Want an Alarm System? No Phone Line? No Problem.

Wireless Alarm Systems Don’t Always Require Phone Lines

Fortress Alarm System

Image taken from Fortress’ website

As part of cutting cords I chose to get rid of my traditional phone service. I used to have VOIP through Verizon, but I got rid of that in favor of Ooma. The problem with Ooma is that I cannot hook it up to an alarm system. Oh, I suppose I could do some fancy footwork and figure it out, but I am not inclined to do so right now. As a result, my old alarm system could no longer call me if it was triggered. Obviously this substantially weakened the security in my home.

The Solution – GSM & Wireless

In the four years since I purchased my original system, wireless alarm systems have only gotten better. Now, you can buy an alarm system that works with a land line, GSM cellular or both. I spent some time doing research and picked a system called Fortress. Fortress has several models. The one I purchased allows me to use a GSM sim card and/or a land line. This means when I do connect Ooma to my house’s phone jacks, I should be able to use it with my alarm system. No guarantees though, since Ooma states that it doesn’t work with security systems. (I imagine I will be able to get it to work and I like having a dual system, so I’ll try it.)

As before, I won’t give you all of the details of my alarm set up. Suffice it to say, my dogs aren’t the only things protecting my house. The Fortress has numerous options, including door/window sensors, strobe warning lights, movement sensors, sirens, smoke detectors and so on. And, of course, I have the system set up to call not only me, but others if the alarm should go off. I.e. don’t try to break into my house. It will be very noisy, not even counting Millie and Curtis. Also, police will come. Oh, and I will put video of you on the web and mock you. (No doubt the worst part.)

The Choices

I explored several systems. My final choice came after reviewing the very helpful Amazon question and answer sections as well as the reviews on five or six different systems. Some of the systems I considered seemed to require you to add in monitoring to get full functionality. The monitoring was cheap, but not what I wanted. In the end, I went back and forth between Fortress and PiSector. I really could have gone with either one.

There are also more advanced systems that add in the ability to control various items in your home. I really wasn’t looking for that at this point, so I didn’t bother exploring those.

Set Up

The system was very easy to set up. I purchased my sim card the same time I bought the Fortress and  they both arrived on the same day. I opened up the box, briefly read the instructions, and got to it. I have more windows and doors in this house than in my last one, so the greatest amount of time involved putting up the sensors. But I actually found the Fortress easier to set up than my old system. Everything was already pre-configured and a few adjustments on the control panel had everything humming…or rather blaring (my poor dogs.) Setting up the sim card was simple too. I put it into the system, called the sim card company, paid $10 and there you go (or Bob’s your uncle, if you prefer.)

Where to Get the Sim Card?

There are many places you can get a GSM sim card. Either get a pay as you go option or see if you can add a cheap line to your current plan.  I got a sim card from a company called H2O. I think I might switch to a different company though, since I have to pay $10 a month to keep the minutes from expiring and I know there are cheaper options. I see TMobile has a very inexpensive plan right now (March, 2015) for $3 per month. Another option is a company called Ting, with a $6 per month minimum. Right now, TMobile looks like the best deal. I called Sprint, my own cell phone company, to ask if I could get a GSM card, but was told no, only CDMA. So simply adding another line is not an option for me.

Check the Size

You will want to find out what size sim card you need for your device and what size card the provider will send you. That way, if you end up with a card that is too small, you can be prepared with an adapter. Fortress requires a larger card. Not a big deal, just be aware. Many times, if you buy a sim card alone, it will come with an adapter.

Why not a Paid Monitoring System?

You might wonder why I don’t go with a professional alarm company with monitoring. Some of these systems have options without phone lines. I considered it. I did some research. I dismissed this option.

My main concern with these sorts of companies is not the cost, though it can be high, but the employees of the companies, especially the independent companies/contractors. Did you know that the BTK killer worked for ADT at one point? Of course, he wouldn’t have set off any signals from a background check, so we cannot blame ADT too much for that one. On the other hand, the background checking done on employees and freelancers is, in my opinion, questionable. As a result, the idea of having any of these companies (not just ADT) involved in my security, makes me very uncomfortable. What is the point of using a security company that, by its very nature, makes me uncomfortable?

Bad Experience with Security Company Reinforces my View

ADT Safe Haven Flyer

Flyer left on my door (cell phone number removed)

As it happens, I just had a negative experience with an ADT authorized reseller a couple of days ago.  He showed up (uninvited) during the day while I was at work and left a flyer. Then he showed up at my house again (uninvited) around 7 pm. I didn’t let him in, of course, but I spoke to him. It was hard to understand him, because my dogs were going nuts. He didn’t care much.

When I told security sales guy (his name is Al) that I wasn’t interested. He kept talking. He lied and said my Realtor had put me on a list. (I knew he was lying, but I checked with my Realtor later. She confirmed it was a lie.) I told him no again, he kept talking. I told him it was time for him to leave. He didn’t leave. Actually he tried to question me about my security. I finally shut the door in his face.

