in Considerations

No Connectivity And Feeling Lost

This post comes from my personal experience in the last few weeks and even if it may look too much personal I think there are some good points to consider while thinking at the Web 2.0 phenomenon, at least in Italy.

Last week I spent one week of my holidays in Marina di Pietrasanta, a small city on the sea in Tuscany.

Great place, and great time with my family and Piccoletto (For those who do not know Piccoletto, he is my 7 month old child).

We planned to stay there for more than two months and we carried bot my MacBook and my wife Windows box. After setting up all the stuff around the new house we turned on our PCs and found that no WiFi connectivity was available around us.

I was pretty much sure that this was going to happen and because of this I brought with me an UMTS/HSDPA data card.

Here is the short story of what happened:

  • The UMTS/HSDPA card does not have Mac OSX drivers.
  • Since I had with me my wife’s PC with an integrated WiFi card I put in place some little wizardry creating a WiFi adHoc network and routing all the traffic on the WiFi interface to the UMTS data card.
  • I tried to connect with the UMTS data card to the network and I discovered that I did not have HSDPA (not even UMTS) connectivity available. The card was roaming to the EDGE network.
  • Finally hidden in the customer care area of my mobile operator (btw, the same I work for 🙂 ) I found the Mac OSX drivers to connect my MacBook Pro to the network using the bluetooth connection of my Nokia N73. Nevertheless the situation did not change since I continued to have only EDGE coverage and no UMTS coverage.

I spent the week with my MacBook connected to the internet using my Nokia N73 and a bluetooth connection.

I had lot of issues:

  • When I read my RSS feeds I jump to and from Firefox to follow some links I find interesting. This means that I always have at least twelve open tabs at any given time in my browser and it may happen that most of them are videos. No way, with this configuration it did not work.
  • I always have my instant messenger open (Adium) and Skype. No problem with Adium and lot of problems with Skype. (Dropped calls, voice clipping, etc. etc.)
  • The simple update of my RSS feed list takes almost one hour at that speed. Yes, I know. There are not many people with 1300 feeds to catch up with and I use NetNewsWire as a feed reader.
  • I am in the fortunate situation where I do not pay my phone bills (even if that does not mean that I can abuse) but if I was paying for that the EDGE roaming would have been simply to expensive for me.
  • I could not perform any kind of upload to flickr, my hosting provider, etc. Too slow for anything.
  • I could not even ssh to any of my hosts due the excessive echo response time from the network.
  • I could not access lastfm.com and listen to any streaming music from the net.

I felt somehow lost.

I realized that many of my social connections strictly rely on the availability of a high speed internet connection and that many of my daily tasks show that dependency too.

I can reach some of the people I know only using Skype or Instant Messenger.

The other consideration is that many Web 2.0 application rely on that too. It is assumed that every user has the availability of a high speed internet connection. Many webmasters have stopped bothering about the size of what they design. If I look at my own web sites I can see that they are gathering data from other sites (Jaiku, Twitter, del.icio.us, flickr, etc. etc.) and I never thought it could be an issue for some users. It is, indeed.

I have a broadband connection bot at home and work and never had any kind of issues like those I have depicted above during my business travels. The story seems to be different from the perception I had.

WiFi is not widespread, ADSL is not too and high speed mobile network may prove to be unavailable for some mobile operators in some areas of the country.

Why do I blog this? I think that last week was a sort of reality check for me.