back to article Google advises Android users to be careful of Microsoft Teams if they want to call 911

A bizarre bug prevented a woman from calling 911 on her Pixel smartphone when she thought her grandma was having a stroke. She told El Reg that on 26th November, after she dialed the number using her phone, she waited five minutes only to realize her call wasn’t going through. Luckily, there was a landline telephone at hand, …

  1. Trainee grumpy old ****
    WTF?

    Does this issue impact all emergency phone numbers?

    Is it only calls to 911 or are calls to other emergency numbers like 999 or 112 similarly impacted?

    1. Potemkine! Silver badge

      Re: Does this issue impact all emergency phone numbers?

      What about 0118 999 881 99 9119 7253? It's the one I use!

    2. matt38

      Re: Does this issue impact all emergency phone numbers?

      I can never remember the UK non-emergency emergency number, probably because if I'd designed the system, it'd have been 998

      1. tip pc Silver badge

        Re: Does this issue impact all emergency phone numbers?

        999 was used because it ensured the mechanical systems used at the time would not jam, other wise they'd have used 111 as it would be faster.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Does this issue impact all emergency phone numbers?

          "Cortana, I need the police!"

          ...

          "Roxanne!"

        2. MrReynolds2U

          Re: Does this issue impact all emergency phone numbers?

          My mother still has a phone with a dial on it (which I presume is where the term dialling came from).

          IIRC, 999 was chosen as you could turn the dial to the end (9) without needing to see what you were doing. It's an example of a simple but effective solution from a time when people thought about how users of a system might be impacted.

          1. dajames

            Re: Does this issue impact all emergency phone numbers?

            IIRC, 999 was chosen as you could turn the dial to the end (9) without needing to see what you were doing.

            Nearly right! If you did that you'd dial 000 ... but 999 was chosen because the 9 hole in the dial was easy to find in the dark/smoke in an emergency; not as easy as the 0 hole, maybe, but easy enough.

            Dialling even a single 0 would have got though to the operator (eventually) in those days.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: Does this issue impact all emergency phone numbers?

              And because 1 1 1 could be triggered by line noise more easily

              1. kiwimuso
                Happy

                Re: Does this issue impact all emergency phone numbers?

                111 fun fact.

                Now here's a thing. In New Zealand the emergency number is, in fact, 111.

                I was told that this came about because when NZ went to switch to "dial" phones as opposed to operator gets your number, they decided that as it was a big investment, they would follow the international standard, hence all the dial phones were reversed with 0 being the first position, as normal but then going 1-9 around the dial.

                So I was informed, all the other countries decided to ignore the supposed "international" standard and thus you guys are wrong. LOL.

                This of course, meant that when tapping out the number to avoid payment in a phone box, one had to tap out the number subtracted from 10, so for, say, 483, you would tap 6, 2, and 7 times to get the correct number of pulses. Worked wonders for your arithmetic skills.

                When 111 was brought in here, people, having watched British TV programs where 999 was used as an emergency number, they asked of NZ Post Office which ran the telephone system at the time, why 111, as 999 was obviously easier.

                Refer above to the explanation why 999 was chosen as opposed to 000 or 111. Also not helped by the fact that in their wisdom, NZ Post decided that area codes would only be a single digit, and chose 9 as the access to the Auckland region numbers. A preceding 0 was used to access "long distance" numbers of other areas. e.g. 07, 04 etc.

                I haven't tried it, but I believe that to cater for tourists panicking in an emergency and automatically "dialling" their own country's number, our the system will now also recognise 999, 911 and presumably any other emergency number used around the world.

                If anyone thinks they know differently, please comment (politely) as I was told this by someone working in the communications area of a large NZ company in the 1970s.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Does this issue impact all emergency phone numbers?

            No, zero is the last hole on the dial (=10 pulses), so you have to use 2 fingers to locate the nine in the dark, but you can obviously do that repeatedly fairly easily

            111 was obvious but ruled out because in the days of bare overhead wires they could touch or earth and generate false alarms if they touched 3 times within the right timeframe.

            999 was picked in the UK because it was relatively unallocated, so fairly easy to free up. 911 in the US would probably be because x11 numbers were 'services'

            1. matt38

              Re: Does this issue impact all emergency phone numbers?

              Some of the satellite telephone exchanges in the UK used "9" as a local code prefix to route calls to the main exchange, so an upshot of this was that you only needed to dial "99" from the main exchange.

              Which was worth knowing if you were pranking your friends by pretending to dial 999 and assumed the call wouldn't go through until you dialled the last 9 :-)

              Savvy users realised you could often dial long-distance calls at local rates by using a string of local prefixes to hop around adjacent exchanges. IIRC BT fixed this by printing something like "only codes published in this book may be used" in the local dialling codes directory, and was eventually swept away by insisting on using the full STD code rather than the short local codes.

