Phuket Live Wire: Why True and CAT go out to lunch every three hours

PHUKET: This week I’m going back to answering questions. This first one surprised me, but I’ve had confirmation now from all over Thailand. It goes like this:

“Woody, I have a new TrueMove-H “3G” account. The wireless service is directly connected into my PC, with a USB stick. I watch financial markets, so I’m online for extended periods of time. I don’t send much data up or down, so I never go over the 3GB monthly allowance. In spite of the small amount of data, I really need a reliable connection: no telling how much I could lose if my internet goes down, just for a minute.

I have no idea why, but my TrueMove-H connection is now dropping every 2 hours and 59 minutes. I have monitoring software on my PC, and it shows, repeatedly, day in and day out, that my connection dies after 2 hours and 59 minutes. It drops on my PC, and it drops on my Mac, using different software, different drivers, and different connection managers. The technicians think it’s my computer, but it isn’t. Why does TrueMove drop every 2 hours and 59 minutes?”

Another reader wrote saying:

“Woody, I live in Isaan, but I get down to Phuket from time to time. I have a CAT “My” 3G account. My problem is that the connection never works for more than three hours at a time. I can be talking over a Skype connection, or logged on to a banking site, and the connection always, always breaks after three hours.”

It ends up that you’re both seeing symptoms of the same problem.

First, a little history (thanks to lomatopo on the Thaivisa Phuket forum). TrueMove-H is a service offered by a True subsidiary that uses CAT’s hardware. Basically, this True subsidiary leases the 3G service from CAT, and sells the service to customers like you and me. Recently, CAT started selling the same service – same towers, same switches, same backhaul connections, same network management system – to retail customers, too. That’s the CAT “My” 3G service.

So while one of you is paying CAT and the other is paying TrueMove-H, in fact you’re both paying different companies for precisely the same service.

That explains why both of you are having the same problem. (It also explains why the download speeds we see at from CAT and TrueMove H are almost identical.)

The three hour disconnect is a throwback to older times, when it made sense for a phone company to disconnect a line that’s been idle, or nearly idle, for an extended period of time.

If you use your TrueMove-H or CAT service for voice calls or SMSs, it rarely makes a difference if you’re disconnected every three hours. But if you’re using your 3G line as a replacement for an internet land line, it makes all sorts of sense to stay connected. Your IP address doesn’t change. You don’t have to log back on to sites that you’re visiting. Even if there’s only a trickle of data coming down the line, getting cut off after three hours makes no sense at all.

And it looks like CAT (which is ultimately responsible for the network admin, I believe) has made a very unfortunate mistake and decided to cut connections every three hours. I have no idea why.

The chances are good that somebody, somewhere, read about the setting in a book and decided it would be good to make the CAT network cut off customers every three hours. The chances are also good that nobody has ever reviewed that decision. The net result is that, once again, TrueMove-H and CAT simply aren’t offering a service that’s as good as AIS’s 3G.

Can you get CAT to change? I wouldn’t count on it, but word on the forum is that True sometimes responds to items posted on its Facebook page:

The next question is another one I hear a lot:

“I know you are busy writing your new book. But when you finish and find time on your hands, how about writing an article about the phenomena of having your email account hacked and scams sent to all your contacts? It has happened to me personally a couple of times already and I get messages from contacts that I know are bogus. It doesn’t seem to be a virus, but rather just taking over one’s address book to send phony messages to your contacts. How do they do it; why; and what one can do to prevent it?”

As a matter of fact, I’ll be writing about this in my new book. It’s unfortunately very common to have your Hotmail or Gmail or Yahoo Mail account hacked: someone gets your ID and password somehow – there are a hundred different ways – and all of a sudden bogus messages go out to everyone in your Contacts list.

There isn’t a whole lot you can do about it. If the person hacking your account has an IQ above water level, they’ve already taken a copy of all of your Contacts names and email addresses. The horse is out of the barn.

If you think your email account has been hacked, here’s what you should do – in order:

1. If you used your email password anywhere else on the web, go to each place where you used the password and change it. A lot of people re-use passwords. If you have an email account and, say, a PayPal account with the same password, you’re in deep trouble. Get to all of the possibly affected sites immediately, check your bank and other balances, and change your password.

2. Log on to your email account and change its password. No sense letting the bad guys get back in. If you can’t log on to your email account – the bad guys have changed your password for you – you’re in for some interesting times. If you’ve already set up password reset information, recovery is usually just an SMS away. But if you haven’t set it up, you’ll have to go through the mail company’s password recovery routine.

For details, Google “compromised account” and either Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo Mail.

3. Make sure you have decent anti-virus software running. Many email passwords get sucked up by virus keyloggers (see my February 21 article which steps you through setting up Microsoft Security Essentials, the free program I recommend for antivirus).

And, for heaven’s sake, if you ever get an email saying Hotmail’s going to cancel your account unless you log on immediately (using the link provided in the email), don’t do it! You should never, ever provide a user name or password to log on to a site using a link that you received in an email message. I’ve received dozens of fake PayPal messages in the past couple of months demanding I do exactly that.

With Woody hunkered down writing a book, the weekly Computer Clinics are taking a new turn. Until Woody emerges with an 860-page copy of “Windows 8 All-In-One For Dummies” under his arm, around May or June, Seth Bareiss will hold computer sessions every-other Wednesday afternoon, from 1 to 3pm. If you have a Windows problem that needs to be solved, drop by one of Seth’s free afternoon sessions at the Sandwich Shoppes. Details in the Phuket Gazette Events Calendar.

The sessions are sponsored by the Phuket Gazette and Khun Woody’s Sandwich Shoppes.

Live Wire is Woody Leonhard’s weekly snapshot of all things internet in Phuket.

Follow him on Twitter: @PhuketLiveWire; “like” pages at; and — Woody Leonhard

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