Technology woes?

LAST UPDATED: 16 Dec, 2010 @ 08:44
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Technology woes?

TECHNOLOGY has changed my life but is a real pain when it goes wrong…

iPods, phones and printers

While playing music for people to dance to after a golf dinner last Friday my iPod broke. Luckily we plan for this sort of thing and our co-organisers, Alan and Sharon, had brought one of their iPods along as well. This was the second problem that night as Alan and Sharon’s Bose speakers had stopped working so we had to use our less powerful speakers for the music that evening.

I had another similar sort of event while playing golf on Monday. I use a golf sat-nav system to help me plot my route around the course. It provides me with details about how far away hazards are plus the distance to the front, middle and back of the green on each hole. This time it wasn’t the sat-nav that broke, it was the bracket that holds it in a convenient position on my golf trolley. I spent the whole round on Monday looking at a blank space on the handle on my trolley, then retrieving the sat-nav from where I had put it in one of the pockets of my golf bag. Only a minor inconvenience but it felt like it was really frustrating.

This has led me to start thinking about how much I rely on technology and how uncomfortable I feel when it breaks down.

I have to admit I feel lost if I forget to take my mobile phone with me or I find myself in a place with no signal. I feel cut off from the world.

From time to time, like most other people I know, our printer starts playing up. Normally it is just when I want to print out something important. Again I feel a sense of frustration and annoyance about having to waste some time sorting out something that I feel should just work without me having to do anything.

Internet Access

For internet access we still purchase our broadband connection from Movistar (was Telefonica). I know this is more costly than some other suppliers. However if there is a problem with our phone line or ADSL we only have to negotiate with one supplier to get the fault fixed. I know people in both the UK and Spain who have had similar problems and there ended up being finger-pointing between the provider of the telephone line and the ADSL about who was to blame. This led to the people being without ADSL for an extended period.

Given that in my experience there are broadband problems more often in Spain than I used to have in England I feel that the extra money we pay to Movistar is probably worth it. Although it is the aggravation of what is involved when changing ADSL suppliers that is probably my real reason for not changing.

I am now so reliant on access to the internet that I have to have a contingency plan available to cater for our broadband going offline. Quite some time ago I purchased a pay as you go USB 3G modem from Vodafone. I use this as a backup that enables me to access my email and the internet in the event of a failure on our fixed phone line. I can also use it with my laptop to provide internet access while I am not at home, as I would feel lost without internet access. (By the way, I was researching this subject for a customer recently and the cheapest supplier of pay as you go USB 3G modem services in Spain is supposed to be Carrefour at the moment.)

Bad weather and slow internet access

One thing I have noticed with the ADSL in our town is that it runs much more slowly when there is bad weather. We also occasionally get disconnected from the internet during periods of bad weather. We then have to reboot the router to get reconnected.

I really don’t know the reason for this. I know that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) do not plan their networks to handle extremes in load as this would be too costly. So my guess is that there are more people using the internet when there is bad weather. This leads to overloading in network access at the ISP and they have to handle this congestion.

The first step is probably for everyone accessing the internet to get a slower response. The second is probably to deliberately disconnect people from the network to try to reduce load. Routers tend to keep the connection to the internet open 24 hours a day irrespective of whether there are people actively using the connection. By disconnecting people and forcing a manual reboot of the router the ISPs can reduce load. This is my theory but I don’t know whether it is correct.

Conclusion

These are just a few examples I can think of off the top of my head. I am sure I could come up with a much longer list if I tried hard enough.

I have worked in the computer industry for a long time and things have changed dramatically in a short space of time. I remember joining Reuters in 1987 and being amazed that the company had a simple text based system similar to Messenger linking all of their software development sites around the world in real time 24 hours a day. Now, 23 years later, probably the majority of the people in the world have the same sort of thing and much more.

I feel that I now couldn’t live my life without the great things that technology and the internet brings to it. However I just wish the technology I use on a regular basis was a little more reliable.

5 COMMENTS

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  1. After much fiddling about following instructions on the internet about how to check an iPod it still wasn´t working. So yesterday I took the iPod to a specialist Apple shop in Almería and they said that it was a hard disk failure. I asked how much for them to repair it and they said 170 euros.

    I decided to buy another one.

    However I am now trying to find a reliable iPod repairs company in Spain who can fix it cheaper. It is a 5th generation 80gb iPod and I know I can purchase a new hard disk on the internet for less than 60 quid. There are also instructions on the internet about how to replace the hard disk. However I don´t want to shell out the money for a new hard disk only to find that replacing it doesn´t resolve the problem.

    So if anyone can advise on a good company that I could post the iPod to in Spain and get them to diagnose the fault and quote for fixing it please could you comment here.

    Alan & Sharon´s speakers were less of a problem. All he had done was plug the power cable into the speakers incorrectly. He phoned up the Bose helpline and they told him about this issue. I would have just googled for bose ipod dock station clicking noise which would have got the same answer. Which begs the question why have a power lead that you can plug in the wrong way? Surely this is bad design on the part of Bose.

  2. John,
    In my experience here in Andalucia the infrastructue and services are so poorly installed and maintained that the problem of your internet going down when the weather is bad is likely to be down to water ingress especially if you live outside the cities.

  3. Ben,

    Thanks for the comment. I had considered this option and perhaps it is correct.

    Generally the service doesn´t necessarily fail totally in times of bad weather in Almerimar. It just slows down a lot and some routers get logged off around the town. A reboot of the router normally corrects the access problem (although the speed is still slower than normal).

    I guess that this could be due to ingress of water in part of a telecoms installation in the area but I would have thought that total failure of the phone line or internet connection would be a more likely outcome of water problems.

    As I was more used to working with installations in large datacentres rather than last-mile telecoms I am happy to accept the view of someone who perhaps knows more about the subject than me.

    John

  4. Almerimar is a modern town that didn´t really exist until the 1970s. So I guess that most of the telecoms infrastructure should be relatively modern.

    As you say installation and/or maintenance could be a reason for the broadband service and/or telephone line to fail from time to time (not related to the weather). However another theory that I have heard some people talk about is rodents chewing through cables in the junction boxes etc.

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