              (No, not that sort of STD. As someone else said, you can't catch an STD from a telephone, but you could from a telephonist :-)

          3. Martin
            Happy

            Re: Does this issue impact all emergency phone numbers?

            ...which I presume is where the term dialling came from...

            Boy, does that make me feel old. When I first became aware of phones, they ALL had dials - and so, of course, you dialled a number. In those days, of course, that was the modern way of doing things. Previous to that, you picked up the phone and asked the operator to be put through to the person to whom you wanted to speak.

            Push button phones were in the future (first ones were late sixties, I think), and seemed very futuristic. In the early eighties, when I had a push-button trimfone I felt very cool and trendy :)

            1. David Nash

              Re: Does this issue impact all emergency phone numbers?

              yeah....I was thinking "of course that's where the term came from, where else?"

              Does that make me mean?

            2. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Does this issue impact all emergency phone numbers?

              "Previous to that, you picked up the phone, cranked a handle and asked the operator to be put through"

              There, fixed it for you

              Yes. I used those kinds of phones (and a few years later assisted in replacing those ~80 year old party lines hosting up to 15 subscribers/circuit with TDMA radio linked circuits back to NEAX61M switches)

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Does this issue impact all emergency phone numbers?

                " ~80 year old party lines hosting up to 15 subscribers/circuit"

                Craven, stuck in Northmoor and getting increasingly desperate, with an *almost* 80 year old phone at the other end of the line. The duty officer, not expecting th atphone to ring, eventually picks it up and hears Craven scream: "GET ME PENDLETON!"

                (surely that must be on the Interweb somewhere, but I'm damned if I can find it)

                Now try doing that kind of the thing on your Nokia 6150. Okay there'd probably still be life in the battery after 20-40 years, but one or two other things might have been improved in an incompatible way, perhaps including GSM-style SIM-free calling to emergency numbers.

                IT connection: magically teleporting from the Barbican to the ex-Systime offices in Leeds?

                https://discussion.theguardian.com/comment-permalink/37592479

                https://discussion.theguardian.com/comment-permalink/37596015

                1. Slavth

                  Re: Does this issue impact all emergency phone numbers?

                  Registered just to up-vote the reference...

                  Now I'm gonna have to find my copy of the DVD and binge watch it again. (For the avoidance of doubt... The British version obviously)

                2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                  Re: Does this issue impact all emergency phone numbers?

                  It's a long time since I heard the Arlington described as ex-Systime.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Does this issue impact all emergency phone numbers?

                    "It's a long time since I heard the Arlington described as ex-Systime."

                    I was never directly involved with Systime but at some point did visit HQ (as a potential customer). So when I saw it on EoD it looked strangely familiar, and somehow it was duly identified as Systime HQ. And if I remember rightly for a while it was First Direct HQ? Lots of other occupants too, further reading at

                    https://www.whiteroseofficepark.co.uk/2018/01/15/30-years-white-rose-park-office-park/

                    I never knew it as Arlington anything, and even if I had, there were Arlingtons everywhere, whereas there was only one "famous" Systime building.

                    At least, that's the way I remember it now.

                    While I'm passing, hat tip too to Bird of Prey:

                    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird_of_Prey_(TV_serial)

                    https://www.markpack.org.uk/107183/bird-prey-computer-crime-drama-thats-still-great-fun-watch/

            3. Jilara

              Re: Does this issue impact all emergency phone numbers?

              You feel old? My first job when I was in college was running a PBX (private branch exchange, if anyone cares to know) for a hotel. Folks called and I, as operator, greeted them and literally connected the lines between the switchboard and the desired room.

          4. sreynolds

            Re: Does this issue impact all emergency phone numbers?

            Did you phone start at 1 or 0?

        3. ravenviz Silver badge

          Re: Does this issue impact emergency phone numbers?

          999 on a rotary dial was a very deliberate act, 111 could easily be dialled by an infant playing with the phone.

          1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

            Re: 111 could easily be dialled by an infant playing with the phone.

            Yes, but the fun of dialling lasts much longer when said infant dials 9.

  2. Alex Stuart

    Surprising bug

    One would have thought that the core 'phone' processes of Android (particularly on a Pixel, where Google has total control) would be completely locked down from other apps/processes to prevent, well, things like this happening. Would be interesting to read the details of the bug(s).

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: Surprising bug

      Well, given that the Teams app on my OpenSuse computer swaps the keyboard layout from UK to US (e.g. shift-2 is @, rather than "), a change which is system-wide (i.e. it doesn't just affect Teams) but doesn't show up in system settings (which still shows UK), and isn't reverted until I (having quit Teams) use the system settings to swap to another keyboard layout and then back to UK, quite frankly, nothing would surprise me.

      You might almost expect a computer OS to have such issues with something as trivial as keyboard layout but you are absolutely correct that making calls is something that should be sacrosanct on a phone. Wild speculation, but if Teams has "making and receiving calls" permission (I don't use Teams on Android - I've no idea if it needs this permission), perhaps it interposes itself in the call chain, even when not in-use? If so, it does rather beg the question, "why?"

