Monday, 20 June 2011
Hooptedoodle #30 - Broadband & Bloodpressure
Not another rant, surely? You betcha. I live in the country, maybe 7 miles from the telephone exchange, maybe 4 miles from the nearest fibre-optic cable. We get (i.e. pay for) a half-meg broadband service, which on the face of it is not so bad, considering everything, and my little publishing enterprise is based very heavily on email and electronic data transfer. The service used to be fine, but, sadly, in effective terms, our broadband here is getting slower. It is slower than it was 5 years ago - much slower. This is not because the cables are rotting, or the technology degrading in some way - it is because of commercial strategies and some astonishingly dumb assumptions made by the service providers and the life-sucking advertising schmucks who cling to their softer parts.
I am only a fringe technician, but I've worked with computers, the internet and general communication issues for enough years to have a good grasp of what goes on. The recent (and continuing) problems with Blogger have been a reminder of the situation - I have no wish to pick on Google as a prime baddie here, they are only one among many, but anyone who has a high profile is sort of inviting a whack on the head, so let's pick on Google for a start.
Some of our local difficulties seem to come from the fact that ISPs and website designers assume everyone has fast broadband, and so jam up the bandwidth with adverts and unnecessary ornamentation - cute videos and suchlike - but also we appear to have problems caused by what seems to me like unnecessary interactivity. Example - when using Google search, I start entering a search string, and by the time I've typed in 4 characters it has already started listing search results on what I've typed so far. The bad thing about this is that it has missed 2 of the characters I typed because the computer's attention was distracted, waiting for buffered responses from elsewhere. I don't need the stupid thing to predict what I'm going to ask for, it isn't clever or helpful - well, it's probably clever, but mostly it's just an irritant.
Similar thing using Google's email service (which I do all the time for my publishing stuff) - I keep having to retype missed characters and the typing falls behind with buffering, because the idiot program is checking what I've typed to see if it can identify, and supply, an unsolicited ad for "sunshine holidays in Prestonpans" or similar based on the words it finds there - this seems to be a continuous monitoring, requiring a hefty dialogue with the ISP's server which causes delay and screws everything up. Google again: Blogger seems to provide continuous update of pages, which is not necessary at all, and just causes problems and delay (and my CPU fan to come on!) if the traffic rates are too slow to cope with this. If a blog page is open as a background tab on the browser, it appears to hold things up in the foreground while Blogger searches for updates. Not necessary. Dumb.
It's not just Google, of course, the same symptoms are found elsewhere - I have to check all typed input when the Internet is running slow, since stuff goes missing. I was quite happy in the days when you had to hit F5 to get a page refresh - basically, if I want an advert for perfume to be updated continuously I'll ask for it - most things in life, apart from the occasional sports commentary or streaming material, don't need to be in real time (or failed real time, which is what we get). I'm currently in discussion with my friendly techie internet expert to see if there is some option setting on the browser which amounts to "only update the bloody page when I ask for it", and some setting for Google Search which means "don't interrupt me with stupid guesses, it's rude - I'll hit Enter when I'm finished".
It's a joke, at best. YouTube, and news video clips, have become unuseable here because the overhead generated by the advertising material that comes with them is getting in the way. At times such as my main monthly publishing week, the response speed causes real stress. My ISP's email browser does not help. If I decide that I don't want some particular new window that the browser has just opened for me, and I try to get rid of it, I have to wait until it has finished downloading all 17 graphic ads (many of them movies) which it has been showing me all week, before it will pay attention to my request to close the window.
I guess that, in general, broadband is getting faster and better and is a real boon to us all, but - inevitably - greed is jamming things up. The service providers and the marketing weasels are filling the available bandwidth with crud which makes the received service slower and slower. Some days it's easier and quicker to phone somebody than to try and send an email, and that cannot be right. I've tried switching off the ads through my ISP's provided filter settings (Customer Preferences - hah!), but that is a scam - you have to identify each actual ad you want to suppress, and there are myriads of them.
If you email someone today, mention the word "Mississippi" at some point. If the recipient gets a little ad on his/her mail browser advertising holidays in New Orleans, then you have just measured the level of stupidity the world has reached - and people are making money out of this inconvenience.
Here's an open message to ISPs, politicians, providers of phone lines, cable companies, Google and anyone else involved. Some of us do not have the infrastructure to support fast broadband - it isn't there (I'm not going too quickly here, am I?). Ironically, people in remote locations are among those who rely most on communication technology, but I realise this is a matter of money, so fair enough. As the available bandwidth gets clogged with more and more penny-generating irrelevances, the Internet is grinding to a halt for those whose broadband connection only has the capacity to cope with what they actually want. THE SERVICE IS GETTING WORSE - WAKE UP.