So we just did a mad dash to Quebec City and back last weekend. Five hours there, four hours back. Suffice to say all those MP3 Vaudeville CD’s I made (you can read about that here) paid huge dividends. We only had to play “Geography” for 2 hours!
This trip created two technological challenges for me. One is a great fix that I will talk about first. The second, although simple and requiring to great leap or technological find will be closed with a comment at the end.
The first challenge…
Our plans were to stay at my Sister in Law’s. Unfortunately she doesn’t have any Internet access, so I had to do some research and find a viable dial-up source so that we still had Internet access for our laptop.
I discovered a really amazing company, which deserves a five star rating. Their rates are a tenth of what everyone else charges. If you can use one of their local ports (within North America) then their cost is a minimal 0.8 cents a minute (compared to 8 and 9 cents a minute that everyone else was offering.) If you don’t have an access port then they have an 800 number available (ensuring that you will always be able to dial up the net) but the price jumps up to 5 cents a minute then (still less than what everyone else is offering for regular service.)
The secret to their being able to offer such great rates, I think, is in the way they market the time. You have to pay for it in advance… Now before you get all excited and frustrated, let me just say that this is still a great way to do business because:
- The time you purchase in advance will be available to you for a full year.
- The time you use is billed (or deducted) by the second for each second you are online.
- For the infrequent user it is still very affordable. For the frequent user it’s a huge savings!
They offer two prepaid plans:
- $9.95 gives you 1200 North American Minutes (or 200 globally or via their 800 number)
- $28.95 gives you 3600 minutes (or 600 minutes globally or again via the 800 number)
The magic for you, is in the year long availability and the extremely low cost package. Using an Internet cafe will certainly put you over the $10 mark in no time, and all the other packages that I found would have easily exceeded that mark in just over two hours. With this plan you can be online for up to 20 hours before having to deposit another nickel.
Like I said, I give this company’s plan a Five Star rating. Go to www.mytravelaccess.com to sign up or to find out more about it. It works for me!
The second challenge…
My Sister in Law has a rather old computer, given to her by her brother. It runs Windows98 and is a very basic machine. No USB ports, no wireless or even dial-up Internet (she said that she wasn’t interested.)
A couple of months back her brother gave her an old HP Deskjet printer that his office was retiring. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, there was no disk included with it (or at least one with the right drivers.) They had assumed that Windows would just “supply it”… so it languished on her desktop for months until I arrived.
This is usually a simple problem to solve. Just go the HP’s website and download the latest greatest driver package available for that printer. Except remember she had no Internet, nor USB port. So even though I was able to download the driver on my laptop, there was no easy way to transfer it to her machine.
She does have a 3.5 inch floppy driver, but current laptops (like the one I brought with me) do not. Most laptops now only come with a CD/DVD burner and thankfully, she did have a CD burner/reader on her computer. The only problem was I didn’t pack any blank CD’s and she never used hers and so didn’t have any either. We actually had to go out and purchase a blank disk the next day (she saw no need for more than one.) That worked and the printer was up and running within minutes.
So even though I travel with two USB storage sticks and my wife travels with one, they couldn’t be used in this situation. I guess in future I will ensure that I always travel with a couple of blank CD’s, just in case this situation ever happens again.
I really don’t think the Home Computer will ever become a normal “Home Appliance” which everyone can use and understand. The technology keeps changing too quickly and too frequently and as such it is always making itself quickly incompatible with older machines. It’s still happening and I am pretty sure that it will continue to happen.
Just think of what we have gone through already… 8″ disks to 51/4 inch disks to CD’s to DVD’s to double layer of both of those, to blueray to who knows where next month… and then throw in some ZIP drives and USB devices for excitement.
What do you think? Is the future always going to require a “techie” in the family to help out all those less fortunate? Or is there ever going to be a time when a computer (or computer interface) will work the same for everyone and be simple to operate and exchange information with?