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GPRS is Getting Better

I’m back in Vancouver now, have been for a few days.

First, thanks to those who took the time to email me regarding my last rant, about my Mom’s condition. It means so much. Ditto to the two of you who (as of this writing) posted comments. A micro update – her platelet count is dangerously low, so low they are considering blood transfusions. We keep hoping for the best.

Wireless Internet

I’m starting to like GPRS. For those who don’t know, it is General Packet Radio Service, and through my GSM cellular phone (Fido, in Canada), for an extra $50 a month, I have unlimited, wireless internet connectivity in almost every major city in North America (California excepted, or any place that only Cingular covers).

$50 might seem like a lot, and early on with the performance I was getting, $50 was a gip, but my opinion on that is changing. I should note that before Fido offered the $50 all you can eat special, I was subscribing to a metered service for $75 a month, and only 20mb. I was ready to drop it all together, when the unlimited plan came available, so I hung on. The fact that is was unlimited, North America wide made it more appealing – I could go to Seattle, or Boston, or Chicago, and be “connected”. With my Thinkpad, with my Pocket PC, heck, even with my iBook (after finding suitable hacks and stuff – Motorola, the maker of my GPRS/GSM phone (Timeport P280) does not support the Mac).

Right now, as I type this, I’m sitting outside Calhoon’s Bakery on W. Broadway in Vancouver. I’m downloading iSync for my iBook, a 6mb file, and I’m getting 5,800 bytes per second. I would say that’s faster than a 56k modem – maybe. I’m not sure on the math (if you know the byte vs bit math for a 56k, 33.6k modem, can you post in the comment how many bytes per sec those techs are?).

If they can continue to provide those speeds, I’ll be happy paying for the service. But as little as a few months ago, I was barely getting 2,000 bytes a second on a download. I found that unacceptable. Hopefully it continues to improve.

I ended up using GPRS a ton the past three weeks, in cities like Seattle, Portland, Boston, and Ottawa. It turned out to be a godsend because I was counting on using my Mom’s high speed access in Ottawa, but could never get the Rogers cable modem working with my iBook’s Ethernet connection. I averaged about 5,000bytes per second connection speeds in Ottawa, which, while slow, was still a good clip. IM’ing was pain free, and email checks took at most 2 minutes.

One really cool aspect of GPRS connectivity was when I was in committee meetings for the SCAA while in Boston. I could silently connect to the Internet, and while discussions carried on, I would load various pages or online information about the stuff we were talking about. It really helped reinforce a few points I was raising, and helped me do on-demand research.

Lastly, I got another email from John Dvorak, one of my favourite tech authors. John liked what I wrote about blogs and his articles covering them some time ago. It’s kinda cool to get an unsolicited, personal email from one of your writing heros. In my case, I’ve heard from Dvorak twice now! Cool!

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