When technology goes bad

When technology goes badIn last week’s Travel and Tech feature (was that really a full week ago?), I suggested that technology is a glorious beast when all’s going well, but a cruel mistress when things start going wrong.

Somewhat ironically, I posted said feature sans incident from a stylish little restaurant called Why Not! in Byron Bay, which is somewhere on the east coast of Australia. Things didn’t go quite so well when we returned to the same place on Wednesday this week.

When we passed through Byron Bay last Friday, my first impression was that it was a little pretentious, based largely on the expensive but delicious Why Not! menu. But at least the town had fairly reliable Wi-Fi in a couple of venues, allowing me to turn in my work in good time.

I got quite the opposite impression this week. I first realised how wrong I’d been when I found myself watching a heads-or-tails coin-tossing strip competition in a local bar. Sound hellish? It was.

Whooping drunken morons desperate to see either a flash of boob or a naked guy doing press-ups were the first sign that our return visit to Byron Bay wouldn’t be as pleasant. The incessant rain was the second.

Obnoxious drunkards and bad weather I can forgive, but the really hellish moment came on Wednesday evening. We headed to Why Not! for some delicious coffee and a few nibbles while I finished off my work. My lady friend intended to read or whatever, then we’d have dinner. The perfect plan.

When we sat down, the waitress explained that the broadband had been off during the afternoon, but I didn’t have any problems getting logged on. The Wi-Fi reception was a little poor to begin with, but a quick change of seats sorted out that particular problem. Easy.

Until… I got cut off. Completely. All of the progress bars on my various tabs hung, I was showing as offline on Skype, and eventually the Why Not! network disappeared entirely. I asked the Aussie bartender if the broadband was ok, and he shrugged and explained that it was always a bit temperamental. Fu**!

Moments later I asked the waitress if she could try resetting the router. She claimed someone had already tried it, but to no avail. Apparently the other place in Byron Bay that offers free Wi-Fi was having the same problem. Uh oh. So there I was sitting with a bunch of stuff to write up, and no internet connection.

So I tried my Three mobile broadband modem. Nope. No signal. Which wasn’t surprising, given that we were in the middle of nowhere, and the only place the mobile broadband had worked previously was Sydney.

My lady friend came up with the idea of tethering with her iPhone. God bless you iOS 4.3. I managed to get connected and – after 15 minutes – received confirmation that one of my articles had been submitted. Unfortunately, the mobile signal was completely erratic, constantly changing from Edge to 3G to nothing at all. Reluctantly, I chose to bail. Boo.

So, yeah, it’s been a bit of an eye-opener coming from the UK where I’ve always got access to data or Wi-Fi. I’m lucky to get either out here in the wilds of Australia.

And another fantastic dilemma presented itself this evening. We managed to track down a McDonald’s on a mountain road (they’re flamin’ everywhere), but I had very little battery left. As such, I could either charge my laptop in the car where the McD’s Wi-Fi didn’t reach, or sit inside with glorious broadband and 1% battery.

Fortunately, Three seem to have great mobile broadband coverage on this here mountainside (randomly), and that’s the only reason I was able to submit this feature.

Next week I’ll be back in Melbourne, and all moaning about lack of internet will cease. Hopefully…

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JanSt / MOD  Apr. 29, 2011 at 13:38

Welcome to my everyday in the West of Ireland.


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