      M.

      1. keith_w

        Re: Surprising bug

        she did note that she was able to reach her other contacts, and that it was ONLY the 911 number that she had the issue with. I wonder if she would have had issues with the other *11 numbers that in use in North America, and that the issue is the length of the number being only 3 digits, rather than the usual 7, 10 or 11.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Childcatcher

        Re: Surprising bug

        "Teams app on my OpenSuse computer swaps the keyboard layout from UK to US"

        Doesn't happen on my machine (Arch). I'm running this version: aur/teams-insiders 1.4.00.26453-1

        I've never seen the problem you have ever and I've been using this bloody thing for quite a while now (at least two years).

        I'd look elsewhere unless other OpenSuSE users are reporting the same snag in your forums.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: Surprising bug

          I'm fairly new to Teams, having only had it foisted on me ooh, let's think, about 18 months ago. I only fire it up on OpenSuse when I absolutely have to but I'm finding it a pain on Windows in the office too. Just this morning I was asked to reply to a discussion thread - one particular colleague prefers to use these - and duly read the thread, composed and posted a reply, only to find that as soon as I'd posted it four additional messages showed up, posted over the last two days, which would have been relevant to my reply.

          Later, making another reply, I scrolled up the list to check a fact, only to find my half-written reply had disappeared when I scrolled back down. So I started again, posted the reply, went to check something else, and when I came back my previous half-written reply presented itself in an edit box, ready for me to continue. I mean, why??????

          Oh, and that ignores the issues faced by my wife, who has to use Teams both for her job and for her professional body and finds that it saves an awful lot of grief if she uses separate devices for each.

          M.

          1. Crypto Monad Silver badge

            Re: Surprising bug

            I think that summarises as "software is crap", and I'd agree with that.

            There is a fascinating talk here which makes a compelling case that we are in the middle of a collapse of civilisation, caused by software becoming unmanageably complex, and our unquestioning acceptance of it being crap. Does it seem perfectly normal to you that things these days have to be regularly restarted to make them work? Should it?

            This is from the viewpoint of a games developer, so we're not exactly talking safety-critical systems here, but it's definitely worth a watch.

            1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

              Re: collapse of civilisation

              That talk should be compulsory viewing for everyone albeit many of the technical details will be lost on some.

      3. Wade Burchette

        Re: Surprising bug

        "the Teams app on my OpenSuse computer swaps the keyboard layout from UK to US"

        Sounds about right. At least here in the US, Windows 10 and 11 assumes that you live in the same timezone that Microsoft is in. Windows 7 would ask you what timezone you lived in. Now everyone lives in the Pacific timezone. Unless you buy a Dell computer, then everyone lives in the Central timezone.

        The point being is that it seems Microsoft assumes everyone is like them. The programmers live in Pacific time, so do you. The programmers use a US keyboard layout, so do you. The programmers like that abomination of a start menu, so do you. Do you see the point?

        1. My-Handle

          Re: Surprising bug

          Microsoft campus has multi-hundred Mbps internet speed, so do you...

          That one really grinds my gears. Nothing like a chunky windows (or, god forbid, Adobe) update to kill a 2Mbps rural Northern Ireland internet connection.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Surprising bug

          Doesn't sound right. The *International* Windows package has settings for region and language, down to the currency 'decimal point' separator.

          I can even add a language pack for 'Inuktitut (Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics)' and Uyghur

          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Re: Surprising bug

            Yeah, the settings are all there but they seem to revert at random times, though as I only use W10 at work I suppose it might be something IT have done rather than a problem with W10 itself. I have the keyboard set to "CY" (Cymraeg) at work because that (in theory) allows easier access to constructors for accented characters. It's stuck for several months now, but it used to swap back to "EN" at least a couple of times a month. Half the time it doesn't work as expected though, and it irks that when it does the key combinations aren't the same as I'm used to elsewhere - I've got quite used to typing altgr-5 for ½ at home, but I'm blowed if I can find an easy combination on W10; I end up typing alt-keypad-0-1-8-9.

            M.

      4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Surprising bug

        "swaps the keyboard layout from UK to US"

        Take a look at what ibus might be doing.

        Zoom does this, at least on Devuan & Debian. The actual culprit is ibus which gets installed because the Zoom deb lists it as a dependency. There's a workaround which involves unpacking the deb, editing out the dependency and repackaging. Whether that would work with a Teams install is a different matter.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: Surprising bug

          Interesting - I'll have to have a look. I've not had a similar problem with Zoom, which is also on that computer, but I think that as I installed Teams as a one-off package and the system isn't looking for updates (because the MS servers had broken keys and every hour when the system checked I'd get a pop up telling me that, so I stopped auto checking) I might get away with uninstalling iBus if it genuinely isn't required elsewhere.

