March 12, 2010

Dear Civilization: Please Help. Crew Starving. Send Interwebs.

I call this: On the Road Again,phones,theatre — Posted by KP @ 7:54 pm

Here I sit, at the Fairfield Inn in Ottumwa, IA. Clinging to a single bar of Edge on my iPhone.

I know what you’re thinking: “why are you even looking at your phone and expecting it to work? — you’re in Iowa. AT&T has made it clear they don’t care about Iowa. You should be happy you have any signal at all.”

Well, about that. The Fairfield Inn is charging us $90 a night. What in Ottumwa is worth that much for a hotel room? I have no idea.  It must be something or else they’d be out of business.  All I know is it’s half a mile to the closest source of food, and this afternoon we had to have our bus driver drive us to the grocery store, and tonight he’s taking us downtown for dinner.  The bus driver, by the way, is not really supposed to have to do that.  His job is to drive us between cities, to the hotel, and to the venue.  Otherwise he should be sleeping, or picking up chicks, or whatever else bus drivers do when they’re off the clock.  Any other trips beyond that are just to be nice.

The bus internet, which uses Sprint, is struggling a bit here, too, which is surprising because it always does better than AT&T in places of dubious importance to wireless carriers.

No problem though. We have two days off here. We have hotel rooms. We can just sit in the hotel and use the internet all we want. WRONG.


They don’t know when it will be fixed.

Let me recap what we’re getting for $90/night at the Fairfield Inn in Ottumwa, IA:

  • No access to food aside from the snack machine in the hall (I don’t know if it works)
  • Located in the middle of nowhere where both AT&T and Sprint don’t provide reliable service

Look at this smug little anthropomorphized ethernet jack. Lies. All lies. Now, a hotel advertising “high speed internet” almost always means that one time, about 10 years ago, their bandwidth would have been considered high speed. When I installed my first 56K modem I felt like I had put a rocketship in my computer too, so I get where they’re coming from. But seeing the little sticker on the wall when I checked in did not fill me with hope. I did kind of expect that there would be something coming out of it, though.

We’ve complained, but the manager won’t be in until tomorrow, so who knows how it will turn out. I wouldn’t mind paying half the price for a place to shower, sleep and do laundry, but we’ve stayed in nice hotels in the downtown areas of major cities for less, and they had internet, too.

If we were just passing through it would be one thing, but this is where we’re spending two days off. The cast, lucky sons-of-guns, are staying an extra day in our previous hotel, which was near a lot of stuff, including a fast food / ice cream joint called Culver’s, which I’d never heard of, but about which I will be fantasizing for months if not years.

I think I may be doing a lot of writing for these days, although usually when I write I do refer to the internet for things. I will get by with whatever I can eke out of my one bar of Edge. I can only imagine what a disaster my life would be right now if my phone wasn’t jailbroken and I couldn’t tether. You hear me, AT&T? I’m stealing the bandwidth I already paid you for — 1KB every second!


Well things worked out OK. An hour before we were supposed to check out, Bobby called to say that the hotel was going to take care of us and let us stay all night (we have a 4AM load-in, so we were going to check out at 1PM and then sit on the bus in the middle of nowhere until our 3:30AM departure). And on top of that, they just fixed the internet! So the ability to stay all day, time to grab some sleep before load-in, even shower again if we want to, and the access to internet while here, have made it worth the $90 (I consider that a day-and-a-half hotel stay, which works out to just about what the room is worth).

I had just settled in to spend my last hour in the hotel beginning to prepare graphic elements for the next version of my stage management database, which I will begin working on once the tour is over. I figured it’s the one project I can accomplish completely offline. I want it to share the look and feel of the website, so I began importing the graphics. Here’s what I came up with in the five minutes before the phone rang.

And this whole experience allowed me to return to my childhood, when you could click a web link, go take a shower, and come back to see if the page had finished loading.

In other news, their internet seemed really fast, maybe fast enough for gaming, which is what I usually hope to do when staying in a hotel for a day off, so I headed over to DSL Reports to see what the speeds were. One time it tested at about 100kpbs, and another in excess of 1MB. Anyway, I’m happy with whatever it is.

January 12, 2008

I Have Left Verizon and Palm

I call this: phones — Posted by KP @ 12:25 pm

One thing I haven’t mentioned because of all the time I spent working and blogging about Frankenstein, is that I have had a major shift in my telecommunications life.

To recap:

  • I have been a Palm user since 2000 (my first Palm phone was the Treo 650 in 2005)
  • I had AT&T from 1997-2003 and HATED it — couldn’t make calls indoors
  • I switched to Verizon and despite hating their policy of crippling all the good features out of their phones, their reception is pretty much perfect in NYC.
  • I am a Mac user and as such am opposed to Windows Mobile for both philosophical and logistical reasons.

Then this happened:

  • As I excitedly blogged in May, Palm released the Treo 755p for Sprint. My Treo 650 at that time was dying.
  • Verizon was rumored to be releasing it in July, then it failed testing
  • I bought a 700p and extended my contract because I seriously needed a new phone
  • I was one of the first people to get the maintenance release for the 700p that supposedly fixed it. This blog made PalmInfocenter, which I thought was the coolest thing in the world, despite being labled a “he.”
  • The Maintenance release turns out to have some horrible bugs, and a relatively minor one which causes the phone to randomly make audible DTMF tones even when silenced.
  • After way too much time they release another fix which still doesn’t fix the DTMF bug (which I was able to notice within 30 seconds of buying the phone). It turns out the 755p also has the bug.
  • At this point I give up on Palm OS.
  • Months go by, the 755p continues to not be released, and the 700p continues to be buggy.
  • Palm announces that their next generation OS is at least 12-18 months away.
  • Verizon is rumored to be soon releasing the HTC XV-6800, known as the Mogul on Sprint. This is a Windows Mobile 6 device. By now (September) I’ve decided to turn to the dark side for multitasking and a modern OS. Meanwhile AT&T is about to release the Tilt (aka HTC Kaiser), which is the next generation version of the 6800.
  • The 6800 fails testing. AT&T announces the Tilt release for October 5.
  • October 5, I call all over town before I find an AT&T store with one in stock and jump in a cab on my lunch break.
  • I try out the Tilt for a month and decide to keep it and cancel my Verizon account, with 20 months left in my contract.

So my AT&T experience has been quite good. Reception is definitely not as good as Verizon’s, but it’s the difference between being able to make a call from the basement of a basement behind a cinderblock wall or not. My usage has shifted a lot in the last few years, too. I use my phone far more for data than for voice, and I find AT&T’s 3G and HSDPA networks to be very fast. Overall my Tilt accesses the internet much faster than my Treo, which is probably more to do with the phone’s hardware and software than the network, but the important thing is that it’s faster.

I’ll be posting more details about this whole experience in the future, specifically from the perspective of someone moving from Palm OS to Windows Mobile.