I feel the need for speed

I've developed a costly habit. Like all nasty habits it started, just like the recent email likening software vendors and drug dealers notes, with a free taste of the product. Now I'm hooked.

I’ve developed a costly habit that I’m really quite ashamed of.

Like all nasty habits it started, just like the recent email likening software vendors and drug dealers notes, with a free taste of the product. Now I’m hooked. Now the pain starts and I have to come up with the readies each and every month or I’ll be cut off from my supply, discarded like a used Kleenex.

There’s no way I can go back to a dial-up connection. I’m hooked on my 400Kbit/s JetStream connection and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’ve spent a week working from home (the fabled WFH) and I’ve found I really like it. There are precious few interruptions from pesky subeditors [Watch it, Brislen ...] or fire alarms and the constant droning noise of everyone else’s PCs, airconditioning and phones ringing. They have been replaced with the constant droning noise of lawnmowers, cricket commentators and Oprah. Ah, bliss. I can get correspond by email and nobody needs know I’m not in the office. I can access the company databases whilst keeping up with the cricket and never set foot in the office again.

Colleague Russell Brown went home with the power crisis and never came back. Back then it would have been hellish, I imagine. I was forced to flee the city for Hamilton and use a 25MHz laptop with no colour and write stories using Notepad. I couldn’t access the contacts database, couldn’t see the editorial database and had to dial up to get email. Since there were about 50 of us trying to dial in at the same time the effect was similar to a DoS attack on our own machines and, generally speaking, it was a pig’s ear.

None of that for me now. I’ve just discovered I could be connected to the company network via JetStream in a secure environment and then I could see all the other drives we use as well. I could probably even game on the LAN with the other losers, erm, tech support boys. With a credit card and a decent office chair I might never need to leave the house again.

And this is just the beginning. JetStream is all well and good but 400k is hardly broadband. No, I’m thinking about 10Mbit/s to the desktop, maybe 100, so I can do video conferencing from my PC (might have to put some pyjamas on for that, though) and about collaborative document sharing. Mostly I’m thinking about games, though. Gaming would seriously rock at 100Mbit/s.

So this week has been great — I’ve worked, pottered in the garden, eaten Hobnobs and drunk a thousand cups of tea, and I could even have baked some bread if I wanted. I did want to, but who can be bothered? The only thing I’ve really missed has been our morning coffee ritual at 10am. So now all I’ve got to do is convince the financial controller that we should keep the modem and pay the money.

At the moment the JetStream connection is a trial-run thing from Telecom so it’s not costing a penny but that ends in about three days' time so I’ll be looking for alternative ways to earn some extra cash (ideas on a postcard please) to pay for my habit.

On that subject, I had an interesting chat with by-now-former Telecom frontman Glen Sowry. He referred to my earlier column and my mother-in-law’s sneering at JetStream. You have to compare apples with apples, he (rightly) said. If you use JetStream, or any other high-speed package, you face the problem all users face — what if the connection is congested? What if the server at the other end is having a bad day? It really doesn’t matter if you’re connecting to the internet at 56K, 400K or 100Mbit/s if the site throws up its little hands in horror at the traffic. So of course you’re not going to get the fabled “50 times faster than a dial-up” that the ads say.

I do stick to my guns on one thing, though. Overpromising and underdelivering on service, whether it’s your fault or just a by-product of the network, is a bad idea. It just leads to grumpy in-laws.

Brislen is a Computerworld journalist. Send email to Paul Brislen. Send letters for publication to Computerworld Letters.