Electric Dreams

I’m greatly looking forward to the BBC4 Electric Dreams season. There’s some genuinely imaginative programming, addressing technology and the social and cultural impact as we progress. My only surprise is that it has taken so for long for a broadcaster to understand that this genre deserves its own strand of programming.

The idea of technological progression fascinates me. Simon Armitage approached a similar theme in his recent BBC4 documentary. Of course we’ve progressed – look, you can even stream the file via the always-impressive iPlayer.

But after a day of technology woes on two fronts, I’m starting to question if the digital lifestyle really does add value to the way we share information and skills.

Just when I was starting to take all this digital publishing slightly seriously,@uk2 go and bugger it all up with a simple flick of the online switch. Major server outage has affected my hosting network over the past forty-eight hours. Little data has flowed out of @uk2’s servers; even less customer communication has followed.

Which is a mild irritant if you are a bedroom blogger, bluffing his way around the modern interweb. But when you position yourself on the next entry level and start to take on proper paying clients, the incompetence of @uk2 doesn’t reflect too well on your professional reputation – especially so when the server goes offline on the day you choose to launch a site for a new client.

Whoops.

With a lack of customer support, both online and offline, @uk2’s flaking cpanel30 server finally limped back into action late Tuesday afternoon. My hosted site followed in dribs and drabs. ‘Online propagation’ has to be one of the most pointless and frustrating phrases involving the modern interweb.

The site was still showing database errors. A quick poke around my control panel and I noticed that @uk2 had somehow managed to delete a user from mysql database. They didn’t bother to tell me of course – 99% of knowledge on the modern interweb is acquired by bluffing.

And so now I’m back in business, although slightly lacking in full FTP access. All that I need now is a reliable ISP, or even better, a mobile solution so that I can update content with whilst on site.

I’ve been very impressed with the service I receive from be, following the great Pipex screw up of last summer. But what if I want to use my mobile ‘broadband’ (ha!) dodgy dongle for site updates?

Time for technology woe #2 of the day.

I’ve not used my dodgy dongle much of late. The utterly woeful weak signal I pick up in central London isn’t worth the frustration. Plus my iPhone pretty much meets my online mobile needs now.

The 3G signal supplied by O2 on the iPhone is consistently strong and reliable. Three however has taken a step Back to the Future, with 3G speeds still stuck on 40kbps. You would have to be rather foolish to rely upon this technology as your main broadband access point within the home.

Thankfully my contract is about to come to an end. I haven’t trusted Three from day one. Bullish marketing claims, coupled with an incredibly crappy customer service, has led me to take the network about as seriously as I take a spoddy video for Google Wave.

With my Three contract finally coming to an end next month, I thought it worthy of a phone call, just to get confirmation that the crappy network won’t continue to sponge off my bank account. Turns out the premium rate call was just about justified – without official notice to cancel, the contract would have entered into a rolling period. Utter pants.

But if this back door entry to continue fleecing my for a non-existent broadband service wasn’t bad enough, my simple call to cancel became an over-inflated sales pitch.

“Why do want to cancel your contract, Sir?”

“Um, because the service is rather poor and I no longer need the functionality.”

“Before I cancel the contract, Sir, I would like to walk you through some options that might just make you change your mind.”

Not on a premium line number you won’t, luv.

It was around this point in the conversation that I went from the mildly polite to taking the p***. All I wanted was an escape clause from Three, not a monologue reading of the latest sales pitch.

I closed the deal (YES!) by asking the poor Three employee if she wanted to come out with me to a party. I had a dongle party planned, which sadly isn’t as seedy as it sounds. The idea is for guests to arrive with their dongle of choice from across a variety of different network operators. If you haven’t got a dodgy dongle then you’re not coming in.

Rather than undertake traditional party parlour activities such as key swapping, the plan is compare and contrast network speeds. Mss Three didn’t seem too confident that her package would be the main party piece.

“No worries – about that cancellation then…”

The deal was done and I’m glad to be shot of the device. I accept that mobile broadband is a maturing technology, although Three’s product has yet to reach the bum fluff stage.

And so has technology enabled or held back my way of working? The Electric Dreams vision of the ’70s and ’80’s offered the utopian world with unlimited computational possibilities. You’d be better off working with an abacus than relying upon @uk2 and Three.

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