          No, of course I haven't checked the forums :-) I use the Teams app so rarely on that machine that it's not worth wasting too much time on. I only have the app installed because I can't do Teams video calls in Firefox, though all the other functions work fine. On top of that, although Teams is supposedly the bees knees at work, probably half the video calls I get invited to are on Zoom anyway!

          M.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
            Unhappy

            Re: Surprising bug

            There may well be stuff on Zoom that needs it - perhaps if you want to present images or something - but SWMBO took part in weekly Zoom chatter meetings without it during lockdown. They might have to revert to that next year (icon).

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      If you want all that "configurability"

      and openness that Android proponents are always saying iPhone lacks, the ability to override the system default dialer goes along with it. Its just that there are consequences when the apps doing the overriding don't handle someone dialing '911' properly.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If you want all that "configurability"

        Bollocks. "Openness" and "configurability" implies nothing of the sort. It doesn't mean you have to weaken security and permissions.

        Or are you saying Linux is also inherently less secure than windows?

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: If you want all that "configurability"

          Part of the configurability touted for Android is replacing all its functionality, including the default texting app and the default calling app while it is not possible to change those on an iPhone.

          Sure, they could be smarter about what they allow to be replaced, but it turns out they weren't. The correct fix here isn't "Microsoft submits a patch" it is that AND "Google announces the next version of Android will not permit a third party app to replace the default dialer".

        2. katrinab Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: If you want all that "configurability"

          If you ran everything in Linux as root, then probably it would be less secure than running everything in Windows as Administrator. But you don't [hopefully] run everything in Linux as root.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Surprising bug

      "Android" and "completely locked down" in the same post without a negative between. That's a first there.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Surprising bug

        That's only a first to ignorant people. Obviously you know nothing about android.

    4. Jilara

      Re: Surprising bug

      "One would have thought that the core 'phone' processes of Android ... would be completely locked down"

      One might, but my husband has an Android, and I just got off a call where he ended up using his desk landline to actually speak to me. Apparently, the phone gets interference from his work WiFi network, which keeps trying to preempt the phone signal, resulting in somewhere between 1 and 3 words getting through before getting whacked, trying to reconnect, getting whacked again. He explained he has to disable all WiFi connections if he wants to use his Android phone as an actual phone.

      1. Alumoi Silver badge

        Re: Surprising bug

        It's 'WiFi calling', an 'improvement' which can be disabled quite easy.

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    One of the other things that Google need to investigate is to why the issue has to become a big issue on social media days after the it was filed with them before they respond by asking for a bug report. Should social media really be the only working method for reporting and the triage for a serious failure?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Do 911 calls have targeted advertising?

      ["Other 911 callers also bought: Fire extingusishers, Tourniquets, Stab-proof under garments, Legal Services...."]

      1. eldakka

        > Do 911 calls have targeted advertising?

        I doubt it, because if it did they'd have been much more on the ball with fixing it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          That was his point....

    2. Jason Hindle

      Yes, it’s an annoyance

      How did we end up in a lace where throwing a social media hissy fit is often the only way to get a problem resolved?

      1. ShadowDragon8685

        Re: Yes, it’s an annoyance

        It's simple, really. Stupid, but simple:

        Google has a vanishingly small number of employees. Human eyes are not being laid on the overwhelming majority of bug reports. They get parsed by an automated system, and when the number of reports reporting certain key words reach a certain saturation, only then do human eyes look at the problem.

        Otherwise, it takes something that's a shock to the normal system. You would think that the keyword "911" or "emergency call" would be an automatic "elevate this ticket to human intervention" priority, but there's assholes out there who absolutely WOULD put "911 Emergency Call! My phone is vibrating at me when it receives a call and I don't like it, FIX THIS NOW!" in a bug ticket.

        So something has to shock the normal system and get human eyes on the problem, to get human eyes on the problem. Someone filing a lawsuit and getting the lawyers involved would do it, as does a social media firestorm that eventually gets to one of those Googley employees' own private experience and makes them go "Oh shit, we have a problem here!"

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Yes, it’s an annoyance

          There are two answers to that.

          First there's no excuse for not doing things properly. If you want to do things at large scale do them properly and if you can't scale doing them properly at scale then admit that to yourself and work at a scale you can manage.

          The second is that Google also makes a big noise about its AI abilities. If they're that good then they can use their AI on sorting the issues. If they're not that good then stop the empty bragging.

          1. matjaggard

            Re: Yes, it’s an annoyance

            Stop empty bragging?! Seriously? This is a tech company - almost all of their income depends on advertisers believing that they have data and know how to use it. The truth is that they have less data than they claim and they don't know how to use it - if they did then you'd get relevant adverts all the time and I rarely do. Mostly I get adverts for the things I've already bought.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Yes, it’s an annoyance

              They make a lot of money for selling targeted adverts. The actual targeting is things you've already bought, of course. The fact you've bought it already and aren't going to buy it again doesn't affect Google's bottom line because Google have no interest in selling you anything.

