Customer service made simple

The one thing I really like about the Pixel 8 Pro is a feature called Direct My Call. Its ability to handle pesky operator menus (well, some of them – it depends on third-party data submissions – so it won’t work with everything). I got to use it today when I had to call EE to return the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 – all because Samsung has locked mobile data to Samsung phones.

The Hold for Me function is also extremely useful in that the phone will monitor what’s going on (on hold music for example) and will immediately alert you when the call is connected to somebody human. This means that you can put the phone down and leave it rather than listen to the same bloody music track over and over again.

All in all, the phone experience of the Pixel 8 Pro has been substantially better. And if isn’t my ears that are deceiving me – the call quality is substantially better than the iPhone 15 Pro Max too.

Forget the iPhone, the Google Fun Fone (Pixel 8 Pro) is where it’s at

OR: Tired of Scams: Why I Switched from iPhone 15 Pro Max to Pixel 8 Pro

The onslaught of phishing and scam calls and texts lately has been overwhelming. While the iPhone 15 Pro Max excels in many areas – display, photography, audio, gaming – it simply falls short as a reliable phone.

In search of better call management, I decided to change both my phone number and my phone (again!). I loved my Pixel 7 Pro, but concerns about cracked camera glass and limited UK-based call screening features (due to local laws) ultimately pushed me away. Apple’s on-device processing is great, but it offers no real spam call solutions, and third-party apps are costly and ineffective.

However, the Pixel 8 Pro is a game-changer. I’ve opted for EE’s full insurance to protect against any physical issues and ensure the option to replace or swap models if needed. Even better, the Pixel 8 Pro’s enhanced on-device AI processing for call screening is a major win. I tested it by calling my own number, and the phone flawlessly processed the call and transcribed everything, saving the data locally.

Another reason for the switch? While Apple’s Face ID is convenient, authenticating with low-placed NFC/Bluetooth readers while they’re active is cumbersome. Having a fingerprint scanner is now a necessity for me. The Pixel 8 Pro offers both AI-based facial recognition (which works surprisingly well for 2D) and a fingerprint scanner for those challenging scenarios.

The Pixel’s customization features are incredible! AI-generated wallpapers are way more fun than I anticipated, and Android’s flexibility for app icon arrangement makes it easier to group apps based on my preferences. Plus, I can fit more apps per screen compared to the iPhone.

Data transfer from iPhone 15 Pro Max to Pixel 8 Pro was surprisingly simple – just connect a USB-C cable, unlock the iPhone, and let the Pixel handle the rest. The most time-consuming part is re-authenticating all the banking and financial apps.

So far, my experience with the 256GB Pixel 8 Pro (sadly, no 512GB model in sight except directly from Google) has been fantastic. I’m excited to put it to the test this week. Google’s commitment to seven years of updates signals a serious investment – and while I wouldn’t call them a traditional consumer company, they’re are seemingly taking the right steps. The integration with Google One, now that I’m off Google Workspace, provides genuine value. I hope Google maintains this positive trajectory in the consumer space.


This weekend’s tech project: Moving to Microsoft 365 Business Premium from Google Workspace

I’ve been using Google Workspace from 2006 onwards when it was first called Google Apps For Your Domain. It’s been rebranded a few times along the way, but essentially I’ve been a paying customer of Google Workspace since it was possible to do so. I’ve used almost all levels of the service – from Business Starter through to Enterprise Plus – and it’s been interesting playing with all the features it has to offer.

But for the past 6 years, I’ve been using Microsoft 365 at work. We migrated away from Google Workspace at KPS to Microsoft 365 as part of the company standardising on one platform. I didn’t handle the migration – that was something our German partners were responsible for. Thank goodness they did the heavy lifting because I’m personally moving to Microsoft 365 (Business Premium) and found migrating is a massive pain in the arse and I have only ONE account to migrate. I’m doing this because if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Also: I’m doing a lot of work supporting Microsoft 365 right now and it’d be good to get properly under the hood without affecting production. I take enough backups of my own stuff that it doesn’t really matter if I muck things up with my own set-up. This will be the first time I’ve really used Exchange Online in anger.

