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Off the Net

August 28, 2008

I have just spent a little over a week on holiday in a Center Parcs facility in the  Netherlands, with some time in the centre of Amsterdam. It was a very enjoyable holiday and went really well. One thing though… it has also been for me the longest I have spent off-net for over 14 years. Sad but true – but it could have been longer than the four or five days it was.

I had a laptop and every intention to do some crafty Internet connectivity but on arrival I found that the Center Parcs has absolutely nothing accessible from our living space. This was old turkey at it best. I coped. I could have used my 3G card… but only if I wanted to sell my house to pay the bill.

It changed though once I discovered that outside of the facility, there existed quite a number of different WiFi access points that I could see – almost all of them being private and secure. This is what I would expect. The key though is the word … almost. I found enough open access points to do some risky Internet access for email and some crafty Twittering, aided by my S710 mobile phone with WiFi and my Asus EeePC – breaking my bandwidth fast nicely. As we moved on from the CenterParcs to Amsterdam, the availability changed from now and again to at least one open access point per street.

This was all fine… and I practiced safe WiFi use through using SSL encrypted mail and VPN encrypted browsing – very important when you do not know if the access point is completely hacked or not, and you have no idea where it is on top of not knowing who runs it.

It was still pretty haphazard and I had to use some strange places to pick mail up. Not that satisfactory. All of this could have been avoided if the 3G mobile companies would only start charging sensible roaming rates – not the £4 per MB but something more sensible like a 20% increase on the cost that already I am happy to pay – £25 per month for unlimited. They could really clean up if they did this… after all at the rate they wanted to charge me I avoided using it. Do you hear that T-Mobile, O2, Orange, and Vodafone?

One thing… it is cheaper than what it was ten years ago.. back then it was circuit switched 9.6kbps GSM data resulting in mobile phone bills in the thousands of pounds but that was another time and another world.

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