              Let me repeat that. Google have no interest in selling you anything. Unless, of course, you want to buy advertising.

              All they sell is advertising to advertisers.

            2. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

              Re: Yes, it’s an annoyance

              > Mostly I get adverts for the things I've already bought.

              Oh, you want relevant and _timely_?

              That's version 2.

    3. jmch Silver badge

      "Should social media really be the only working method for reporting and the triage for a serious failure?"

      No, of course it has to be a social media media post that accidentally somehow becomes trending / viral.

      Bug reporting something boring, even though of vital importance? Not in the loop with some big 'influencer'? Sorry, your post, and therefore your problem, does not exist.

    4. ITS Retired

      Social Media is what gets their attention. Otherwise it could be several patches/fixes later, maybe.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ... "I'm supposed to trust that a phone will do the main thing is built for, and place the call, and let me speak to the human on the other end."

    ROTFL

    "“Based on our investigation ... We believe the issue is only present on a small number of devices ... and we are currently only aware of one user ..."

    who lived long enough to complain

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Who lived long enough to complain

      Well, indeed. The article misses the point when it calls this a "bizarre bug". Even though it might be thought that the bug is bizarre, what it mainly is is this:

      A bug that prevents emergency calls, with potentially lethal consequences.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Who lived long enough to complain

        > A bug that prevents emergency calls, with potentially lethal consequences

        Um... Huh?

        How could anyone read the article and not realise that?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Who lived long enough to complain

          I think it is perhaps arguable that since the article *introduces* this as (merely) a "bizarre bug", that might well be seen as trivialising or downplaying it; even if the full consequences were evident as (or if) the rest of the article were read. And especially since the headline used the rather low key "Google advises Android users to be careful ..." rather than e.g. something like "do not trust if..."

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Who lived long enough to complain

            Ok, yeah, fair enough. Sorry for being a miserable git!

        2. ITS Retired

          Re: Who lived long enough to complain

          Microsoft?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And when we are all FTTP?

    Power cut - No central battery system on FTTP, can't make an emergency call on that.

    Buggy mobiles - Can't make an emergency call on that.

    No phone boxes nearby - Can't make an emergency on that 'cos it ain't there.

    Progress?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And when we are all FTTP?

      US targeted cellphones typically have the AM/FM radio disabled (although it is present in hardware). In some recent fires electricity and cell towers were out, making emergency news such as safe escape routes impossible to find out. Someone had the brilliant no-cost idea of requiring US cellphones to have AM/FM enabled. Not a chance. Freeloaders might start listening to the radio instead of purchasing online music subscriptions.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And when we are all FTTP?

        well, they might have am/fm disabled (which is strange, because mine has it enabled by default, but phone made c. 2017), but who, in this day and age, would use wired earphones for an antenna? If they find a socket to plug them into, that is...

    2. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: And when we are all FTTP?

      I think you're greatly overestimating how well copper phone lines are maintained by telcos. Between copper, Google, and FTTH... it's good to keep a walkie-talkie for emergencies.

    3. eldakka

      Re: And when we are all FTTP?

      > Power cut - No central battery system on FTTP, can't make an emergency call on that.

      Which is why some providers and third parties offer local battery backups for such installations.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: And when we are all FTTP?

        And it's only when you need it that you discover age has reduced battery life to 6 seconds.

    4. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge

      Re: And when we are all FTTP?

      >>No phone boxes nearby - Can't make an emergency on that 'cos it ain't there.

      I have a P, in the middle of nowhere, where there is no power at all and has a phone for very occasional/emergency use (installed back in 1934 if that makes any difference).

      I wonder what the grand BT solution will be? probably 'oh well sorry to see you go' becasue getting power to the premises is prohibitively expensive.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: And when we are all FTTP?

        Attach a warning label saying 'this device needs power' and toss the problem over the fence to the user.

        But you'll find out soon as BT transitions to digital voice. So BT retail told me about that, and shipped me a new router. Then my phone went dead, so figured connecting the router had triggered the cutover. But nope, turned out a mouse had chewed my leg off*.

        But I digress. It confused me, because I have a nice Openreach NID that comes complete with POTS adapter and battery. Which I discovered Retail isn't using, so the router will need to be on UPS, because spending a few cents to include that in the Hub eats into margins.

        *AKA a '1-legged fault'. Which I remembered amusing me as a fresh BT scrub, serving my time at BT's HMP Stone training college.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And when we are all FTTP?

          Off topic, but one thing about POTS shutdown I'm not clear about. Will everyone be expected to use VoIP in the same way we can now, with no change to the IP link?

          Or will the ISP use encapsulation and tunnel a virtual connection to us for VoIP use? What I mean is, I'm guessing the isps that are already telcos at the very least will offer VoIP products, will we connect to them over a tunnelled connection, or just the standard IP link?

