Google sync services were blocked in Sudan a couple of weeks ago! [read some discussion]
At the same timing, my Android phone had a system update, to Android 4.4.4 (that’s why I went with the Nexus!). After the update I had some problems regarding contacts sync: I couldn’t add new contacts! I mean, I could but after a minute or some, I lose that contact! I’ve found a couple of articles about intermittent problems alike and really didn’t bother myself much. I don’t get new contacts often and since the problem I only had to add two, and they were not important (sorry :\).
Yesterday I came across some tweet accidentally (so accidentally that I cannot find anymore!). It was someone asking whether there was a new sanction on Google sync services in Sudan. We’re already under sanction in various other services, and overcoming the sanctions has many ways: some use different Android Market, some use various VPN or anonimity network configurations, and some just transfer apk files and don’t use it anyway.. I used to use all those before, and quite familiar with many other censorship circumvention methods (hell, I’m kinda expert!). But this now is a game changer!
Back in the old days, the problem was how to reach some service that you need right now, you need to access some service (Google Play Apps, to download an app for example), you hop in to your favorite censorship circumvention tool, download the app, et voila!, you’ve got what you wanted. You want to update? same process. You want to access Google Code? Apple’s App Store? Oracle? same same. You see why now the game changed? No? Then bare with me..
Now imagine the following scenario with me: you are on the go, walking in the streets with mind full of joy and heart full of happiness. You meet an old old friend, that whom you haven’t met in ages. You start picking up from where you left many years ago, ask him about his school sweetheart. Oh you broke up? I’m so sorry. He asks you about your long time friend that he thinks you [still baring with me? LOL] are still in touch with him. You are not? Oh! And the shamarat are unlimited, but unfortunately time is. So you split up, promising to meet again very soon, and exchange your [new, current] phone numbers. So here comes the catch: you save the contact as you’ve always do: John Doe, 09xxxxxxxx, and you smile and shake hands and move away. You are a smart guy, and you do appreciate the use of the cloud, and you sync your contacts with your Google account (logical cloud choice: you’re in AndroidLand). The phone after some time (less than a minute usually) starts to sync your contacts (a modification? let’s sync that up) and if you’re [still] baring with me, here comes the catch: the expected behavior was to add the new number to the list, but what actually happens is that your phone tries to sync, fails (because you’re Sudanese thus you’re a terrorist), and then reverts back and DELETES THE NEW CONTACT! I have no idea (of course) who signed off this deletion step but hey, screw you. I hope your wife finds out you’re cheating on her, your parents tell you that you were adopted, and your children tell you they never really loved you. Why on earth you chose to delete it?!
So, in this catch resides the new game changer: the timing. Before we chose the timing, we hopped in to our special arrangements when we wanted to look like we’re outside of Sudan, and then we continued our lives smoothly. Now the other process, the sync process, happens in the background. We do not control (mostly) when it happens, and Android developers seem to be trying to give most of the control to the app developers and less control to the end users. Now unless you’re 24/7 on some anonymity/VPN configuration, this is not working anymore…
Couple of solutions I’m considering regarding this situation:
- Stopping contact sync altogether (and any other sync that causes problems).
pros: no sync errors if you’re not in sync! cons: must.do.backups! Changing phones will be a pain..
- Sync to another vendor.
pros: staying in sync, always backed up. cons: they may be next in the list of vendors doing the sanctions.
- Sync to a local account (e.g. Outlook sync)
pros: staying in sync, never worry about vendors going crazy. cons: not a real sync, plus your laptop becomes very critical.
- Leaving AndroidLand altogether, and snapping back to iOSVille.
pros: staying in sync, more lovely platform. cons: the same as #2. plus why I switched platform at the first place?!
- Staying in the VPN configuration 24/7.
pros: G sync will be as normal. cons: our internet is already crappy, and Google doesn’t like Tor users more than Sudanese people!
- Suing Google, American Foreign Affairs Secretary, Sudanese government, and all affiliated in that matter. [a little too much]
pros: you may change the world.
cons: you’ll lose money, effort, get treated as crazy, and NISS will take care of you in a not-very-cool way.
Maybe snapping back to the old school of papers and pens will do. I don’t do phone calls very well already, why can’t I communicate using only emails?!