24 April 2008

Middle of Nowhere

I just came back from vacation in what can be referred to as "in the middle of nowhere", cyberspace-wise at least.

It was not the first time I went on vacation while with the new server admin department. I did go on vacation about a month after joining the new group. I didn't know enough to have my absence felt. This time around, I was involved in many critical projects. To make things more complicated, the other admin who is my usual backup, my "partner" so to speak, also wanted the same week off. Such is life when you have kids in school, you only have vacation when school is out, such as summer or spring break. My manager was kind enough to let both of us go, so I thought I would return the favor by lugging my company laptop along. I figured it's 2008 already so that any decent resort would have broadband access, even if it is not free. Ten dollars per day would be fair enough for me.

The first thing I did when we arrived at the resort was to turn on the Wife's MacBook Black, or BlackBook for short. It is 3 years younger than my PowerBook and boots up faster, with better battery health. There was some hotspot but I couldn't join it. OK, maybe I would have to ask the resort people for some info to configure the connection. The Wife said that she read somewhere that the resort definitely has free Internet access, but none of the literature I found in the room mentioned that. I went ahead and started looking for an RJ-45 (Ethernet) wall jack. I can live with wired access. I even brought an old 4-port 10-Mbit hub to share the access with the 3 laptops that I brought along. Bummer, no RJ-45 ports anywhere.

A nephew made the gruesome discovery. Right there on the kitchen phone was the label, "PC hookup on side". Sure enough there were 2 RJ-11, regular phone/modem jacks, on the side. My laptop cases have many things that can come in handy on the road - Ethernet cable, USB cable, flash drives, lock, etc. But I wasn't prepared to face the lowly 56K modem again. There was no RJ-11 cable in any of my bags, but even if I had one, I would still need to know what number to call. I still have a dial-up account, earlier in the year used by my sister before she finally got broadband via cable. She used the service via some local NYC number. I might have had some numbers in my PDA, but calling from Drums, PA would incur long distance charges. Who knows what the resort would charge, too, for using their precious phone. I still remember the $5 or so Holiday Inn charged me for a local call the night of my wedding banquet.

As a last-ditch effort, I put my cell phone into modem mode and hooked it up to my PowerBook via the USB cable. Can't say I came unprepared, if you can overlook the lack of the RJ-11 cable. I thought the Razr2 would be smart enough to automatically connect the Mac to the 'Net. I know the data charge would be significant, but I really want to push technology's envelope. Alas, contrary to my unreasonable expectation, the Razr2 just behaved like a regular modem and nothing more. Sure the Mac instantly recognized the Razr2 as a modem, but I would still have to dial some modem number. Even if the cell phone can send faster than 56k, whatever answers the call would be the bottleneck at 56k and less.

I blame Twitter for my desire to be connected. Maybe Blogger, too. At least with Twitter, I was able to send a text message, even though I didn't see the post until I got back home.

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