End of the week…

Some random thoughts to end the week:
1) Why is it that in 2009 one still has to pay to get an internet connection at home, at the hotel, at the airport, everywhere ? Why is wireless connectivity, paid for by taxpayers, not available in all major cities, regions, countries, much like public transportation or any other kind of infrastructure ? Are communication companies that powerful ? Why is it still unavailable on trains and airplanes ?

2) If we spend so much time online and on our cell phone (those who have one anyway), does it mean that during the best part of our waking time we would rather be interacting with someone far away ? Does the fact that we can create our community of highly selected “virtual friends” make those who live in our proximity progressively less relevant ? Is this a “good” thing ? Are we evolving toward a lifestyle in which our sole connection with reality is going to be represented by the various bodily functions ?

3) What are we doing still with telephone landlines at home, when we are ditching technology that was introduced much later (e.g., CDs) ? Why are certain things so hard to die when others are disposed of even before they have outlived their usefulness (whatever happened to Murphy beds anyway — I thought they were a great idea…) ? And don’t even get me started on MS Windows… just kidding… I thought the market “got it right” all the time… does it not ?

4) Why is it that I have to pay (in Europe anyway — still free in Canada) to watch football, when I could watch it for free thirty years ago ? I thought that with progress things would become cheaper and more easily available (again, the wonders of the market, the invisible hand blah blah blah)…

Time to go home. Have a good weekend everyone.

44 Responses to “End of the week…”

  1. Schlupp Says:

    1) I heard the story that a communication company in Spain sued a community that offered free WiFi for distorting the market and killing private business and apparently won: Free internet had allegedly to be switched off. Only, I do not have a reference and did not find anything in google, so I don’t really believe the story.

    2) What might become a problem is that it is so easy not to have contact with a large part of the population around me. Now, it is of course tempting to think that this is not a problem in MY case, becaue I am a good person anyway, but I can see how such dis-integration might become a problem for that thing called ‘democracy’. On the other hand, however, it also offers huge potential by connecting people who would not otherwise meet.

    3) I had to take a landline because it was a package deal with internet. (Which does not answer your question, but simply shifts it to the service provider.) I did not have a landline in my previous apartment in Germany.

    4) hahahahaha!

  2. Cath@VWXYNot? Says:

    1) I don’t know, but it sucks. Some cities (e.g. San Francisco) do have free Wi-Fi everywhere, but at SF airport, a paid provider has somehow managed to block that signal. This is probably the case in other places too. I think you CAN get Wi-Fi on some trains though, in England anyway…

    2) I do use the internet to connect with friends all over the world, but also to arrange proper face-to-face social events with local friends

    3) I haven’t had a landline for years, and I’m trying to persuade everyone I know to use Skype instead for long-distance. (my parents are resisting). Our new tenant is looking for a murphy bed for the nights his son is with him, but not having much luck so far!

    4) Football is more expensive to watch (it’s only “free” in Canada if you pay for cable) because the players’ wages are so out of control…

    Question 5: what is up with your prime minister and his wife??!!

    • Massimo (formerly known as Okham) Says:

      My prime minister ? I swore allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen, remember ?

      Moreover: in Canada you have to pay for cable and you get football games for free. In Italy and France you have to pay for TV anyway, and get zero. Nada. Zippo. Zilch.
      Internet: on the Red Arrow bus from Calgary to Edmonton you get it, but being on the internet on the bus makes me car sick. On the train from Toronto to Montreal you get it; anywhere in Europe, never seen it, not even from Bruxelles to London.
      Friends: it is true that through the virtual world you get to meet (occasionally) great people with whom you get in touch in RL, but my point is that we spend most of our time interacting virtually.

  3. Steven O Says:

    When you have to pay to watch football in Europe, is it commercial free? That is the only reasonable explanation I could think of. Mind you, the choice for free games with commercials vs commercial free pay-per-view games is the choice I would like to have!

  4. ScientistMother Says:

    1) because the infrastructure is NOT paid by taxpayers, the technology was built / designed by companies, who are now reaping the benefits of that investment…

    2) for me, my “virtual” friends are ppl that I can not connect IRL because of distant issues. I don’t anyone of my pre-blogging friends even know about my blog.

    3) Fear. If a major catastrophe or if there is a major extended power outtage ie ice storms of quebec. land lines will still work. VOIP and cell phones would not, this is assuming that all your landline phone are NOT wireless (mine are not, i’m anal like that). Plus VOIP does not accurately pinpoint your location when calling 911 etc. again comes down to fear.

