Prez Sez - October 1998
A Message From President Pat Hughes
Hello TPC members! I am definitely in the ex-Prez category by now and I would like to congratulate the new president and of course that even more important position of vice-president! Well, certainly for me the vice-prez was very important and I am glad Ken was there to do so much. In fact I think that he did a lot more than I so I want to say thanks again to him and to all the other executives!
I am again out of the country and if I do not arrange to get some fees paid soon I will be out of the club. I asked myself: "Why do I want to keep paying when I will not be able to even get the newsletter for the next few months?" The best answer I can give is that I want to help keep the club going - it does take money for the hall etc. - and I learned a lot over the years, so even for a backpacker the ¥10,000 is a fair price to pay especially when I can't help out in person. Of course if I am gone for a few years and lose touch with people then that will change, but for the next year or so I will make my contribution from afar.
Before I left I looked at a lot of notebooks and although I decided in the end not to buy one for a few months, I was amazed at how big a variety there is. There are a lot of things to think about when buying a notebook and I believe there is a previous article on this in the newsletter so I will not go into them here. But while travelling a few have become important to me:
Strange keyboards! You can find cyber or internet cafes in many places these days or you can use your friend's computer if you are lucky. But it is very frustrating if you want to write a long message (or article) and you find keys in different places or letters that you do not use in your language! Even if your notebook has some differences from your old desktop you do get used to the arrangement and can keep it with you. Stuart tells me that with a bit of practice (and the right size fingers) that even the tiny Libretto is just fine!
CD access! You can get a tiny notebook and think to yourself that you do not need the CD player very much and if you do then you can plug in the external attachment. That is good (and you must have a CD because almost all software comes on CD these days) but the externals that I saw all had to be plugged into a wall. This means no mobile computing with CD access. It also means that when you go to a country that has different outlets, you might just need two adapters if you want to recharge your computer while using it and the CD at the same time.
Computer outlets in flight! Yes, it seems that the airlines are getting friendlier to computer users. On a recent American Airlines flight that a friend took he found that 1 in 10 seats had outlets for notebooks. Nice deal - especially since his flight out of Tokyo was delayed by a typhoon so after using his notebook in the airport he could finally recharge during the flight! I hope that other airlines will do the same in the near future.
Public phones to access the internet
This is a handy feature that is probably not used very much but when you do use it it is great. You go to a grey public phone and not only can you access the Internet you can make a phone call at the same time.
Well it seems that Japan has kept ahead of the rest of the world in this category because you can't do it in Germany nor Denmark and I don't really expect to see them in Ireland or England either but maybe I will be pleasantly surprised. I know they did not have them in Canada or America last time I was there. Australia did not have this either but they did have terminals at the airport and in libraries, which is more than I have seen in Japan.
It is nice to see that Japan is making life a little easier for the travelling computer user but I think that if Japan really wants to get on the "Information Superhighway" they need to make access a little more common for those who do not have notebooks but want to check e-mail or the web by putting computers in libraries, airports etc. I would pay ¥100 for a few minutes use - well, hopefully more than just a few minutes. :-)
One cool thing for the collectors of telephone cards is that the telephone cards here (in Europe) have little IC chips on the card that look kinda neat. Of course for those who are in the business of re-programming and selling these cards it is not so neat and I am told by friends that fake phone cards are not a problem here.
On the road many people use Hotmail or Excite or one of the other "free" internet mail access... portals are they called? Anyway they are very handy and when they say "free" you do look at some banners or perhaps get a little be of direct advertising mail but I do not really find that a problem because of the convenience of use.
But what do you do when you want to access your usual account that you use for work and sending-receiving big programs or attachments? I have used Global Roaming (GRIC) which you can learn more about on the GOL homepage (other places as well I am sure but that is what comes to mind for me). It works just fine and you can just select the country or city you are in and go through a local provider and for a small fee you get your usual mail.One note on usage - when asked for your e-mail address it is a little different than you might expect. In my case it was: "firstname.lastname@example.org" not "email@example.com" as one would normally expect.
However, when you are on a friend's machine or at the Internet cafe you cannot really install this software or make changes so perhaps TELNET which is available from the Start:Run command in Win95 (and I assume Win98).
This is a text-based utility that lets you log onto your service provider's machine (ftp.gol.com for me) and then use the "mail" program to list, read, reply to and delete your mail. Deleting is especially important so that your mailbox does not get too full while you are away! To learn to use Telnet you just type "help" and you have the simple instructions.
For those people who do not want to go back to text-based systems (and have fast access for a bit of graphics) then I would recommend Startmail. A friend told me about this just before I left (thanks Camila :-) and although I have used it only once or twice so far I am impressed. It offers the ease of access of Telnet but with the graphics of Hotmail.
Internet - Does it work?
Sometimes I think the net is great especially when I can keep in touch as I go around the world. But there are times when I am not so impressed! I will not name the airline but I must say that some companies have the right idea about providing access to their customers to a variety of information but I sometimes wonder how well they test their sites?
Lots of flying can mean a free ticket now and then through mileage points. This is great as it encourages me to fly with one or two companies to build up my points. Being able to book over the net and check flights and availability is great - but only when it works! Normal complaints about sites talk about too many banners or graphics that take too long to download. I will agree that is a pain but you can control that a bit by setting your browser to show only text. Then if you want to see a picture you can click on it. This makes for much faster access.
However, when you have to chase around and around to find information... or when you say "yes this is what I want" then you have to go back to the beginning to order it... this is very frustrating! In particular for airlines it is not much use to say "no flights that day or time or city" which leaves you with the questions:
I can understand a telephone company making sites like this because they want you to stay on for a few hours - longer phone calls means more profit for them! But if someone is really trying to sell you something then they have to make sure you can get the information, make the booking or purchase and get off. True, I am trying to a free ticket in this case. But I am even more frustrated if I see that the company's site lets you buy a ticket very quickly and easily and offers you suggestions for different times or cities - but then makes it almost impossible to get your free ticket!
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