. Preparing to do battle with RCN Tech Support, I go to Staples and buy the cheapest corded phone they had, the $15 AT&T Trimline. It’s not nearly as cool as the 1940s Bell System, but it’s the spiritual heir. It is an iconic design in its own right, and according to the box, it’s the #1 selling phone of all time.

I plug it in, and guess what: No dialtone! The rugged Bell System phone is absolved.

Anyhow, to make a long story slightly less long, whatever the issue was with the cable internet, RCN fixed it**, and tonight my internet is back up and my iPhone is reauthorized and working again. It was a rough forty hours of withdrawl that I’m not sure I want to repeat anytime soon.

At least not until I’ve cleared two weeks on my calendar, and I’m on a sailboat in the middle of the ocean.


* Except it’s totally ineffective at preventing access to the phone’s data. Using this trick, you can confuse an “emergency calls only” iPhone into showing you the contacts list, and from there you can read the address book, open Safari and surf Wifi, view sent text messages, etc. So you don’t even need the unlock code to poke around on the phone, yet it prevents you from authorizing. Great job, Apple.

** The land line still doesn’t work, though, so RCN is getting a call about that after Thanksgiving.