Posts Tagged ‘Internet’

As has been reported at many sites (see, for example the report at News24, a local company pitted a carrier pigeon against Telkom’s ADSL service to see who could get 4GB of data transferred faster from Howick to Hillcrest – a distance of about 75km by road. The pigeon was 95% faster.

Telkom is, of course, not amused and claims it’s “not their fault”. Yep, that roaring sound hear is the laughter of thousands of subscribers who beg to differ. I, for one, am not surprised as the copper quality in our area is so bad the service is unusable. The one thing not mentioned is that it would probably also have been cheaper to buy the pigeon and feed it for a year than to use Telkom’s service…

So, for all that moaning about being stuck in the Dark Ages, here comes proof that even older technology can help. Anyone know of good prices for homing pigeons?


So there’s been a lot of hope and excitement about the impact of the new Seacom undersea cable which provides us with increased international bandwith – multiple times the speed at 80% less of a cost. I was hoping that we’d see the benefits soon after deployment of the cable (which happened on 23 July), but there’s nary a sight of them on the horizon.


One of the reasons seems to be (from a report here) that companies are still tied into fairly lengthy contracts for use of the existing SAT-3 cable ripoff. Makes sense that they would only be able to lower their prices then as they were able to run those contracts out and brought more of the Seacom access into the mix. I can’t avoid the cynical thought, though, that they may just want to keep charging consumers who are already used to paying high prices so that they can pocket the difference all for themselves. Here’s hoping real competition proves me wrong – otherwise the Competition Commission might just have more work to do. If we’re actually to move with the rest of the world into the digital age and use broadband as it’s meant to be used, rather than just as fast dial-up, cheaper and faster access is critical.

Anyway, it seems that lower prices are at least 12 to 18 months away so I’ve had to try to decide what is going to work best for us and it’s been rather frustrating. Usually, I’d recommend ADSL to people but the quality of the copper in our area is so appalling that it’s a no go – we tried that option and had to ditch it. Wireless connectivity options abound, but they are expensive if you’re not willing to be tied into a contract of two years as operators require you to purchase your own equipment (even if they offer it to you on a financed option). Not wanting to shell out R2,500+ for routers from various providers (I want to share my connection with at least 3 machines), I’ve opted for a 3G option tied to using WMWifiRouter on one of my old devices (gotta find a use for them!). It’s actually working relatively well – as long as I don’t use my internet access to compare our pricing with the rest of the world…

I’d be curious to know what kind of setup others are using – let me know.

The end of the world! Or not.

Posted: August 15, 2009 in Uncategorized

Ah, urban legends. The Internet and email has certainly made it easier to communicate with each other, but it’s also made it a lit easier to spread those juicy stories of greed, fear or doom that we seem to be unable to resist.

You know the kind, because we’ve all got them in the past. Bill Gates/Coke/Sun is going to pay you $10 for every person you forward this mail to! Gang members are going to shoot you if you flash your headlights at them! Jackie X has been missing for two weeks! Sandra Y wrote this beautiful poem while dying of cancer! Unfortunately (or fortunately), these stories are hardly ever true. Even more fortunately, you don’t have to check them out personally because these are some people who have already done so.


My personal favourite site for checking out the validity of these stories is Snopes. The site is run by the husband and wife team of Barbara and David Mikkelson and they take the time to investigate these rumours thoroughly. Most of them have tell tale signs (no specific names but “I know a guy who knew a guy”) but some require deeper deconstruction and this they manage to do very effectively, also pointing out the stories that are actually true. I like their thoroughness, logic and the approach to the investigations and their site is well organized enough to be able to find various urban legends easily.

Go on, the next time you get one of these rumours in your inbox, visit the site and check it out before passing it on. I swear, if I get one more mail promising me payment for passing it on…

— Posted From My iPod

I often hear people saying that they don’t have internet access at home. Well, guess what? If you have a cellphone, you most likely have internet access too. Most cellphones these days can be used as a modem through a process known as tethering; in SA, it’s one of the cheapest and easiest ways to connect once you’ve set it up.

The first thing you would need to do is to ensure that your sim card data enabled. This may already be the case: to check, go to your phone’s browser (should be easy enough to find in the menu, maybe listed under “Web”) and start it up and go to any website – try for something that is quick and small. You should get a screenshot that looks something like this:


If you get online, your card is enabled, if not, you can make a quick call to the MTN/Vodacom/Cell C help desk and they will SMS you the settings, which should auto install once you accept them. Then you’re ready for the next step.

That next step is to connect your phone to your PC using the cable and the synchronisation software that came with your device. That software should contain a component allowing you to connect to the web. In the case of Nokia’s PC Suite, the icon looks like this:


In the case of Windows Mobile, you need to go into the menu of your device and find an application called “Internet Sharing”:


Once you’ve found the relevant app, it should be as simple as selecting it, with the software prompting you to input any settings that it can’t add automatically. Try opening your internet browser and you should find yourself surfing away happily, nothing further needed.