    4) no idea

    • Massimo (formerly known as Okham) Says:

      infrastructure is NOT paid by taxpayers

      I know, SM, not now, but in principle it could be. Internet can be seen as a public service just like transportation. Cities could auction it out to private providers, if they did not want to provide it themselves… I see no reason why it could not be done, other than loss of revenues for communication companies, as people would do away with telephones and possibly cable tv.

      “virtual” friends are ppl that I can not connect IRL

      Same here. My point is that we seem to spend more time with the virtual ones, that’s all…


      You may well be right, although I wonder how many people have a land line for the reasons you mention… and actually, is it really true that land lines are more robust ? I think that in the case of a hurricane or an earthquake wireless may have an edge… but I have no idea, really.

  5. Professor in Training Says:

    This comment was edited due to content that the author has banned from this blog

    My family and friends are all so far away that online/phone contact is my only option. Haven’t had a landline since 2003 when I needed it for the free dial-up internet connection I got as a grad student. Now have an iPhone (yipppeeeeee) a cell phone and talk to my parents on Skype for free.

    • Professor in Training Says:

      This comment has been edited for content

      You have violated my freedom of speech, Massimo! Get with the program and get yourself an iPhone overpriced damn good looking little gizmo 🙂

      • Cath@VWXYNot? Says:

        This comment has been edited for content and resized to fit your screen

        Ha ha this is hilarious!

        iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone
        Pretty overpriced little gadget Pretty overpriced little gadget Pretty overpriced little gadget Pretty overpriced little gadget Pretty overpriced little gadget

      • Anonymous Says:

        This comment has been edited for content, meanness and for hitting below the belt

        Don’t knock the wonderment of the iPhone exquisite but overpriced toy until you’ve tried it Massimo. It’s so revolutionary it’ll make your hair grow back.

      • Massimo (formerly known as Okham) Says:

        PiT, you do not understand — I am now alone in fighting my DonQuixotish battle against that evil company that distributes that pretty little thing in Canada at an outrageous price.
        A british blogger from Vancouver who shall remain unnamed (she is a fan of the Canucks, I shall mention) was initially supposed to be fighting alongside for that noble purpose, but suddenly betrayed the cause, switched to the dark side and got herself one of those magnificent devices.

        Sure, she would tell you that it was given to her as a gift by that saintly husband of hers… while I am quite sure that money is no issue to him, when it comes to pleasing his better half, I am equally sure that oh-so-subliminal hints were relentlessly given, as in, “you know, honey, I so hope that in my next life good wins over evil and I can buy myself an iPhone, ’cause in this one I have to fight the power… so I cannot get one… I, myself, that is…… I would of course never, ever, refuse a gift… nudge, nudge, wink, wink…”… See what I am sayin’ ?

      • Cath@VWXYNot? Says:

        Nah, he just couldn’t put up with the “i really want one, but I shouldn’t get one, but I want one, but I don’t need one, but they’re so awesome, but my other phone still works, but i really really want one”

      • Massimo (formerly known as Okham) Says:

        Yeah, I know, my wife is also going nuts hearing me say that… the thing about not being able to connect it to the projector still bugs me though…

      • Professor in Training Says:

        That British blogger and I are both on the same page. Again, you need to get with the program and come over to the dark side. All the cool kids are doing it 🙂

      • Massimo (formerly known as Okham) Says:

        I have my principles, PiT… it takes more than a nearly flawless technological wonder to make me abandon them… now let me go weep.

      • Professor in Training Says:

        This comment has been edited for content — and I don’t need any hair, damnit

        Principles? Pfffft. Go cry in your iPhonegadget-less corner, O-Spineless One. Where’s your sense of adventure? Didn’t I tell you there’s an app that’ll make your hair grow back?

      • Massimo (formerly known as Okham) Says:

        Oh, so it was you who left the first mean comment anonymously. Ha !

      • Professor in Training Says:

        This comment too has been edited for content..
        Wooops – sorry about that. I had posted it using my amazing and fantabulous iPhone er… fantabulous …. thing… but must have forgotten to put my name in there. As if you couldn’t figure out it was me!

      • Massimo (formerly known as Okham) Says:

        Well, no, actually I was wondering as to who could be so sneaky and, mean, and… uh… really really mean….

      • Professor in Training Says:

        My sincerest and most heartfelt apologies. I didn’t mean to offend you or your follicly challenged cranium. I wasn’t kidding about the iPhone app though. I wouldn’t joke about something like that!

      • Professor in Training Says:

        Think I screwed up the link, this is it in its entirety: http://www.stophairlossnow.co.uk/News/The-World-First-Mobile-Hair-Clinic-System-100969.html

  6. R Says:

    Internet can be seen as a public service just like transportation.

