Amazing What You Can Achieve With A 3G Dongle

… as the actress said to the IT-aware bishop.

So, just back from more travels in the UK which – given that we were scheduled to fly out of Toulouse during the French “greve nationale” – went every bit as smoothly as you’d expect in those circumstances, but more on that later.

Thanks to, let’s say, several unforeseen changes, I was surviving by plane, train, automobile and a different hotel every night, meaning that I was relying on 15 minutes free WiFi time at Toulouse, then by 3 mobile data dongle in the UK. Survive in this case did not mean simply checking emails. Wednesday was a interesting day, testing onsite with a client in the Spirent test labs in glamorous Crawley and combining two webinars (UK then US audience) about our recent “securing a virtual data centre” testing (report available from the Broadband-Testing website as ever of course). No probs with the first; a quick break in play while the tests continued to run in mid-afternoon. The problems lay with the second, bearing in mind I was the key speaker at the webinar, scheduled for 7pm UK time except that the Spirent offices closed before then. So it was I found myself on a train bound for Brighton (hotel destination) emailing US Spirent parties to update them as to my, er, progress – given that this was the UK rail network. It was agreed that they would work the slides from their end and I would contribute by voice at least.

But I did better than that; arrived at the hotel bang on 7, courtesy of mad taxi driver (tipped honorably), ran up the stairs trying not to run over any OAPs (check out the Royal Albion Hotel, Brighton, but don’t plan on staying there until you’re 80+), un-hibernated laptop, connected to mains (safety first) and inserted said dongle – 90 seconds later, with a 5-bar signal I was on the webinar and ready to perform; suffice to say all went swimmingly in terms of signal strength and voice quality until it came to the awkward Q&A session when, spectacularly from a timing perspective, the signal went crap and I had to concede defeat and let my colleagues take the strain. We’ve all talked about bandwidth on demand but this was perfection…

Unlike the rest of the trip – so you know what happens when you make one enforced change and everything else falls apart at the seams; chain of event stuff? So, Tuesday’s planned flight turned into late night Monday flight, turned into delayed early morning flight; quick call to hotel to ensure they were aware of delay, all fine they said. So, we get to the hotel in Brighton at 1:15am and, guess what, no room at the inn for us. So they farmed us out to a nearby hotel for the night… For the second night they also farmed us out to a different nearby hotel; overbooked by 50 people – Brittania clearly needs a new reservation system for those of you reading who can supply one. And so the week went on, trains so late that the connection you thought you had missed was so late that you caught the (even more delayed) one before that. And trains that didn’t actually go to where it said they were going but stopped earlier, as in – all change, get out please. Nice. And so onto the return flight, early Sunday morning out of a packed (what ARE all these people doing at 6am on a Sunday in late October?) Gatwick and, just as we should take off we don’t, cos there’s a fuel leak been spotted in one engine, so it’s back to the gate to wait for an engineer to get out of bed and give it the once over, before finally being allowed to take off, the engineer explaining the concept of condensation and distillation to the pilot, “ah – cold, wet, then warm…”

Now back in White Octoberland of Andorra, with FTTH and glorying in 10MB downloads being as near to instantaneous as possible. But without that 3G dongle…

Meantime – checkout new Blue Coat URL Filtering report on the Broadband-Testing website and watch out for the arrival of a Certero AssetStudio report; another top UK start-up with an excellent Software Asset Management and Metering solution. Regarding aforementioned earlier testing, also watch out for the arrival of a report on the rejuvenated NetPilot – UKs answer to, er, all those US security appliance vendors – with excellent low latency results for a fully-functioning firewall (easy for you to say after 5 pints of Dark Star Best Bitter). Last but not least, watch out for a report on HP’s latest SMB wireless product; now a fixture in the Andorran abode, kicking the old Netgear (and old HP) into touch.