          Thanks for any insights, P.

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: And when we are all FTTP?

            Yes. Ish.

            A few years ago, I designed a wholesale broadband service for a heavily regulated incumbent. Each Ethernet service would have a second VLAN of 64Kbps that had priority. Service could be provided with a NID, or customers could self-provision. Intent was for that VLAN to be used for voice services, but being wholesale and agnostic, it was up to customers if they used it or not.

            I think that's also how Openreach does it, but not really looked into BT Retail's plans. The new Hub does have a POTS port in it, but not opened it up yet to dig into it's guts. But it'll do VoIP conversion. BT's letters also mention handsets will be available, presumably SIP phones via WiFi.

            Challenge is it's not just BT, just anyone using BT's voice services. So for example an ISP that's used LLU to take over copper lines can do it's own thing. Personally, I think that should include class of service to to potect voice traffic during congestion. But that also risks invoking the 'Net Neutrality holy war. So it may end up following the US model where it took a few deaths before the regulator stomped on cowboy VoIP operators.

            But such is politics. So short answer is if you're already using VoIP, nothing should change. The BT switchover really only affects BT' POTS customers, resellers, and some other services like alarm circuits. If you're not using BT, it'll depend on how they implement voice. One tell might be if there's an xDSL filter, which notches out some bandwith for analogue voice, which then gets managed at the headend. If the phone's plugged into the router, then it's doing VoIP already, or an ATA (Analogue Terminal Adapter) might be doing that function.

            Then for transport, it depends on ISP, or ISPs. One test is good'ol working from home. If you're on a voice or video call, someone says they're sending a file, and video or voice packets drop, then there's congestion, and/or they're doing QoS wrong. Or if calls are between ISPs, then that's another 'Net neutrality issue, and people will just have to live with best efforts Internet.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: And when we are all FTTP?

              Brilliant response. Thanks! P.

    5. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921

      Re: And when we are all FTTP?

      Time to buy a CB radio...

    6. matjaggard

      Re: And when we are all FTTP?

      The phone boxes are there, they're full of books

  6. darren.b

    Good old Microsoft!

    You can always rely on good old Microsoft to break anything it touches.

    "Microsoft is a cancer that attaches itself in a foistware sense to every competing Operating System, borking everything as it goes." - Me. Just now.

    Not content with constantly breaking the desktop, it is now doing the same to its competitors. Why is Google even allowing Microsoft's toxic code onto its OS given how MS are abusing the browser market again. ? I had that "Link to PC" crud forced onto my Android, no way to disable it, no way to remove it. Doesn't work with Manjaro so useless to me anyway.

    Microsoft needs shutting down. Their behaviour is outrageous.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: Good old Microsoft!

      A userspace app shouldn't be able to fuck with 911 calls - no matter who wrote it.

      1. John Riddoch

        Re: Good old Microsoft!

        It's probably down to how you can register other apps for core services - like FB messenger keeps nagging and trying to take control of SMS messages ("Unified interface for all your messages", totally unrelated to slurping up as much data as we can for advertising...). It's potentially really useful to have an alternative app for making phone calls (possibly with accessibility features for some users), but that application must NEVER interfere with making emergency calls. It should also be crystal clear that it's taking on that role so the user understands what's going on.

        Best guess is that the issue is Teams app trying to register as a way to make/receive calls (since you can make calls with Teams) and screwing it up.

        1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

          You seem to be having an emergency. Can I help you with that?

          "...but that application must NEVER interfere with making emergency calls."

          You take a lot of words to make the same point as me. :P

          That said, I agree with your diagnosis. And I imagine Google is busy rushing out a fix to prevent this from happening. (Let's hope they do it for all locale specific emergency codes and not just 911.) But the responsibility is Google's.

          1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

            Re: You seem to be having an emergency. Can I help you with that?

            "And I imagine Google is busy rushing out a fix to prevent this from happening."

            Good luck with that if some Microsoft app has inserted itself ahead of the voice calling service.

  7. Yes Me Silver badge
    Holmes

    Time to lawyer up?

    Um, whose testing process is at fault here, Android or MS? In any case, a test suite that doesn't include checking that emergency calls work in all possible circumstances is not fit for purpose. I dare say several liability lawyers are studying this case night and day looking for the torts.

    I suppose the quick fix would be to take your SIM card out? I think that would work in most countries.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Time to lawyer up?

      On the one hand, that would be an interesting test. On the other, it's 911, and non-emergency calls are frowned on.

      But apart from safety of life issues, this bug I think would breach operator licence conditions if a phone can't make emergency calls. That's usually a precondition of most telecomms licences, so the FCC might take an interest.

      1. rajivdx

        Re: Time to lawyer up?

        I am sure a company like Google can afford to setup a 'test 4G network' within their premises with a test 911 number that testers can spam without being frowned upon.

        I know we had our own 'Test broadcast network' for testing satellite TV products without real customer devices going titsup in the event of a faulty command being sent.