    But if it is a public service it would most likely come with rules that now everyone (whether you want it or not) would have to follow or get a ticket otherwise. You can’t drive too fast on the roads or make your own roads even if the land is not private property. You can’t drive trains unless you work for the company.

    I rather pay for usage but keep my complete online freedom. Of course, it seems like now companies are moving towards regulating what you do, even by charging too much or by blocking access to certain sites. I am not sure how customers could fight this unless they cancel their service.

  7. Massimo (formerly known as Okham) Says:

    But if it is a public service it would most likely come with rules that now everyone (whether you want it or not) would have to follow or get a ticket otherwise. You can’t drive too fast on the roads or make your own roads even if the land is not private property. You can’t drive trains unless you work for the company.

    Well, of course, a public service is supposed to provide basic access to a good or a performance, and it does come with regulations and restrictions. The thing is, most of us are quite happy riding a bus, even if it means standing up and sharing the ride with many strangers, because we see it as just a simple, cheap and safe way to go from point A to point B. Those (very few, frankly) who would rather not share the ride, or go faster, or sit on a comfortable seat are perfectly free to get a cab and pay extra, but that is no reason to oppose public buses. Same goes for public hospitals versus private clinics, and so on and so forth. Most of us have no need nor desire to drive at 130 mph, much less “drive trains” (I really don’t get this analogy, by the way 🙂 )
    That public services are somehow in competition with private ones, “socialism”, “limiting the choice of customers” and so on, is a fairly old conservative mantra (very popular in the mid 90s with the US republican party), pretty empty if you look at it dispassionately, and now regarded, I think, as obsolete, even among most of its initial proponents.

    • R Says:

      I have always thought that the main advantage of the internet is that it gives access to unlimited amount of information. Restricting access to a certain site in my opinion goes against the whole idea of the internet.

      I wouldn’t necessarily say that most of us are quite happy riding a bus, I think in the US it is clear that most people prefer their own vehicles and aside from a few really big cities with no room for parking, people don’t use public transportation (see, Ohio, Texas, Iowa, Montana, etc, etc, etc). But even if it is true that most people don’t mind riding a bus, it is a very slow method of transportation (I can usually be on campus in 15 minutes if I drive, 50 min if I ride the bus). Would you be OK with opening 1 email every 20 minutes? To make matter worse, you can’t access every place of a city, or country, only by using public transportation. What if someone in the government decided you can’t access scientific journals? what about wordpress?

      I don’t want to be told what I can do online or not, which means that I would still have to pay for my internet access. If so, I don’t want any part of my taxes to go to that, specially with many more problems to solve first.

      Maybe just at public libraries should the governments offer free access to internet, but they probably already do in many of them.

      • Massimo (formerly known as Okham) Says:

        . Restricting access to a certain site in my opinion goes against the whole idea of the internet.

        Who has said anything about restricting access to “a certain site” ? All you want to do is avoid that a single user will utilize all of the bandwidth and/or storage space.
        Any other restriction is the responsibility of individual users (e.g., parents).

        I think in the US it is clear that most people prefer their own vehicles

        No, they have to, because of the way cities have been built (essentially in order to promote the use of cars). Suburban sprawl makes public transportation de facto not viable, but in those few cases where it is available (e.g., NY city or Boston) people are happy to use it.
        The example of a city like Bogota (Colombia), where the nefarious trend toward suburban sprawl and the explosion of the number of cars have been reversed and where people have gone back to using public transportation, is enlightening.

        I don’t want to be told what I can do online or not, which means that I would still have to pay for my internet access. If so, I don’t want any part of my taxes to go to that, specially with many more problems to solve first.

        Again, you are talking about a restriction that nobody is advocating, much like one would not be advocating a public television that only provided some information or public hospitals that would not perform some medical procedures.
        Believe me, insisting with framing the debate in terms of “limiting choice” is nothing but ideology. What one is talking about is merely preventing any single user from utilizing the entire thing. I mean, look, there are cities that are wired, at least in part (e.g., Trento, in Italy), and you can visit whatever and transfer whatever. Transfer rate is not as high as with a commercial provider, but that is a “restriction” with which most of us are willing to live, much like most of us do not expect a public hospital to offer the same comfort as a private clinic.

        The fact that you want more and are willing to pay for it is no reason to make internet access a privilege. As for “not wanting your taxes to go to whatever”, I am afraid that that is pretty inevitable, lest you think we should move to a system where each citizen has his/her own police, road, school, electricity, child care etc. I think it’s nonsense, honestly.
        Again, by the same token you should oppose any public service (which maybe you do), as the “problems” you are citing affect virtually all of them.

