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The horror of random connections

The horrors of random connections
Written by Angus Kidman, Contributor

If you're one of those people who likes to complain whenever their Wi-Fi connection even temporarily flickers, then being forced to use older connectivity technologies is a useful reminder of how much we have to be intermittently grateful for.

On a recent trip to Perth and Adelaide, I decided to test out Vodafone's newly introduced 3G service for those cities with a Mobile Connect data card. Unfortunately, that plan fell to pieces when it turned out that the drivers simply wouldn't work in my PC.

Oh well. Fortunately, being a paranoid type, I also had Telstra's rival EVDO card kicking around.

That went along perfectly well, delivering respectable speeds even in the remote Perth suburbs, until one morning the card just up and died completely.

There was no choice: I was going to be forced to use dialup instead. It's moments like these you pray that no-one has sent you an Acrobat attachment containing twenty words and two megabytes of needless formatting.

Actually, dialup in Perth (at around 54kbps) wasn't so bad. The real unpleasantness was in my hotel in Adelaide, where the usual switchboard shenanigans meant that I couldn't get any higher speeds than 28kbps.

That was teeth-grindingly slow, but still workable, provided I didn't have to process too much comment spam from my personal blog.

When I returned to Sydney, I finally had the time to chat to Vodafone tech support and fix the 3G card problems. It turned out that the software bundle that could be downloaded from the site had a known bug but no-one had bothered to replace it.

Great! (Fortunately, that issue does seem to have been resolved as of this write-up.) With that issue solved, the 3G card worked perfectly.

Of course, 3G stopped being so helpful once I moved out of the coverage zone. In chilly Armidale in northern NSW, the 3G card cheerfully reverted to GPRS speeds of around 2.5kbps -- and I started thinking the Adelaide hotel wasn't so bad.

On the bright side, at least I wasn't paying exorbitant local call rates.

Telco-driven visions of a WiMAX-filled future suggest that these will all become issues of the past.

Me, I suspect that even then, there'll be times when I'm forced to fall back on dial-up, and pray that the hotel has a half-digestible cup of instant coffee to keep me going while I wait.

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