There are several advantages to using this method of connecting – in SA, at least:

  • You don’t need to sign up with an ISP, as your cellphone provider is effectively your ISP, so you save on that cost and aren’t tied in to anyone specific.
  • You don’t need to purchase any additional equipment, as you already have your cellphone!
  • If you have a 3G cellphone, not only can you receive calls and use the data connection at the same time, but chances are that you’ll be connecting at a faster rate than most of Telkom’s offerings (certainly much faster than your usual 56k dial up connection).
  • You can buy bundles, which makes it often cheaper than Telkom’s self-vaunted offerings. Sure, the R289 for 1GB seems poorer value than the R199 for 1GB on ADSL, but you can then do without the R110 per month line rental for the copper connection, which makes it cheaper to use 3G. Let’s not even start doing the calculations if you can get away with using less data on a monthly basis.
  • It’s portable, portable, portable. Use it virtually anywhere.

Many people I know don’t take advantage of what the internet offers simply because they think their access is restricted or non-existent. Not so, and this might help to get that digital revolution happening in SA just a little bit faster.

Real broadband comes closer

Posted: January 15, 2009 in Uncategorized

The Seacom cable is now reported to be going live at the end of June, meaning significant changes to the access South Africans will enjoy to the information highway. The cable has a capacity of 1.2 terabits per second as opposed to Telkom’s measly 30 gigabits per second.

The best part of this, for me, is the promise that data caps will increase greatly or become a thing of the past. It’s not so much the speed I crave – I can live with the 1mb/s or so I’m getting at the moment – it’s the ability to grab what I want from the ‘net without worrying about whether or not I’m going to hit a cap and run out of bandwidth for the month. Cheaper would be better too! Roll on July…

This Digital Thing

Posted: December 11, 2008 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

I’ve long been a fan of the internet and, since I’m old enough to remember when it was still a mysterious, geeks only domain, I’ve been able to watch the fascinating process of it becoming increasingly integrated into our daily lives. One of the things that has been the most absorbing has been to see the effect that it’s had on the way that people interact, so it was with great interest that I read an article on the subject in the latest issue of Popular Mechanics.


The article chronicles some of the development of Facebook and Twitter, particularly on the way that these sites allow users to post and follow snippets on their thoughts and current feelings – the ‘Status updates’ on Facebook and the whole reason for being of Twitter. It refers to this as the creation of ‘ambient awareness’, like seeing out of the corner of your eye so that you know something without being intimately involved in it. The writer makes several interesting points, among them (and this was a new thought to me) that the social networking phenomenon is now so pervasive that you can’t really opt out anymore: people are going to end up talking about you so you need to be connected just to know what they are saying and to make sure that people are getting the right image of you. Other points that were interesting were that social networking is beginning to mean that you never really lose contact with anyone anymore: people you thought were in and out of your life for good (like old classmates from 20 years ago) now have an easy way of finding you and keeping in touch – and, if you’re addicted to status updates, of knowing how you’re feeling all the time. Also, the point is made that the fact that you are connected to so many people who know you in “real life” means that you don’t get to hide your personality anymore or project a false one, because there will always be someone who knows you that counters the impression you are trying to make.

There are quite a few thoughts that arise when reading an article like this, and I’m tempted to send a copy to everyone who is, err, a little older and can’t relate to the phenomenon at all. What comes across is the way that this kind of digital interaction is very often an adjunct to relationships in the physical world, so that it’s an enhancement to knowing someone, not a substitution. My wife tells me that her father couldn’t fathom the way that she could see one of her friends at school all day and then go home and speak to them for an hour on the phone; perhaps this is just another way of doing that.

But not everything about it can be rosy. The article itself suggests that some people can become addicted to this kind of information overload and that awareness of all these emotional states can become almost overbearing; we can become overstretched emotionally and then lack resources to respond to “normal” situations as one should. There is also (obviously) the danger that people will use this as a substitution for developing relationships in the physical world and that their addiction to being online will be fed but also placated by the illusion of sufficient contact with people as a result of knowing their status updates.


For myself, I still have a couple of reservations. One is simply the time involved: while I understand that it doesn’t take much time to read a news feed on Facebook or post a couple of status updates, it still means you’re going online quite a lot to follow all this, and those of my friends and family who use Facebook more extensively (groups, games and the million other invitations I always seem to get) must surely find it taking up a significant portion of each day. What else are you sacrificing or ignoring to be able to do this? Hopefully it’s television!

On another level, I wonder about the effect of confining all your thoughts to the SMS length posts that Facebook and Twitter encourage. The PM article suggests that these kind of posts can be a healthy thing because they lead to a greater sense of self awareness, but it seems to me that any kind of in depth understanding and expression of your thoughts and feelings is going to take more than a “sound bite” to get across. You need a lengthy post to get a complete picture across: are we becoming content with shallowness if we confine our expressions to status updates and short comments on them? I think we run the risk these days of skimming too lightly over information, thoughts and interaction and I don’t know that this actually helps at all. We’ll end up with great keyboard skills but little else.

It’s difficult to say how this is all going to play out because it’s something truly new, with potential impacts on the way we maintain our relationships that were just not possible before. It certainly seems to be here to stay; we’ll watch developments with interest.