Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Going Bush

As I've said elsewhere, we're just back from two weeks away in South Australia in the Flinders Ranges and Kangaroo Island.

In both locations we were blissfully out of internet and mobile phone range (not quite true - in the Flinders some very slow expensive satellite internet was available via a public wifi service in some places).

However this was a fact of geography rather than a desire to embrace a new trend of a digital detox, although I do feel that unplugging now and again is very good for the soul and frees one from the illusion of doing something productive, when in fact ne would be better off reading a book.

It is however also a fact that these days one does need internet access away from home and work, if only to do these pesky things like check bank balances and confirm hotel reservations, so this time instead of the linux netbook we've used on previous jaunts we took along a windows netbook and a 3G modem in part because we knew we would have difficulty finding any kind of public wifi, free or otherwise, where we were going.

The reasons for taking a windows netbook as opposed tour our trusty linux netbook were purely pragmatic - the 3G modem had windows drivers but no linux drivers.

Things of course worked - 3G connectivity was available almost everywhere the service availability maps said it would be - the revelation was just how well they worked out in the bush. In Mildura, performance was reasonable, in Burra, better than some ADSL connections - perhaps because no one else was using it. Performance was similarly good in Hahndorf and Mornington. The only time it was distinctly poor was in the centre of Adelaide, and again one could write that off to be being in a hotel close to the university and all these smartphone and 3G iPad toting students.

I've previously wondered why half of all internet subscriptions in Australia are for 3G connections, but now the reasons are fairly clear - if you only use a single computer and don't download scads of stuff the service is perfectly usable. In fact one of my family does exactly that moving between a one bed studio apartment in the city during the week  and a house out in the bush at the weekend.

This usability while great (bye bye crappy hotel wifi) is dangerous. It can give people the impression we don't need an expensive fibre optic national broadband network but that 3G can do it all.

The problem is how people use the internet - a lot of people are quite light users and 3G works for them - the problems come when they want to share a network link between several devices, download movies or listen to internet radio. And this is a hard point to get across when something else appears to work really well ...

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