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Friday, 11 December 2009

Friday guest blog: The joy of networking

by Alan Salter CMILT
Editor and Managing Director of Transport Matters

I am a very busy man. I only have time to write this because my internet provider has let me down and I can’t get into my website to work on it.

It started when I decided to buy some expensive software to make the pages of my online magazine turn. So impressed was I that I thought I had better give the website a revamp to I upgraded my hosting package to a more sophisticated one. I’ve signed up, paid up, and so far I have a half built website online ruining my reputation and a Exchange email account which is bouncing back emails.

Oh, and after two long phone calls to support at 6p a minute to a country which sounds like it may be in South America, and three threatening emails (from my webmail account), I am left with this: “In this regard, we need to reescalate (sic) your case to our Administrators. Please wait for an update from them.”

I am a bit of pioneer in this computer lark. I still have, in my wardrobe, a Sinclair Spectrum. I upgraded proudly to one of the early IBM pc’s - and promptly deleted the operating system by mistake. Of course a computer without an operating system is as much use as a large stone. You need the software to switch it on.

Fortunately, my brother-in-law worked in software at the time and managed to reboot using a floppy disc (remember them?) I even wrote a humorous article for a computer magazine about the experience. They didn’t print it.

My interest in computers being known at work, I was invited to get involved in the early days of the Manchester Evening News website. I was conned.

This involved mainly the clerical duties of inputting stories of the day and going through an extremely flaky process of uploading to the web. If it worked OK, it took an hour and a half. If it went wrong it could take all day - and as the paper did not come out until lunchtime in those days, when it went wrong, I ended up staying late.

But now, having attended a course on convergence at the University of South Carolina I am as close to an IT expert as I can afford.

So, having set up my own business, I moved on to the joys of networking. There are two sorts of networking. One involves drinking wine and handing out business cards and there is wireless networking. The later is a joyless affair which involves inputting very long passwords over and over again and tearing your hair out.

And when it is down, it can feel like you have been put into solitary confinement. Having become so dependent on the internet, being deprived of it is like walking around blindfolded.

On the move, power management is the big issue. I took my laptop to Germany last week, complete with charger and continental adapter. But the adapter did not fit German plugs and my battery, as usual lasted 10 minutes. I ended up having to write out in longhand a feature about a new electric train being built by the Germans for Scottish railways. Once back in blighty, I found a plug, fired up the laptop, keyed in the text and emailed it off.

In the olden days, we would have found a phone box and dictated the story to a copy typist while members of the public banged on the door, impatient to use the telephone.

There, that’s off my chest and still no news on the website. I’ll have to find something else to do. Perhaps I’ll clear out the shed.

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