  8. Mad Hatter Says:

    Dude, what is up with the crazy indentations in the replies to comments? I tried to reply to a previous thread and have approximately a one-letter width to work with!

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that I am also iPhone-less. Stay strong, my friend!

  9. Cherish Says:

    1 – My friend who is teaching English in Korea says they have free wireless there. This perplexes her because there are a lot of other things they probably need more, but they have free wireless.

    2 – I would vastly prefer to be interacting with someone(s) who is (are) far away.

    3 – Because of 911 service and the fact that I’m not charged per minute on my landline, but I am on my cell phone.

    4 – No clue. Never been to Europe, and I don’t watch proper football.

  10. Massimo (formerly known as Okham) Says:

    I would vastly prefer to be interacting with someone(s) who is (are) far away.

    I know what you mean, my friends tell me all the time that they would rather have me far away from them…

  11. James Says:

    Another British blogger in Vancouver is still holding out against that outrageous company that distributes the iPhone in Canada. The better question is why so many people are prepared to be abused by them. The iPhone must be that good! Nonetheless, I still pinch myself at the standard treatment of cell phone users in Canada. In the UK I was used to caller ID, voicemail etc etc as standard, yet here we still have to pay for them. They’d get away with more if they could.

  12. Massimo (formerly known as Okham) Says:

    James, I don’t know about the UK — but in Europe mobile telephony is still outrageously expensive. Anyone living, say, in Switzerland and having to travel regularly to France, Italy, Germany and Austria will be hit by horrendous roaming charges while remaining inside a 100-mile size region.

  13. Cath@VWXYNot? Says:

    Massimo, any chance you can buy an iPhone somewhere in Europe and get it unlocked so it’ll work in Canada when you return?

    • Massimo (formerly known as Okham) Says:

      No idea… I can look into it, though… I am pretty sure I cannot buy it unlocked, that much I can tell you.

    • Professor in Training Says:

      FYI, Massimo: I bought a used unlocked iPhone off eBay for ~$450 so that I can use it with my T-Mobile account and not AT&T. Apart from it freezing up one day, I haven’t had any problems – the freezing was “unfrozen” by removing the sim card and putting it back in my previous phone, switching it on and then putting it back in the iPhone. The guy I bought it off did the standard unlocking technique using a program called yellowsn0w – I just didn’t want to mess with it myself.

      • Massimo (formerly known as Okham) Says:

        Hmmm…. I thought that using it without signing up with the “official” provider entailed loss of functionality (e.g., software updates)…

      • Cath@VWXYNot? Says:

        In that case, wait if you can, there’s new software coming this summer that sounds really good. (New hardware too, although I will not be upgrading for a few years, despite the crappy camera on my model)

      • Professor in Training Says:

        It had the latest update when I bought it and I’ve turned off the auto-update feature on iTunes. The guys that developed yellowsn0w seem to come up with work-arounds for each software update so even if it means waiting for a month or two after each is released, it’s still worth it to have the iPhone.

        Apart from that, I have the same functionality I had with my previous phone but I now have an integrated iPod, wi-fi capabilities, supercool street cred, etc. I haven’t splashed out and added a data plan but that’s easily done if your carrier has either EDGE or 3G as the iPhone can use both.

  14. Dr J Says:

    Roaming charges are one thing in the UK that are outrageous – but there is far better regulation of these companies and I wish there were similar regulation here. I want an iPhone too, obviously, but not under the current conditions. Outrageous!!!

  15. ruchi aka arduous Says:

    1) Because people don’t want to pay more taxes and would rather get price gouged by a monopoly. Because taxes are evil, but internet companies are … less evil? But apparently they are putting internet on planes. I think it’s now on … Virgin? On certain flights?

    2) I find the term “virtual friends” kinda amusing. I mean … I do spend time talking to friends on the internets, but I mostly assume them to be real people. You’re not a Transformer or something are you? Is Massimo a pseudonym for Megatron?

    But I mean, I dunno, most of the time I spend on the internet talking to friends is either with friends far away, or to make plans with friends nearby. I still see my friends who live nearby on a regular basis. The internet just allows me to stay close to my friends and family who are far away and not lose touch on their lives. Which I think is a nice thing.

    3) I don’t have a landline. I do sleep in a Murphy bed though. I hate it.

    4) I dunno, it seems like most of the main football matches are available on the TV free here … of course you do have to pay for the TV license….

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