Vacation and email just don't mix

It is a shrinking world. You can be in touch from everywhere. But mixing business and pleasure still isn't easy.

I wrote most of this while on vacation, as my wife and I cruised from Seattle to Alaska three weeks ago. I talked about the shrinking world and how you could be in touch through email and web surfing over a satellite link no matter where you were. I wrote that and used the cruise ship's internet cafe‚ to send the column to my editor for the May 7 issue of Network World.

Alert readers will now be saying, "But there was no Wired Windows column two weeks ago!"

I'm sure it's possible to "stay in touch" via satellite, even using a shared, terminal-server-like session (all I could actually see was a keyboard, monitor and a customised browser). After all, many of you connect your enterprise networks via satellite. Too bad the combination of the ship's internet cafe, the satellite link, a choppy sea, a web-based email client that wanted to (but couldn't) put a cookie on my terminal and -perhaps - my less-than-dedicated attention to all the details (I was on vacation, for heaven's sake!) united to make the copy of that column my hard-working editor received virtually unreadable.

The various problems mentioned above caused my email client to ask for username and password every time I clicked a button or a link (which you do frequently when composing a message with an attachment). Reading mail became: log on, click read, log on, click in-box, log on, click first message, log on, read message (more spam), log on, delete message, log on, choose in-box, etc. It took about 10 minutes to log on to the terminal, get to my mail server and read and delete the first message (which I knew was spam from the first line, so I didn't linger over it). At that point, there were 164 messages still waiting to be read.

I threw up my hands, said a silent prayer that all would be well and stopped trying to read mail for the week. So it wasn't until I got back to the office (long after that issue of Network World had been mailed) that I discovered the problem - after wading through the 600 or so messages - waiting.

It is a shrinking world. You can be in touch from everywhere. But mixing business and pleasure still isn't easy.

Kearns, a former network administrator, is a freelance writer and consultant in Austin, Texas. Send email to Dave Kearns.

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