Monday, July 02, 2007

Geeks vs. Romans


I recently went on a vacation to Italy. Although it was purely a vacation, I wanted to have Internet access, and stay in touch with home base. I did NOT want to schlep my laptop along, and as a longstanding Sprint customer, I don't have a GSM phone. (My girlfriend does have an AT&T GSM phone, but, when in Rome I wanted to do as the Romans, but not PAY for the Roamin'!) Always looking for an excuse to acquire a new gadget, I picked up a NOKIA N800 for Internet access and to stay in touch with email, twitter, etc., as well as to use it as my European phone, taking advantage of VOIP with the slick N800 version of Gizmo Project. (Still waiting for the long promised N800 SKYPE client).

First off, I love the N800 and when you have wi-fi available, it is a sweet little Internet demon, making web based email and content a pocketful of fun... Did I say when you have wi-fi available? That's the hitch! I think my expectations of wi-fi proliferation in Italy were grossly overestimated. My first night in Rome, I was thrilled to see that my hotel had wi-fi in the lobby. After we settled into our room for the evening, I rushed downstairs, N800 in hand. The hotel wi-fi service was not free, and the onscreen login instructions were in Italian, so it took me several tries and finally some translation from the concierge to get the right info into the right fields in order to buy an hour for 3 Euros. At a different hotel in Florence, I had to join with yet another wi-fi provider, this time for 25 Euros, for a block of five hours, good for a year. Of course, the rest of the trip, I never encountered another hotspot where I could use the remainder of my time on the 25 Euro account.

I became hot for hot spots, and everywhere we went, I whipped out the N800 to see if there was a wi-fi signal... Note to self: Saying, "Hang on a minute Honey, I want to see if there is wi-fi here" is a surefire way to take the romance out of any quaint and charming Tuscany cafe... I even found myself piggy backing a signal from a nearby office building while our Tour Bus was stopping to pick up passengers... only to lose my email as the bus pulled away...

So the net, net, is that the net is not as pervasive as I wish it would be. And my girlfriend's $400 phone bill was proof positive that Geek or not, when in Rome we paid for the Roamin'!

UPDATE: Skype for the N800 is now available and it is SWEET! Kissed my Gizmo goodbye...
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