Undercurrents


I’ve been watching with bemused interest as US geeks (apparently 120.000 of them, although I’d take any initial figures with a large grain of salt if I were you) rushed to pre-order their iPads and, deprived of the thrill of actually using it until it arrives, gushed forth on the details of their purchase and reasons thereof as if they were boasting about the pedigree of a puppy that is yet to be weaned and handed to them in a little basket.

Me, I’ll wait until it reaches Portugal, and do just as I mentioned on my very first take on it (have a look and then decide whether I want the 3G model or not). I’m sure I won’t be stretching the budget too far, though – another thing about having two kids is that makes you think twice about buying anything, and I don’t need storage or any kind of frilly accessories.

What struck as most interesting there was the amount of people mentioning the MiFi specifically, since that little box has been very popular recently (it’s also sold here – full disclosure: I work at Vodafone, here’s my disclaimer, etc., etc.), and despite having a 3G module on just about anything but my MacBook, I’ve long preferred having a personal router of sorts for the plain and simple reason that I’d rather have gadgets that do one thing very well rather than replicate their functionality on (and render more expensive) other devices1.

Embedded 3G is more convenient than a dongle, sure, but neither are very battery-friendly, and today’s laptops and netbooks aren’t exactly marathon runners – so even in some single user situations it makes a lot of sense to have something else bleeding out battery into the ether.

In fact, six years ago, long before Wi-Fi and mobile broadband were commonplace on phones, my colleagues and I did mostly the same with the Z1010 – it only supported a single serial Bluetooth connection, but one of us would carry it around in his bag and share the dial-up connection via Wi-Fi (often for a bit more than five folk).

And when staying somewhere while traveling, we just plugged it into the charger and hung it off the curtain rod, which became a running joke of sorts – but it was awfully convenient, because outside Portugal indoor coverage was pretty much non-existent, and even with Bluetooth’s limitations you could sit comfortably away from the nearest window.

Of course, those were the days before the Internet turned into a Flash banner festival, and that’s something else I’ve also been looking at. There seems to be a (well-deserved) backlash against both Flash and banner ads and reciprocal support for both2, with fascinatingly passionate (and often quite detailed) arguments on either side.

There’s even been an escalation of sorts in technical terms. I’ve noticed that Mark Pilgrim came up with a way to detect Flash blockers and Ars Technica did a very public (and, in my opinion, flawed and utterly predictable) experiment by temporarily shutting out people with ad blockers3.

Which was when I realized I hadn’t seen a Flash advertisement in months (I use ClickToFlash, of course) and that I don’t miss it for anything – not even video (and if I did, there are now literally sublime alternatives). Nor do I see the overwhelming majority of banner ads except Google’s contextual text-only advertising (because it’s actually relevant in several cases), or even portions of the new Facebook UI that I despise.

That, of course, is not the norm (few people would bother to customize their browsing experience that way, regardless of the payoffs), but either discussion has made more people aware that yes, you can do video (and more accessible and professional web sites) without Flash and that you can block advertisements altogether.

I’m curious as to where these will lead (mostly for the sake of the mobile browsing experience), but not really worried – a long while back people would shout blue murder over the use of the blink tag, so I guess these are just a sign of the Web’s later teen4 years.

1 In case you have a 2200 and are annoyed at being unable to just charge it over a USB port, the routeroverusb tweak may well be what you’re looking for.

2 Truth be told, more in favor of banner ads than “Flash”:Flash.

3 Which, ironically, failed in my case due to the way I use custom CSS to block ads – and have for years now.

4 Mosaic came about in 1993, so the Web’s 17 right now, and I think it’s finally showing enough sense for us to let it borrow the car keys, start looking for its own flat, and maybe in three years or so (once it gets over its current phase of dating every cloud computing model it meets) finally get married to HTML5, provided it invites auntie Microsoft to the wedding.