Offline Nuisances

June 24, 2006

In Galloway, for my grandmother's 90th birthday party. Her actual birthday was last year, the 26th of December. Who can blame her for moving it? Approximately five billion relatives of various ages will descend on us on Sunday.

Anyway, being here rather than at home involves… dial-up. You forget what life was like in the old days, before ubiquitous broadband access.

MacOS X isn't very good at dial-up. See Pierre Igot for a comprehensive description of the bad things that can happen. I think maybe that certain people think it a little old fashioned and less than cool. But it can still be handy. And the whole point of the Mac is to do everything really, really, well. Only a fool would say it does that just now.

What particularly annoys me is the way apps don't seem to realise they're offline. So Camino says "can't find the web-site" instead of "can't reach the internet". Mail is particularly clumsy, falling offline without a word. Also, Internet Connect liesabout the status of the PPP connection, and often sits there for whole seconds saying "connecting" when in reality, the connection has already been made. This is misleading. Error messages should either retain a zen-like vagueness, or say exactly what's wrong. They shouldn't be somewhere in between, leaving me to play a guessing game with my computer.

This non-zen-like vagueness catches me out every time my broadband connection falls over, because the error messages don't indicate if there's a connection problem or a DNS problem. It invariably takes me a few minutes to realise what's going on, and those few minutes tend to be annoying. Is it DNS? Is it the Airport? Definitely a nuisance.

And, clearly, boring old-fashioned dial-up can give you insights into more modern forms of connection.

If I can ever afford a MacBook, I'll be going for one of them USB modems. It's not a facility I use a lot, but round here, it's certainly not one I can do without. You never know when it'll come in handy. And who knows, one day I may need to send a fax.

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