Darn! The Net’s Gone Again!

I haven’t spent much time this week online in the pursuit of pleasure. Because the supposedly 256 Kbps unlimited Internet connection I took from Drishti Cablenet, Hyderabad (India) is more dead than alive. The unlimited portion is supposed to indicate no traffic cap. But I think Drishti interprets as absence of regular service. And is taking advantage of their monopolistic position. As no other ADSL suppliers in the vicinity have access to the gated ex-serviceman’s community I rent in. That’s because none are willing to pay the managing committee an up front lease fee calculated on the number of dwelling units instead of an agency fee based on the number of actual users.

Of course hindsight is brilliant. I should have learned from my previous experience with Drishti. As I was among their early adopters in mid-2002 but soon after surrendered the connection as I got no bandwidth at all! Then sometime in 2005, they upgraded their inbound connection to 256 kbps fiber optic and I hope things had improved. Initially my connection worked in fits and starts. With pretty good throughput during the late evenings, nights and early mornings. And then it fell dead.

In every instance I was unable to ping their local gateway server. Either said machine hangs often possibly caused by the truly positively medieval version of Xampp. Or I get an even better error: network cable disconnected. It seems the doofus who setup the cable didn’t leave enough slack at hub end of the connection. And the slightest breeze seems enough to take me offline. And making a complaint call promises immediate service that never happens.

So perforce I’ve fallen back on my thus-far trustworthy CDMA-based Tata Indicom 115 Kbps connection. Of course using the Internet means that no phone calls can be received or made. And the 250 MB traffic limit means that downloading larger files is a non-no. As is staying online except in bursts to avoid family tension. My teenage son receives these really long calls where nothing ever happens but not being able to talk is considered censorship!

With mobile telephony real cheap at just under $23 for a lifetime connection with free incoming, all he has to do is ensure his pocket money covers his outgoing bill. Even cell phone hand sets are waaay cheaper than just a year ago. And unless your handset’s a Nokia where dealers are encourage to trade-back older models in working condition. There’s little demand for second-hand stuff even in the non-urban, lower middle class markets.

Contrast this with 1999 when the MNC bought the latest phones for senior executive and traded in the previous model. This would then be re-sold on the black market admittedly at a fraction of the official list price. But still enough to net sellers a 150-200 profit on their acquisition price. Now most of my friends either gift older hand sets to technologically clumsy family members. Or reuse it as a perk accorded the driver so that he can be called when needed.

Of course my professional life, where I design and develop web sites and web applications (webapps), revolves around the Internet. And on the few occasions my Drishti connection actually works, I spend my time online updating my RSS news feeds. My reader utility is Curio Studio’s GreatNews a free news reader client that supports both XML and OMPL feeds. Can bookmark interesting items using an innovative Label feature. And can also check the last time a subscribed feed was updated and alert the user if the feed hasn’t been updated in months. GreatNews also includes support for tabbed browsing. As for writing this column, the build number is GreatNews 1.0 Beta (Build 364). And its free. So take advantage of the developer and download your copy. Believe me when I say that GreatNews is the best RSS reader I have ever used.

My web browser of choice is equally divided between Firefox and Opera 9 Technical Preview. Firefox because it supports both FTP using the FireFTP extension. As also web page capture using the ScrapBook extension. And in a twist you can also make Firefox pretend to be Internet Explorer (IE) down to using the IE engine and being able to run ActiveX all courtesy the IE Tab extension.

If you held off downloading Opera 9 Build 8246 Beta last week’s on account of the Flash rendering problem. There’s a treat for you: Opera 9.0 Build 8265 Beta resolves the bug and also introduces other improvements and bug fixes. All new is experimental support for Web archives, as well as two new navigation control for MacOS users. The content blocker toolbar structure and function have been improved. And the browser now conforms even better to the CSS Acid 2 test suite. Full disclosure is available on the Opera Desktop Team blog.

And if you still believe Firefox is the better of the two, do visit the Firefox Myths web site.

I find Wikipedia — The Free Encyclopedia a great information source. And far easier to use than a convention (i.e. print-based) encyclopedia. Of course there’s quite a bit of incomplete content. As well as articles flagged as controversial or containing unproven allegations. But that’s the nature of the beast. And there are thousands of entries containing valid, informative content. Don’t do yourself the disservice, schedule a visit today.

Another good information resource is the Digg technology news web site that combines social book marking, blogging, RSS, and non-hierarchical editorial control. It’s organized by topic, with the day’s top stories on the home page. Matter of fact this blog offers the Digg feed to left, below the side bar. I visit Digg at least one a day to check out what’s hot ‘n happening in programming, design, software, technology and security.

My Windows Defender Beta 2 hasn’t been working very well. Every morning it prompts me to download an update. Then gets confused and tries to download the same update (I checked the release number) at least 3-4 more time! So even if Defender does away with the annoying pop-ups. Windows Automatic Update checker (powered by Windows Installer 3.1) makes up with a prompt every few minutes. I’m not really sure that Defender is all that great. So unless Microsoft updates the software soon. I do recommend uninstalling it and rolling back to Microsoft Anti-Spyware.

And finally here’s a bit of freeware to ease the trials. And tribulations. Of migrating content from an older hard disk to a newer, higher capacity one. HDClone Free Edition 3.1.8 installs itself to a bootable floppy or CD-ROM and has its own operating system so it can run independent of partitions, file systems and operating system. It also supports proprietary data formats that remain inaccessible otherwise. And can either clone complete drives or remain limited to specific partitions. It supports IDE/ATA/SATA disks and can copy at 300 MB/min. The free version doesn’t support USB media. Read the Version Comparison to see which is best for you. Or download a copy immediately.

That’s it for the week. See you next time.

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