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Time to lawyer up?

        >so the FCC might take an interest.

        It's the one thing the FCC goes nuclear on, mainly because its the sort of thing a politician can get voters worried about. They tend to do massive fines for telcos fscking up 911

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Time to lawyer up?

          Yup. I was being somewhat ironic given it'd end up being FCC vs Google, Microsoft, and/or the network supplying the phone. But as you say, potential for some very large fines, and probably some class action attempts.

          It'll be interesting to see what happens though, and why a 3 or 4G handset introduced a dependency on Teams rather than the handset's radio. At a guess, I suspect it'll be down to offload attempts. So trying to offload voice calls as data, hence Teams. But if it's going to do that, it should be monitoring call setup close to quickly back off to radio if it fails.

          1. dajames

            Re: Time to lawyer up?

            It'll be interesting to see what happens though, and why a 3 or 4G handset introduced a dependency on Teams rather than the handset's radio.

            Methinks it's clear that that dependency isn't introduced by the handset -- the problem begins when Teams is installed on the handset.

            I would guess that Teams is intercepting phone calls so that it can offer to connect to other Teams users whose phone numbers it knows through Teams rather than by phone, and something about the 911 number is causing it to bork. Maybe Teams just thinks "911" isn't long enough to be a phone number, so it gets ignored?

            I note that the problem doesn't manifest if the handset is logged into a Teams account, so maybe Teams implements some kind of shortcode quick-dialling facility that is only active when logged in, and discards all short numbers when it's not?

            Bottom line: Teams is trying to do something clever that the phone wasn't designed to do and Microsoft haven't considered the effect on 911 calls and haven't tested their work thoroughly.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Time to lawyer up?

              I have Teams up and logged in on my phone, but it doesn't have permissions for Phone, Contacts or Location.

              Wondering if denying Phone permission is a solution.

              Oh well, at least they seem to have fixed the bug where it crashes if you try pasting anything into the chat.

            2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

              Re: Time to lawyer up?

              It's possibly semantics, and a bit of a circular firing squad. So customer buys phone and service. There's a legal obligation on one or both to make sure 911 calls work. Rest might get a bit murkier, ie Alphabet's obligation for the OS to work, cerify thats apps are safe. So for whatever reason, if the 911 call is passed to another app, it's probably a very good idea to monitor the call setup and termination.

              Users (and regulators) don't care what happens under the hood. Dial 911, get dispatcher asking what service you require. Certainly not 5mins of dead air.

      3. ShadowDragon8685

        Re: Time to lawyer up?

        As I understand it, 911/emergency call systems are usually understanding when they receive a test call from a technician setting up a system or something like that, E.G.

        "This is not an emergency; I'm Joe Blow from Moe Schmoe Contracting at Some Glow Factory and Casino, setting up a 'dial 777-and-the-CEO's-birthday to call out' internal phone system and testing that emergency numbers bypass the filters and go straight to you."

        In some - the best, really - cases, it's required by law that, no matter what other shenanigans a telephone might be set up for, if someone dials 911, they reach the emergency operator, without any intermediary systems or persons involved in the loop.

        They won't be happy if you SPAM them, of course, but they'd FAR rather take a few non-emergency calls to confirm that yes, a weird and/or wonky system you're setting up does reach them when someone bangs in 911, than hear about it on the news that somebody was desperately dialing 911 to report that the slot machines had achieved sapience and had banded together with the lathes to rise up against the human overlords and the call wasn't going through because the system required the person making the call to put in a prefix number to get an outside line.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Time to lawyer up?

          I think they would rather have someone say 'sorry, this is just a test call' than having someone just hang up when they answered. If they have a 'hang-up' that could indicate anything from stupidly butt-dialling to a major incident where the person was no longer able to continue the call, and they would probably have to investigate to find out more.

        2. TaabuTheCat

          Re: Time to lawyer up?

          This is exactly what I used to do when setting up a new phone system, for three reasons:

          1. We wanted to be sure 911 calls would actually go through.

          2. We wanted to be sure the 911 operator saw the correct location the call was coming from.

          3. We wanted to be sure our internal alerting that a 911 call was made worked and notified the right people on prem so they could respond.

          But then again I worked for a company where life/safety was taken seriously. YMMV.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I suppose the quick fix would be to take your SIM card out?

      I suppose, but might be a tricky thing to do quickly when distracted by an emergency; all that faffing around trying to find the little notch or whatever needed to start levering the back of the phone off, &etc.

      Assuming you even remembered or noticed - the article already stated that the caller didn't even notice the call hadn't worked for five minutes!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I suppose the quick fix would be to take your SIM card out?

        That's also an indictment on the quality of the 911 service.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: I suppose the quick fix would be to take your SIM card out?

