January 6, 2014

A Brief Moment of Technological Bliss

I call this: computers,iOS,phones,tech — Posted by KP @ 11:09 pm

Just before leaving work I had downloaded a sample of a book I was considering buying, thinking I would read the sample on the train, and probably buy the book when I got home.

I started reading the brief introductory chapter on the platform, and when the train arrived the conductor announced it was going local. Realizing I was already halfway through the sample, and that I liked it, I regretted not buying the whole book for what was now going to be an even longer ride home.

Then I set myself a challenge: could I set up a hotspot with my phone, connect my Kindle’s wifi to it, purchase and download the book, all before the doors closed and the train left the station? Thanks to the new cell reception in many midtown stations, I had a precious few seconds left at 59th Street, before heading north into the great underground wilderness.

I’m pleased to say that I accomplished my goal, and was so engrossed in my book that I nearly missed my stop. Sometimes, despite the obstacles thrown in our way by patent lawsuits and greedy wireless carriers, we can actually use our inventions to accomplish the things they should be able to do. [Hugs Verizon.] I’m sorry about all the things I said about you. They were all 100% true, and you deserved to burn in hell at the time. But I would be remiss if I didn’t also acknowledge when things cease to suck.

Telecommunications industry, you made my night.

July 3, 2011

Finally, Tethering the Way it Was Meant to Be

I call this: phones,tech — Posted by KP @ 11:27 am

…Overpriced, and with a data cap.

I’m just giving AT&T a little (well-deserved) shit there, but mostly I just want to say that finally, after way too many years of not offering the option at all, AT&T has gotten it right. Or, more accurately, has allowed Apple to get it right, since all AT&T is doing is collecting my money and allowing me to use the data I pay for legally. So, thanks for that.

The Tethering Plan Doesn’t Suck as Much as It Originally Did

First of all, if you missed the news, over the… well, I don’t know when, but it was when I was on tour… AT&T doubled the data cap on its limited data plans, which, if my math skills serve me, means that doubling 2GB to make 4GB is still infinity-times less value for your money than infinity-GB, which was the previous plan. But hey, it’s like 5 or 10 bucks cheaper. Anyway, this happened back around the time that Verizon got the iPhone, which was smart on AT&T’s part, but for one of the first times in my life, I genuinely felt warm-fuzzies toward the Evil Empire for giving me a data cap that at least sort of approaches the 5GB that most “unlimited” plans actually were in the fine print. I mean I’m locked into my contract with them anyway, and they gave it to me for free. Being on the road and having to sometimes use my phone data for things that really should have been able to be done at a hotel or venue’s wifi or ethernet, I could go through a GB in a day if I ran into a total internet fail when I needed to download large files, so suddenly having twice as much room for hotel/venue fail in my month was really great. And at home, forget it. I’d have to work really hard to ever approach that much usage.

So Today on the Train

I’m on the Long Island Rail Road right now. This brings me to the inspiration for this post. I took out my laptop, intending to blog about something else. I opened the lid, and the weather icon on my desktop immediately changed from cloudy to pouring rain. I was like, “how does it know that, it’s not connected to the…?” and then, right above my weather icon, I saw that my wifi was connected. And very carefully I moused over to it, thinking, “It can’t be… is it?” and opened the drop-down menu, showing that it was connected to my phone.

So basically what happened is, without any preparation or action on my part, I opened the lid of my laptop and pretty much as soon as the screen turned on, it had internet access.

Now what’s going on here is that Personal Hotspot and wifi are on on my phone. I generally leave both on by default, unless I’m worried about battery life. Also, having tethered over wifi before, my computer already is familiar with my phone’s network, and will join it by default when other networks it knows aren’t present, the same as it would do with any network it knows. Since wifi tethering became possible within the past year, I still use bluetooth a lot, mostly out of habit, and because I often have my wifi off when traveling to save battery life.

For whatever reason, all these factors have never come together for me before to create this beautiful effect of an instantanous, completely no-click tethering process. I’ve spoken before about how much I love the way Apple implemented tethering because it was previously a two-click process (pull down bluetooth menu, click “connect to network”), which equalled my previous favorite on the Treo 700p. This is fucking no clicks. Now, that may not always be what you want, but in this case that was exactly what I wanted, and it did it for me. It was one of those “I’m living in the future” moments, and tethering has been my wireless pet peeve for about 10 years, so to see it finally working as well as the technology is capable of (and legally, at that) is really heart-warming.

So, rock on, Apple, — and AT&T, I suppose you can rock on, too.

November 11, 2010

AT&T vs. Sucky Hotel Internet

I call this: phones,tech — Posted by KP @ 12:46 am

OK, AT&T. You win. The Holiday Inn Express in Palm Springs, the Hilton in Northridge, the Sandman Inn in Santa Barbara, the Hilton Suites in Phoenix, and the Hotel Arizona in Tucson have finally broken me. Take your $10, and be happy.

My iPhone provides so much more of a reliable internet connection than the wifi at any of these establishments, that I have exceeded my 2GB data allowance for the month for the first time since giving up the unlimited plan.

I could have made it, I think. I was on day 28 of my month. If things had gone well, I might have just snuck in under the wire. But trying to stream TV shows on my night off sent me over the edge. It’s physically impossible. And it’s really pathetic that I could connect with a freaking phone and watch shows without interruption. On AT&T, no less! So I decided that the internet this month has been so sucky that I deserve to be able to watch a show I want to see on my night off, and I don’t care if I have to pay ten bucks to do it.

This is why I tolerate AT&T’s tethering plan. I know what happens when you tour. You get screwed over by every hotel you enter — blocking ports (this one blocks my favorite MMO, and AIM, of all things, and God knows what else), terrible bandwidth, and things that load so slow that whatever you’re trying to do just plain times out, even if that thing you’re trying to do is check your email. And then there’s the Herberger Theater, which blocks email ports. There are times when you are so frustrated by lack of bandwidth that paying $10 per GB for a connection that works and is yours alone is actually worth it. I knew this day would come, and I am not upset at AT&T. I kind of wish I hadn’t hit this limit on something so frivolous like a 500MB TV episode, when I have plenty of other TV shows on an external hard drive, but it was more about expressing my freedom to do whatever the hell I feel like on the internet, when I want to.

So there. Are you happy now, AT&T? I’ll be giving you your 10 bucks, and I said something nice about you. Mark this day on your calendar.