Keeping your iPhone alive in France — Part III

I’m back in France, this time for a leisure trip (my first real vacation in Europe since I graduated here as a Ph.D.) Yes, it’s Winter, but promenading through the streets of Paris without having to worry about the next meeting / deadline / academic obligation is a nice change of pace, cold and rain notwithstanding.

I’m skeptical about the concept of unconnected vacations — in my leisure time I still want to have access to the hive mind, lest my IQ drop a full 30 points. But having a decent data plan in France without breaking the bank is not necessarily obvious, as I’ve been exploring for some time.

mobicarte-holidayOrange Telecom, the main cell-phone company of France, has finally waken-up to the reality that 80M tourists come to France every year — 20% more people than the country own population of 66M. They now propose the Mobicarte Holiday, a pre-paid SIM card loaded with 2h of calls, 1000 SMS, and 1GB of cell data, and unlimited access to Orange Wifi Hotspots — at a price of 40€. If you already have a working Mobicarte you can buy a “Holiday recharge” for 30€. After you use all your credit (or after your credit expires) you can reload the Mobicarte with either the “Holiday” or a normal recharge.

That package is not exactly the cheapest, but it is the most convenient I’ve experienced so far : an offer completely adapted to the needs of the traveller.

Well, almost…

The first limitation is that you’ll probably won’t be able to buy the Mobicarte Holiday from Orange Online store — unless you have a French credit card. This prevents having it delivered directly to your hotel. To compensate that inconvenience, several Orange physical stores are open from Monday to Saturday, until 19h30. I had no difficulty in buying it at the physical store at boulevard Haussmann on a Saturday afternoon.

The second limitation is much more irritating : you won’t be able to connect to the Orange Wifi Hotspots — unless you have a French credit card ! In order to get access to the Wifi hotspots, Orange forces you to install an iOS app — “Mon Réseau” (My Network) — but that app is only available at the French App Store ! Here the synergy of Orange’s nearsightedness and Apple’s greediness creates the perfect storm, as you won’t be able to create an Apple ID for the French Apple store unless you enter a credit card valid in France. (My love–hate relationship with Apple has such a healthy dose of hate because of those things.)

Finally, the kick on the shins : the Holiday credit is valid for meager 14 days, so for longer trips you’ll have to keep buying recharges.

Is there any silver linings ? Well, the SIM card itself will remain valid for 6 months after the last recharge. The price of 20€ a week is still 3 times cheaper than the data roaming offer of my Brazilian operator (Vivo Telecom). You can get a Mobicarte in any one of the mini-, micro-, and nano-SIM formats : you won’t have to deal with SIM clippers (or worse : a sharp kitchen knife and a steady hand). In addition, the 3G Internet offer takes effect immediately (some previous Internet options of Orange took up to 3 days to kick in.)

The Mobicart Holiday is far from perfect, but it’s still the most traveller-friendly offer by Orange France I’ve experienced so far.

Upgrade cascade : iPhone, Yosemite, iPhoto, iMovie

I’ve noticed a consistent trend of my colleagues and I, Computer Sciences / Engineering faculty, being way less eager than the general public in updating to the latest hardware or software. There is, maybe, a component of the shoemaker’s son going barefoot, but most importantly — I suspect — it’s the knowledge on sausage-making impairing our appetites. When you know the reality of system design intimately, you become very reluctant in disturbing whatever metastability you might have reached.

But all systems have a service life, and eventually even the most reluctant user will be forced to upgrade. After skipping 2 generations, I thought it was time to abandon my iPhone 4S for a new iPhone 6.

(Which was an adventure in itself : amazingly, after almost 2 months, there are still queues for buying an iPhone on the States. So far, ok — supply and demand, etc. — but for some unfathomable reason, Apple has instructed their clerks to outright lie about the non-contract T-Mobile iPhone, in saying that it is not unlocked.  After some googling and whatsapping with friends, the truth emerged : it is unlocked. Still, at the first Apple Store I tried, the clerks where very non-cooperative, and one of them positively adversarial, like he’d rather not sell anything to me. I am really not the type of person to buy into this “privilege to be a customer” attitude, so I just went to another store. Long story short : two days and 830 bucks later, I had an iPhone 6 in my pocket. It is indeed unlocked, I had it working with my Vivo telecom nano-SIM immediately, still inside the store.)

But as often it happens, one upgrade leads to another in cascade effect : the iPhone rejected my old iTunes, forcing me to upgrade old faithful Mountain Lion to Yosemite.

Update Unavailable with This Apple IDAs if to confirm that upgrading is a messy business, Yosemite got me a great welcoming surprise : it disabled my old iPhoto (“incompatible with new OS version, must be updated”), and made it impossible for me to update it (“Update Unavailable with This Apple ID”). For some strange reason, the App Store utility insisted on that message, no matter which Apple ID I used (I only have two).

Apparently this is not a rare situation, and the causes and solutions are exasperatingly diverse. What solved the problem in my case, was closing the App Store, deleting iPhoto altogether (dragging the disabled application to the trash), opening the App Store again, and doing a fresh install. The procedure itself is not very painful, I concede : the annoyance is having to find out what exactly to do.

For upgrading iMovie, the solution was not so simple. It is not a mandatory upgrade (the Mountain Lion version still works with Yosemite), but since I had gone so far, I now wanted to go all the way. Deleting iMovie made available a fresh install on App Store… for 15 bucks. No good. I’ve tried, as some suggested by some users, reinstalling the original (from the Snow Leopard CDs in my case), but to no avail. In the end, I just moved the old Mountain Lion iMovie from the trash back to the Applications folder.

Curiously, XCode, which is normally a trouble-maker, updated without further ado.

Edit 19/11 : upgrading to Yosemite 10.10.1 solved the iMovie Apple ID issue. I’m guessing it would have solved the iPhoto issue as well. This is another golden rule of upgrading — never move to the version with a round number, always wait for the next minor patch.