My next step would have been to call the cops.  A security person who won’t leave when I tell him no just makes me feel insecure. Al simply reinforced my view that I have a reason to be concerned about the employees of security companies. Good job Al.

I complained to ADT on Twitter. ADT apologized profusely and said it would put me on a no contact list. I told ADT it had best, otherwise if an ADT person (of any kind) showed up at my house, I would call the police immediately.

After I sent the flyer that Al left on my door, ADT told me that the he was an employee of an authorized reseller from a company called Safe Haven, not an employee of ADT. When I pointed out that Al was dressed as an ADT employee, well, there was no response to that one. All this tells me is that ADT does not seem to take responsibility for those it allows to sell and install its products. At least not in my opinion.

Nope, no security guys for these companies will be allowed in my home. I’ll stick with do it yourself options that actually make me feel safe.

Facebook Clarifies Its Rules – Nudity, Bullying, Revenge Porn, Hate Speech & More

Facebook Updates its Community Standards

facebook community standards

Are the days of revenge porn on Facebook over?

An area of substantial confusion on Facebook involves what is and what is not allowed in terms of nudity, hate speech, stalking and other content. For example, many women complained that pictures of beheading were allowed, while pictures of breastfeeding were not. In addition, many victims of stalking would complain that nothing was done to protect them. In an effort to resolve these issues, Facebook released new community standards to clarify its position and set out new rules.

Nudity Not Allowed

Nudity is not allowed. This includes images of women’s breasts which include nipples, unless they show breastfeeding or post-mastectomy scars. I am very pleased to see that Facebook has outlawed revenge porn. This is when people post naked images of others for the purpose of hurting them. This sort of thing commonly happens after breakup when in happier times couples took explicit photos or videos together (or separately.) Art work is allowed, though, no doubt, Facebook will have the common problem of determining exactly what art is. I wish it luck in doing so. Satire is allowed as is educational material. Posts that (in words) provide vivid descriptions of sexual acts may be removed as well.

Hate Speech

Facebook also decided to get specific about hate speech. No longer will attacks on “race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender and ‘serious’ disabilities” be allowed. I am interested to see how this one will be enforced. I personally reported (as did many of my friends) a Facebook page dealing with “blood libel” and we all received the response that the page did not violate community standards. Given blood libel is based on lies about the Jewish people related to accusations that we killed and sacrificed children, it was clear that such pages violated Facebook’s old terms of service. We will have to see if this very clear violation will be dealt with under these new standards.

Bullying

Bullying and harassment are serious problems on Facebook. Frequently people will complain about others attacking them, sharing their private information and sharing photos (not necessarily nude) without consent in an effort to cause embarrassment. These things are now not allowed when it comes to private individuals. Public individuals, however, still have to suffer in silence. This is not a surprising distinction, since the law already draws a major distinction between public and private people.  Facebook specifically states, “We allow you to speak freely on matters and people of public interest, but remove content that appears to purposefully target private individuals with the intention of degrading or shaming them.” Repeatedly sending unwanted messages or friend requests also violate community standards.

Sexual Violence & Exploitation

Facebook is now defining what it means by sexual violence and exploitation. Exploitation includes use of revenge porn, which I already mentioned under nudity. There is a large focus on protecting children and victims of crimes. Efforts to sell sexual services are also banned. In addition, Facebook notes it will report any of these items to proper authorities when it believes it is appropriate to do so.

Illegal Conduct & Content

Any posts or pages encouraging illegal conduct are verboten. As are efforts to sell illegal products or products that are regulated in such a way that selling them through Facebook would be prohibited. Any products that can legally be sold but are strictly regulated (such as guns) must follow those regulations. Facebook payment tools may not be used to handle the financial transactions of such goods.

Identity, Fraud & Spam

You are required to use your authentic identity. This has always been the case. Users are not to contact people directly for commercial reasons without their permission. Use of spam is not allowed (nor has it ever been.) Fraud might be reported to legal authorities. Efforts to collect followers or shares through misleading information is not allowed.

Deceased People

Control over Facebook accounts of deceased people has long been an issue. This concern was actually addressed a while back, but it is addressed here as well. Once proof of death is received by Facebook it will create a memorial account. In addition, immediate family members may have the account deleted.

Intellectual Property

Facebook has always been pretty fierce about dealing with violations of Intellectual Property. This is because failure to act could give rise to liability. The new community standards simply make clear that Facebook continues to be concerned about IP and to review the Intellectual Property page.

Conclusion

I am pleased to see many of these changes, but the proof will be in the action. Many of the things Facebook is spelling out now have been impermissible all along, but Facebook has failed to take action when brought problems were brought to its attention. Some of these changes will be difficult to enforce and clearly will require a lot of discretion. The dispassionate and neutral enforcement of these rules will be both important and challenging.

What do you think? Good changes? Bad changes? Useful or useless?

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