Ubiquitous broadband may not be as out of reach as I’d once thought. Spurred by the death of my mother’s ancient Qualcomm phone, I found myself at a Sprint store yesterday working on getting my parents a new family service plan to try (their current service, as well as mine, is from Verizon, but choices in mobile telecom providers is a whole separate off-topic entry). Somehow, the sales guy talked me into a Novatel U720 USB and a broadband account—attached to a family account and loaded with special discounts, it added a net of something like $30/month to the bill (it’s really more like $50-$60, but there are combination discounts with the other wireless accounts and some percentage discounts for employees of certain companies, etc.). Even at $30/month, I’m not sure it’s something I can justify, but I’ve got thirty days to try it and see if I feel like I can’t live without it. At the moment, though, I’ve got it running in my bedroom, providing me with internet at a slightly slower rate than if I’d just turn on the WiFi in my tablet. The demo machine in the store registered about 1.8 Mbps download and about 200 kbps upload (both about 1/3 of the speed of my home DSL). I’ll have to write more as I actually use it.
I always enjoy reading posts that seem to indicate a level of cynicism on par with my own. I especially liked Always connected or always available? from The Vermont Slate because it hit on two things that have been on my mind on and off hte past few years: the notion that we’re heading toward thin-client as the model and the notion that internet connectivity is everywhere:
… my cantankerous musings today stem from thinking about the issues of thin-client computer, desktop virtualization, software as a service, the “death of the desktop” and a number of other buzzwords that are zipping around the tech media today like flies on road kill in mid-July.
I think the main thing that bothers me about these technologies, what makes me leery of them even when I can see real benefits to them, is that they all presume a constantly connected system. … And no connectivity means no data when that data is anywhere but on your computer. It will also mean no applications when those are provided by Google and hosted on Google’s servers.
Now maybe that is just because I live and work in the rural northeast, but I doubt it. I think the reality even in major cities is that connectivity really isn’t ubiquitous, it is just ubiquitous in most of the places where people actually sit down to compute. And I don’t think that (always sitting down to compute) is the future. The future rightly belongs to those who will compute wherever and in whatever position they want.
For all the talk of WWAN and 3G mobile, the notion of always-available broadband (if some of the slower technologies can rightly be called that) still seems to be limited to business road warriors who have an absolute need for that kind of connectivity by the high cost of service. I have not seen wireless broadband for anything even close to what I pay for DSL (or, for that matter, even close to double what I pay for DSL). If the prices were to come down to where DSL prices have ended up, I could easily see dropping a few hundred dollars on a WWAN card and having internet everywhere, but until the service costs come down, it just isn’t going to happen.
From the realm of I-was-too-sick-to-remember-to-post-this-morning…
Many cities’ municipal WiFi networks have been plagued with teething problems that vendors and local governments are trying to work out. While the public-private model most of these networks use means that these issues should get resolved, it’s been clear for a while that muni WiFi isn’t a magic bullet that suddenly makes a city “high-tech” or solves all sorts of problems.
This reminded me of the many conversations floating around unanswered at school about the impact on our students of the long-awaited free WiFi from the city. We currently impose a network blackout for several hours in the overnight to try to keep students from staying up all night every night online (whether or not this works is another issue), but it would be completely futile if all our students had WiFi-capable machines and free WiFi from the city.
Ted Beck, Aurora’s chief technology officer, gets about 30 calls a day from residents wondering when free wireless Internet will be available in their neighborhood.
He wishes he could give them better news, but the estimate is usually in terms of months rather than days. A number of factors have slowed the deployment of the network, although it continues to grow.
For those that saw a couple of formulas and graphs and skipped ahead to this part, I don’t blame you, here are the take aways based on the data:
- Simply turning on the wireless card doesn’t drain much power, it might shorten battery life by 2%, so if you want to remain connected to download email it’s no big deal.
- If you turn on wireless and are constantly trying to acquire a connection, such as if you’re constantly dropping a connection and then trying to reconnect, your battery life could be 6% – 7% shorter than usual due to the wireless card having to work extra hard.
- If you have wireless card on and are transferring lots of data, such as downloading large files or constantly browsing the web, battery life could be about 6% shorter than simply no wireless on. Consider downloading large files later when you’re plugged in.
- If you don’t need to use the web, turn wireless off, it’ll save you at least a few short (but maybe precious) minutes of battery life!
In my in-class use of my tablet I have generally just left the wireless on, in case I decided I wanted to hit the web or grab something from the server, unless I was having connection issues, in which case I’d turn it off mostly to avoid the annoying continual popups telling me about the connection issues while I’m busy trying to teach.