Almost Internet…

In about four weeks from now I will be travelling to the west coast to America’s Coffee Capital, Seattle. Sure, it is also known for it being the production grounds of the Boeing airplanes and being the location where Microsoft has its head quarters (sure, nitpickers will mention now that it is located in Redwood, WA – but if you live on the east coast,  Redwood is just as much part of Seattle as that Newark International Airport is a New York airport), but for any IT geek, it is the Mecca for caffeine.

I will meet there a fellow IT nut and long time friend who lives on the west-coast, and we will stay there a weekend doing what guys do when they are in their thirties… drinking coffee and talking what life should’ve been. BUT! Actually we will be working. This time I will bring four computers. Sure, three are mobile devices and one will be a laptop (Isn’t it funny how, in recent years, a laptop went from the mobile device to that brick you have to haul around?), but it still is enough to get some work done. And the work is what we usually do when we meet once a year in the Rainy City; just come up with an idea, and try to make it into something. Nothing important, just a weekend of brainstorming what we already did when we were kids in the ’80s and got our hands on our fathers’ computers.

Ah, those were the days! Being the proud owner of an Olivetti M24 back in the days brought us the raw power to run technical beauties like King’s Quest or Maniac Mansion or even better, Rings of Zilfin , and hacking away in GW-basic. And actually, even we are now almost 25 years later, our days still have not changed a lot. Sure, the games are prettier and better productions. My mobile phone has enough raw power to match a cluster of about 250 Olivetti’s M24 – if not more and of course, nowadays, we have that magical virtual thing called the Internet.

Still, there are enough things that have not changed in all these years; Getting Connected.

We both were game junkies back then. And although I was someone who loves single-player experiences – and I still do – there was something about networking that was amazing. First of all, hauling a computer around and placing it next to the other one so we could potentially set up a direct link with a 2ft serial cable. Woohoo! And back then, moving a computer around meant; the tower, the keyboard but most of all, that ton-weighing 14″ CRT monitor. And once everything was connected, the fun began… setting up a network connection. And here is my point; it simply did not work. Well, it did eventually, but you had to first do a lot of free-wheeling and improvising before, suddenly, you saw the magic word in your DOOM login screen that you were connected. And then, the fun could begin, even when you already lost 2 hours setting everything up.

But that is how things went back in the day. Sure, later on we moved to working with ethernet cards, but managing it all from DOS was simply, well, problematic. Sure, if you were at a company’s network it would be difficult, but setting up a ad-hoc network was quite troublesome.

These days, although easier, getting connected often is still a big problem. Especially…. especially when you are on a trip. The words indicating the problems are ‘complimentary Internet‘ when you book your hotel. Complimentary, as all of you know, means free. But it also means, you almost might have internet. Or worse… you only have internet is that corner of your hotel room. The one near the waste basket. And the one that is unreliable slow depending on how many people are in the rooms around you. But since it is complimentary, well, you cannot complain a lot about it.

And since I find it personally a waste of money to pay for anything, except for a phone, to have a cell connection, I always buy the wi-fi only devices. So, to make that work nicely, last year I decided to buy a MiFi. A simple little device that is a wifi hot-spot on the go. Perfect for working in the car, using all your wifi devices on the go, and having your own personal network always with you. It is small, convenient, just a little fast out of batteries, but that is a problem easily solved. And you see this coming up now a lot more often, nowadays often built into cell phones to tether the network connections. Good, pretty reliable, internet for at least the basic things. The other good thing is, it is private. No one can just hook up to it, so it still holds this bit of security that I really appreciate. Which is also perfect during bad weather like the hurricane Irene we had to endure during the weekend – even without power, you still have your internet on your iPad or laptop.

But I guess the ease of which we now expect to be connected, makes the experience of not being connected a lot more problematic. Well, in any way, since Seattle is the coffee capital of the world and there are literally 3 Starbucks’ in a 1,5 block radius from our hotel – and a Seattle’s Best in the lobby, all with wifi… there is hardly a spot in Seattle where there is no complimentary wifi offered you by some caffeine producer… ah…. it will be a good weekend.


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