I thought migrating might be easy – and with the Microsoft 365 console, it appears to be – though a lot of fuss has to be made over subdomains. Even using the automatic settings of Google Workspace within the Microsoft 365 Exchange admin console results in abject failure. I even tried BitTitan, but that just sat there and shat itself after taking a age to do anything and with little to no on-screen feedback (and this is why I often hate the cloud).

So, I’ve reverted to do a straight forward IMAP migration, but even that had issues. I initially tried an app password after enabling IMAP for the Google Workspace domain – but that didn’t seem to work until I realised that you had to leave in the spaces that Google gives you for the app password.

When testing IMAP, I downloaded Thunderbird and tested the login credentials that way. Google’s security is good – it wouldn’t let me log in if I disabled 2FA. But re-enabling 2FA and setting up a password (and making note to leave in the spaces) got me started. I updated the user CSV file that you need to upload to Microsoft, and the process started successfully.

I wanted to die many time when the API process failed. Thankfully IMAP migration seems to work.

I had to consult with Google Workspace support in getting IMAP to work, and as you can see from this conversation with the support agent, I get praise for being “the most patient and polite person he’s ever worked with”. He wouldn’t have said if he had discovered that I had destroyed two decent keyboards over the course of the years – out of a fit of absolute rage. I don’t get angry often, but if I’m provoked enough, keys will fly..

You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry… but thankfully I tend to remain calm, patient and polite 99.999% of the time

Anyway, things are now up and running on Microsoft 365 and I’m happy. Well, mostly happy. I’ve signed up for backup (which I’ve been using with Google Workspace) for backups and Microsoft’s APIs keep seem to be throttling the backups. It may be due to the IMAP migration going on in the background. I don’t know. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next week or so.

What amused me was issuing PowerShell commands from a Mac terminal. There are a few things that are quicker or can only be performed using PowerShell for Exchange services, so I downloaded and installed PowerShell for Mac ARM64. It’s all rather bizarre.

PowerShell.. for MacOS ARM64!

The whole set-up will cost me around £25/month for the one user license after the month’s free trial. But this cost is similar to that of the Google Enterprise Plus subscription. I’ll continue to buy the personal 5-user edition of Microsoft 365 as my family makes use of it – £65/year is a bargain and I’ll be using the 1Tb storage as additional backup space.

And what of Google Workspace and my Google account? Well, if it all works out, I’ll be deleting Google Workspace which will also probably mean me losing my YouTube channel and videos (which are already backed up). This is my major gripe with modern identity management – having a single identity to cover so many different services poses a risk if the account were to ever be locked or closed. Trying to get a consumer Google account will be.. interesting.

Another IT fail..

This made me chuckle

If there is one thing that really gets on my nerves is that every localised search engine used in web applications or mobile apps are usually absolutely rubbish. Even YouTube has problems – I usually find what I want by using Microsoft’s Bing, strangely enough, as that does a better job searching for specific YouTube videos than YouTube’s own search engine. Bing can find stuff within YouTube descriptions when YouTube’s own search engine seemingly cannot (although it is meant to).

This is another thing that leaves me bitterly disappointed in modern information technology.

No adverts in Google Workspace? Think again.

I am so incredibly angry with Google (but similarly with Microsoft and Apple who also pull this kind of shit). I pay Google for business-grade email that’s supposed to have no adverts. But this morning I discover this when logging into Gmail:

It’s an advert informing me that if I upgrade my edition of Google Workspace, I can protect my data with Google Vault. Firstly, this isn’t entirely true – Google Vault isn’t what you think it is. Secondly, why the bloody hell am I seeing this in my Gmail account? Do other administrators see it? Why did Google think it was such a good idea to put it in Gmail and not the administrative interface where it may have been better received?

In any event, promoting your own products this way is an utterly shitty way to go about things and it isn’t just Google that does this. Microsoft does it with Windows 11 and Apple does it with just about every device they sell. It’s intrusive, self-servicing, and potentially anti-competitive. And most of the time I’m already aware of what they offer, how much it costs, and what it does. Or I already have it. Pointless and <CENSORED> annoying.

I really hope that the EU commission and UK CMA investigate US Big Tech’s use of this kind of advertising and slap them with substantial fines, or – better still – threaten to break them up or kick them out.