          It's part of the old Bellheads vs Netheads problem, and the slow maturation of the Internet. Which is increasingly being expected to deliver services it was never designed for. Despite some kludges, IP is still fundamentally best efforts. And there's some mindset issues, so-

          Bellhead: If this service fails, people will die.

          Nethead: If this service fails, customer can claim a 5 second service credit.

          Which is pretty much what happened in the early days of OTT VoIP providers. People either couldn't make emergency calls, or couldn't be located and there were deaths. Then regulators stepped in to try and get the mess sorted out.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Time to lawyer up?

      "Um, whose testing process is at fault here, Android or MS?"

      Both. If it's on Google Play MS should have tested it before submitting and Google should have tested it before accepting.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What else is Teams doing?

    Is it monitoring every call on your phone, or absolutely everything thing you are doing.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: What else is Teams doing?

      Is it monitoring every call on your phone, or absolutely everything thing you are doing.

      yeah, like in WHAT THE HELL, MICROS~1 ???

      (see icon - this is ACTUALLY VERY VERY VERY BAD)

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    *LOL* Good old Microsoft.

    Guess the new mantra is "It ain't done 'til Pixel won't Run." :)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    filed an issue with Google support online. When she didn’t hear anything back

    it really baffles me that anyone (in the world of 2021) would even bother with 'Google support'. But then, perhaps she knew what she was doing, perhaps these days, to get the attention you _must_ follow the dance steps: you contact 'support' / you hear nothing / you open on social media / you might get a twitch of reaction, or a wink (success! - we're already into first tones of the google waltz). Or, perhaps the intro's still building up, as other dancers join you and then, maybe, just maybe, the noise makes the Behemoth wearily open an eyelid...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: filed an issue with Google support online. When she didn’t hear anything back

      Obvious, fatal replicable bug on my Chromebox that causes the whole thing to crash on login.

      Basically, an error starting the android subsystem kills the whole chrome system.

      First occured 2 years ago. I have logs, ideas of what's going wrong, and whilst not a fix a workaround. (Errors starting android should not be fatal)

      Posted about it to official forums. Ignored.

      Official Chromebook support won't look at it because my box is in "developer mode" (despite me not altering anything and needing it in developer mode to get the friggin' logs.)

      "Developer" support is the usual volunteer thing where you are to have no expectation of a response.

      In fact, loads of stupid issues make a Chromebox useless as a TV box. If you want a really powerful, hackable TV box with a proper desktop, look elsewhere. My old rooted cheapo Chinese android box works better but really needs an upgrade :-(

    2. AJ MacLeod

      Re: filed an issue with Google support online. When she didn’t hear anything back

      I must say that for the first time ever, earlier this year I actually got to speak to a knowledgeable and helpful Google support employee who fixed an incredibly frustrating chicken-and-egg merrygoround problem related to Google Apps/Workspace/whatever they're calling it today.

      I admit I was utterly astounded, and this may be the only known instance of it... but it definitely happened.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Teams is nearly the worst product Microsoft have ever released...

    ...only beaten by every version of Windows after 2000.

    Either the teams coding team are top-to-bottom 100% A-grade f**kwits, or they're all psychopaths, truly believing that pesky rules are for others.

    Maybe both.

    If Teams was better written, I'd think it was a virus.

    I.

    Hate.

    Teams.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Teams is nearly the worst product Microsoft have ever released...

      Problem seems to be that they are aiming to be an all-in-one package but it's just turned out to be a jack of all trades, master of none... I can't even get the thing to open in a window the same size as I left it last night

      Many people, like me, don't need all of that and were happy with Skype and a handful of other programs... and a lot less strain on the system ('xxx not responding')

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Teams is nearly the worst product Microsoft have ever released...

      I made the mistake of trying to install the Teams app on Linux once. Utter shit-show of a product and you have to have a MS account just to get on to other people's invites.

      Now just use Chromium 'web' mode, still shit but less messing with my computer. MS are so utterly incompetent they can't even support a non-Chrome browser.

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: Teams is nearly the worst product Microsoft have ever released...

        Maybe Teems would be a more appropriate name...

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utWrIWq2_tk

  12. HammerOn1024

    Fu$! Microsoft

    All together now! I remove any and all MS apps from my phones as soon as I get them.

    My workplace uses Teams and my boss has asked me to put Teams on my phone: I've said hell no! He's stopped asking.

    If MS exploded tomorrow, all you would hear from me is a belly laugh like Dr. Cox when he totaled the janitors van.

  13. boboM

    MS slurping (again)?

    Is this MS up to its old tricks again? Slurping users call data without their permission? Wouldn't that be shocking.

  14. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    If you do make an emergency call from an Android...

    ...which I have had to do, on a few occasions this year, it suspends some of your phone settings (such as do not disturb) for some hours afterwards as it assumes that you really are dealing with an emergency and any incoming call could spell the difference between life and death.

    Now that is an example of thoughtful design.

  15. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921

    Cue class action lawsuit by relatives of dead grannies?

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