Friday, 17 May 2013

Living in the noughties ...

The internet went out last night at home.

Seriously out, not even syncing, let alone a connect to our providers network. Let's just say it neatly demonstrated one of the inherent problems with a Chromebook - great though they may be, offline is a problem if you havn't synced your work - and yes the documents I wanted were in Dropbox and Google docs.

So, out with the windows netbook and the 3G modem - the reason for choosing the netbook was (a) it had the 3G software already installed and (b) I could sit on the sofa and work,

No our house is on the edge of a slope and we have had problems with cellphone reception. These are mostly gone now, since they improved the infrastructure, but the data is a bit wibbly - like you have to choose a location with decent signal strength for a reasonably fast connect.

Dropbox wasn't too bad. Niether was Evernote. Synchronisation was not stellar but fast enough to download what I needed, do my work and then sync stuff back. Definitely old school but it worked.

Trying to use Google Docs over a slow connection was interesting (it turned out I'd never installed the Google drive synchronisation software on the netbook and now didn't seem the time to start). It did work but it was more than easy to type ahead and suddenly have things catch up, and spreadsheets were a bit like playing wack-a-mole, but I got there.

What this did teach me is that the old style way of working where you use local as opposed to web apps remains the best approach when working on flaky connections. It reminded me of the slightly odd experience of using WordPerfect on Microvax back in the nineties - most times it was ok but sometimes it was unresponsive and more like a game of 'guess how many backspaces' I need - and this was in an operating system where they tweaked the kernel parameters to up the priority of the text input routines.

However, while the interactive stuff was bad, the sync based stuff worked well - Evernote is good, as you do all your stuff and sync, and dropbox is similarly good. Likewise using a local email client, or a local editor to blog and then post is a lot better.

There are some implications to this. In the last quarter in the UK tablets outsold pcs and laptops combined. A lot of tablet apps tend to be quite verbose in their traffic and the heavy weight ones tend to offload work to the cloud - just as something like a chromebook does.

This of course means that they consume a lot of bandwidth. Now while our home ADSL link is less than wonderful, it works most of the time, and when it works it is reasonably fast. Imagine for a moment I was running on a slow connection, like last night's wireless broadband. A lot of the tablet based stuff I do probably wouldn't really have been possible.

A lot of the services would be almost unusable due to lack of responsiveness - not lack of connectivity.
For whatever reason just about everything seems to want to connect these days, and that's why we need  decent bandwidth end to end.

It's telling that the only way I could find out about the outage was from our internet providers website - and one that so slow to load I couldn't confirm it was a known outage until I came into work this morning.

Now, I'm not grizzling (well maybe just a little), but if we expect that people will use online services for most of daily life, they do need to have access to decent connectivity and decent bandwidth ...

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