Keeping up

Thursday May 26, 2005

Some while back, when British Telecom announced that the village had been ‘enabled’ for broadband [otherwise known as ADSL] we gave a loud hurrah. Then, when we looked at the small print, stating that a minimum contract of twelve months was required of those signing up for the service, we groaned, and resigned ourselves to wait until after we’d moved house.

The problem with what passes for the the small print on the web was and remains one of scarcity, and inadequacy. It’s impossible to find any clear, clause by clause definition of what is on offer, far less the contractual obligations. I find this unacceptable. I find the general acceptance of this kind of thing as normal operating procedure even more unacceptable. But there you go. I’m a voice in the wilderness on this one.

Anyway. The other day, I took to noodling around the ‘new’ pages of information which aim to but still fall woefully short of redressing the inadquacy of the small print, and discovered that the customer who moves house while under the contract may take the account, existing contract, and the connection with him to a new home. That loud ‘hurrah’ sounded again, and I settled to the task of working through page after page of the signup process. At last, after almost fifteen minutes of intense concentration intermingled with long, long waits for the webpages to download, I got there.

“So,” I asked. “Do I go for it?”

“Yes,” said Graham. “We might be here for months yet and a good, fast connection we can both use at the same time will help pass the time.”

“Right you are,” I said, and clicked the ‘Accept’ button.

So, on June 1, we get our ‘free modem’ and a welcome pack and will, hopefully, be able to install and start using broadband.

“Does it say what the ‘modem’ will be?” asked Graham.

“I’ll check.”

And so I did. Eventually I came up with a shortlist of three possibles—British Telecom are a little cagey on the subject—and Graham went off to research them. I put my computer on stand-by and went out to sit in the sun with my book and a very welcome mug of coffee. A long, long time elapsed.

“Are you ready for the snag now?” asked Graham.

“Go on then.”

“I can’t find anything but bad news on those modems. They install reasonably well on a single computer, but adding a second PC is problematic.”

“How problematic?”

“Don’t hold me to it, but I don’t think we’ll be able to do it with our Belkin ethernet hub and, if we do, the system will not be secure from external nasties.”


“So, what do we do?”

“Look at the best alternative. Time to take another step forward if we’re to keep up with the onward march of technology.”

“Right. I’ll go look at it.”

“I can tell you what you’ll come up with, if you like.”

“Go on then.”

“Some integrated black box that’ll replace the cheap-o ‘modem’, give us easy ethernet connection for both computers, and provide a hardware firewall as a bonus. A big bonus.”

“How do you know that?”

“Mostly intuition, along with a little reading and keeping my ear to the ground as other people talk about their broadband experience.”

“Impressive. I don’t suppose you know the maker, model and price by any chance?”

“Good heavens, no,” I said. “What do I know from technology?”

“Ok. I’ll go check.”

“It’s the only way to be sure.”

So, off he toddled and I settled back to my book. It wasn’t so very long this time before he came back to report progress.

“Do you want the good news, or the bad news?” he asked.

“Oh, you know I hate that game. Go on. Tell me the good news.”

“Well, you were absolutely right. There is one make and model that everyone recommends. In fact I can’t find any adverse reports on it at all.”

“What’s that, then?”

“It’s the Netgear DG834 ADSL Firewall Router.”

“Gosh. Talk about techno-babble. Ok. That’s the good news. What’s the bad news?”

The bad news was of course the price. Slightly but not completely wince-worthy.

We’re thinking about it overnight but I’ve already concluded that we should go ahead and order one. Then, when we get the broadband package from British Telecom on June first, we can decide whether to install using the cheap-o ‘modem’ and then go over to the Netgear box, or to bypass the cheap-o freebie altogether and start in with the Netgear box from the start. There’s still a bit of research needed to help with that decision, and my intuition isn’t helping me at all. In fact my intuition is hiding itself away while I suffer a bad but probably not terminal attack of techno-fear. Along with a slight residual paranoia resulting from signing up for a contract with inadequate small print.

They don’t make keeping up with the technology any easier, do they? Or is it me?


Stickford, May,'05
A baby wild rabbit visits our garden



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