Thursday, April 01, 2004

Studies in nerdiness

Yesterday evening, I was in central London. I was expecting a call from a friend of mine, who I was planning on meeting with for coffee. As it happened, she called me just as I was walking through Soho Square. She asked me where I was, and I said that I was in Soho Square. As it was a beautiful spring evening, she suggested that we in fact get take away coffees, and drink them while sitting on the grass of Soho square. As I was waiting for her to arrive, I made a quick run to Oxford Street, where I purchased a couple of take away lattes and went back to the square. I sat down, and as I was waiting I got my laptop out and looked for WiFi coverage.

There was a wireless network with the SSID "Base Station". This is always a good sign. If wireless network has a name like "Base Station" or "Default" or the name of a manufacturer like "eTec" or "Belkin demo" or something like that, there is a good change that the owner is using the access point with its default settings, which means that security is likely turned off any anyone can connect to it. (Whether or not they intend to allow anyone to connect to it, I have no idea. In some instances it is no doubt deliberate, and in some instances it isn't). In any event, I had a perfectly good internet connection in the middle of Soho Square. This is perhaps not surprising given that Soho Square is about ground zero in the British media universe. Lots of people are using all sorts of technology in the area. But it was still kind of surreal. (LCD screens do not do especially well in environments that are bright and/or have lots of scattered light. Bring on OLEDs. But I digress).

My friend arrived, and we sat down and had our coffee and surfed the net for a little bit. It was kind of surreal. The Dell Inspiron 8600 is a little big and clunky, and I quickly looked up the Sony TR2 and showed her how cool that would be. Then for some reason the conversation got round to iPod accessories and then the car she wanted to buy, in the way that subjects which you talk about and browse do change. In any event, we had a very pleasant evening before going our own ways. She told me that she had had a fun evening, and that she would remember the time she sat in Soho Square and surfed the net with me.

Actually, I doubt it. We are in a transitional period with respect to communications. I think it is unlikely that we will be telling our grandchildren about this, other than in the context of "Thinks were once so primitive that this was a novelty". It isn't going to be long before every electronic device that we own is going to automatically connect to global communications networks as a matter of course.

But it is fun for now.


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