Software solutions for a mobile world

Having in past blog entries, extolled the virtues of mobile broadband and a mobile 3g router I thought I would share my experiences of last week. Mobile broadband is all very well, when everything is working as it should, but what happens when you have problems? We had a week in Menorca last week, and as usual, I went to top up my Vodafone dongle for a weeks unlimited access. It usually takes about an hour to permeate the system, so I wasn't too perturbed when I checked it out later and it wasn't working, but it didn't start working until the following morning.

It worked for a couple of hours, and then packed in - no connection. I spoke to the lovely lady in the Vodafone shop, and she said she would check out my number. Still no joy a few hours later. Phoned back, to be told there were problems with the network. I put this down to the usual bullshit. Was talking to a friend later, in his restaurant, when he was told the credit card validation system wasn't working. You guessed it - they use a mobile device for CC validation, and it couldn't get a network connection. Hmmm - possibly not bullshit then.

As ours is a pretty small business, emails can be vital to us. Not replying to a customer query, or not replying to a potential customer could really hurt us. Would Windows Phone 7 cut it as my only means of comms for a week? I had tried this in the past with various releases of Windows Mobile, and in that case, the answer was always a resounding NO!

I don't switch on Data Roaming whilst abroad due to not having the wealth of a Bill Gates to pay the ridiculous prices still being charged for data roaming. So I was dependent on wireless hot spots. There are 2 free wireless hot spots within a couple of hundred yards of where we were, so to check my mail, I just loitered outside for a couple of minutes to pick up my mail. I could then reply to it at my 'leisure'.

An increasing number of bars and restaurants, certainly in Menorca are providing free WiFi, and as we tend to spend some of our time in bars and restaurants, this proved to be convenient for both checking and sending mail. Admittedly, it does seem a bit ignorant to be sat tapping away on a phone whilst sat with your lovely wife in a bar, but needs must. (It is certainly less ignorant than the couple who sat next to us in a restaurant, ordered their meals, and then both got out paperbacks to read, and completely ignored each other!)

So, I spent a week effectively without Internet access and just my Windows Phone 7. I found it far less of a chore than I originally thought it would be. Outlook on the phone is a great implementation, and I had no problems keeping up to date. I love the way WP7 remembers the hot spots you have connected to in the past, so when you go back to a bar, you automatically pick up your mail. The browser wasn't a problem either - I could check my bank (try doing that on Windows Mobile), keep up to date on any football transfer news etc.

Much as I didn't appreciate it at the time, a week without a permanent umbilical connection probably did me good - stopped me checking something, then getting involved, and then wondering where the last two hours had gone. I was quite happy that I could keep up to date without data roaming, and using hot spots. Also gave me an excuse to spend more time in bars to have a cooler in the heat.

I would have no hesitation in going away for a few days withouth my precious laptop, and just relying on my phone - I certainly wouldn't have said that about previous incarnations.

Originally posted 29/Jun/2011


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