Notes from the Hinternet

April 7, 2004

My mother’s health took another bad turn, so I’m off in the wilds of western Nebraska once again… Unfortunately, one can’t time these things, and I’m also in the middle of babysitting a couple of critical processes for clients, so I’ve got to be able to get online and work, also.

There must be some sort of Luddite-field that operates as one gets near this place. It was one thing in January for my old moth-eaten P3 ultralight notebook to give up the ghost when I got here, and for my pocket PC to have a sympathy meltdown at the same time, but this time the trip managed to crater a Powerbook only a few weeks old…

The machine seems to boot properly, but the display essentially only shows what there is to do here at nights—in other words, not much.  An hour or so on the phone with AppleCare this morning confirmed that it was going to have to go into the shop.

What fun!

So far, the PPC seems to have survived, but the little bluetooth modem I’d hoped to use to get it onto dialup needed either the Powerbook or a bluetooth enabled PC (which I’m fresh out of) to get set up.

I’m waiting for my DVI-VGA adapter to get fedex’d from home (note to self—this stays in the bag from here out) to see if the Powerbook can be coaxed into talking to the video monitor from the old PC I’d given my dad back in 96 or so (which has never been used).

In the meantime, I’m having a close-up and personal experience with Win95, something I haven’t done in a long time… On a 200mhz P1, no less…

And you know?

It’s not totally bad… Astonishingly (to me), Windows remote console runs on the thing, as does Mozilla Firefox… Both of them quite well, in fact, which makes this more or less survivable… I can remote console to machines fast enough to run some of the stuff I need to use, and tabbed browsing is a lot faster than waiting for IE to launch yet another window in order to get stuff done.  Not surprisingly, Bloglines even runs pretty well as a low-bandwidth client over a dialup line, so I can kind of keep in touch with things as well.

A few months back I was surprised to find a local coffee shop here listed as having a free Wi-Fi hotspot (I was surprised to find any, let alone free)…  I’d hoped to take the Powerbook there for a little bandwidth intensive work, but failing that, I dropped in on the place with my PPC just to see what was up…

I wasn’t sure I was in the right place—it has a very “finger sandwiches and elderly ladies” ambiance to it, and there was not a sign to be seen regarding Wi-Fi… I grabbed a cup of French Roast (no Columbian Supremo, alas), and fired up zero config on the PPC…

Aha!  Not one, but two networks found.  Unfortunately, neither one was willing to hand me DHCP.  I went up to the counter and told them I had come in because I found them on a wi-fi hotspot list, and asked what I needed to do to get connected.  After hesitating a minute (and giving me the distinct impression I’m the first person to have ever asked), they decided they should go upstairs (the shop is in an old house) and reboot their PC. 

That did the trick, amazingly enough, and I was shortly sucking down my mail at a decidedly satisfying rate (compared to dialup, anyway). 

Sometimes, things do work, even out here on the reaches of the Hinternet…


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