Friday, May 05, 2006

Broadband (?) on the road

In advance of my vacation in Myrtle Beach, I had resigned myself to the prospect of infrequent opportunities to connect to the internet. But my brother-in-law was going to have to check his email regularly for his graphic design business, so he brought along his laptop and made some initial contacts to the resort to find out what he would need. There were assurances that connecting would be simple. If only it had been so.

The ResortLynx system required accepting a charge through the television of almost $10 for unlimited use of the wi-fi connection for a twelve hour period. The help screen on the television provided a username and password, and reminded the customer to enable pop-ups on the computer. The system was intended to give a "challenge page" to the computer when one attempted to access the internet, and one would then log in using the username and password.

No challenge page appeared. Why? What was involved was no mere pop-up, but some kind of script. My brother-in-law was using a Macintosh with Safari as his browser. Safari had pop-ups enabled, but would not process the specific script.

Our work-around was to use a dial-up connection to another ISP and download a different browser -- one that could have been downloaded at home in advance of the trip had any information been provided that the broadband system did not work with Safari.

Netscape worked fine for logging in. Once there was a broadband connection we downloaded FireFox, which was also able to handle the log-in to the wi-fi system.

Over the course of the week, the broadband connection was spotty. At times it seemed to download data at a good clip, but it would also frequently slow down to a crawl or even a dead stop. By the end of the week, we were back to using the dial-up connection in order to have reliable, slow but steady access to the internet.

Lessons learned:
  1. When travelling, have a few browsers available.
  2. Those slow dial-up connections you used to use can come in pretty handy.
  3. If you are providing internet service to others, be sure to tell prospective customers what they will actually need to connect to your system.

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