As I write, my iPhone is perched on the side of my MacBook Pro, wirelessly tethering me to the world wide web. This isn’t through choice, but as a result of British Telecom having land line problems between themselves and my street, and Orange’s 3G coverage being sufficient to keep me going in the meantime.
British Telecom broadband blues
So how does a guy like me get by without broadband access? Because of where I live, I never had great broadband coverage to begin with — the village where I live is very much at the end of the line, so the potency of the connection has, by this point, dropped off dramatically, and one megabyte is all that can be mustered.
I first noticed a problem with connection on Saturday morning, while trying to check my email over cornflakes. I didn’t have much time because I was due out for an early meet-up with the guys from the gym to go shooting at a local gun club, a first for me.
Anyway, I soon realized there was no connection. I called British Telecom and their automated system confirmed there was a fault and sent me a couple of text messages, one giving an estimated time for when the line would be fixed. In the meantime, I had my iPhone.
I’ve since tried finding out why telephony access is down for my entire street on the British Telecom website, but they only provide a bland and vague statement, which asks that I contact (a presumably automated system on) a telephone number for more details, which is sadly ironic, given I was on their business support website at the time.
Things look brighter with Orange
On my return later in the day, the line was still dead, so I decided to contact Orange, the mobile service provider for my iPhone, to see what tethering packages they had. In fairness to them, it wasn’t entirely their fault that I spent the best part of fifteen minutes trying to find the right number, both in the printed documentation I got with the iPhone and on their website. That said, the website should be much clearer in that regard.
Eventually, I got through to a guy called Steve and I paid five pounds for the 500 megabyte tethering add-on for my account, and qualified for a 10% discount for being a long-standing customer (for several years), although there was some initial confusion about this because their system showed that a 10% discount already existed on my account, which apparently shouldn’t have. After a quick squint at my last two bills from Orange, I couldn’t find anything about that.
Moments after the call ended, I got a text message from Orange, telling me to turn my iPhone off and then on again and I would have tethering access.
At the end of my tether?
I suspected there were some issues with tethering an iPhone to my version of OS X (10.4.11 and not the most recent). I was right. I would have preferred to connect my iPhone physically, via the USB cable, but my MacBook Pro wasn’t having any of that.
A very mild case of Bluetooth ache
So I had to use Bluetooth, which didn’t exactly fill me with joy. However, the connection is brisk and reliable, aided by the fact that the 3G coverage by Orange is, over all, very good.
Aside from the USB issue, connecting my MacBook Pro to my iPhone was straightforward. I wouldn’t say it was simple because it’s not a core everyday activity, so it’s a bunch of options inside Settings on the iPhone and several more on the MacBook Pro. So even by Apple’s much vaunted standards in simplicity, I can see people easily coming unstuck here. However, I must allow for mitigating circumstances; those being me not using the most up-to-date version of OS X.
Of course, this being Bluetooth, proximity is everything — the closer the two coupled (or “paired”) devices are, the faster the connection. So my iPhone is delicately balanced on several cables protruding out of the side of my MacBook Pro.
Going 100% wireless, even if just for a short while
Is it possible for a web designer and developer to go 100% wireless? For now, yes. However, this is the weekend and I’ve not needed to shunt large files around. As a designer and a programmer, my needs can vary dramatically. Only this last week or so, I’ve been:
- creating videos for an up-coming WordPress ebook, which I’ve uploaded to Octane’s own Channel on YouTube;
- working on some designs for a client website, sending emails containing design drafts created in Adobe Photoshop;
- making changes to the Octane website, some of which use data from BrightKite, a location-based photo sharing and messaging service;
- while yesterday, I was uploading the videos and photos I’d taken at the shooting club onto Facebook, via my iPhone.
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So that gives you some idea how diverse my activities can be, all of which are doable on a one megabyte connection, some of which doable on the 3G connection I have right now.
To be perfectly honest, I’d be screwed / lost without my iPhone. I can genuinely run certain aspects of my business while on the move. This really comes into play when I’m mobile and my clients need things then and there.
Recently, I’ve been toying with the idea of getting rid of the business telephone number and just using my mobile number instead, or even using other messaging services. But that’s a long-term plan.
Speaking of the long-term, mobile broadband will become much more commonplace and, to some extent, nudge out the need for a physical connection, allowing people to become even more mobile. However, costs are an issue right now, even in connections speeds aren’t.
For myself right now, any connection will do.