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.
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.
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.