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Wishful thinking

February 2009


Here is my New Year wish list of changes I want to the internet and computers in 2009, offered with very little hope that anyone will listen.

First, please stop making equipment with parts we are likely to need hidden at the back.  In my study, the computer and printer sit under my desk (it’s only a little room).  The printer has an on/off switch idiotically placed at the bottom of the rear, completely out of reach, and almost all the sockets on my computer are similarly inaccessible.  To use them means crawling around on my knees with a torch in an undignified way that is inappropriate for someone of my age, station in life or lack of suppleness.  I want it to stop.

Second, I want Wireless Everything, please.  I love wireless connections – that is, doing away with the wires between two bits of equipment and letting them communicate through the air.  My keyboard, mouse and printer are already wireless, which saves miles of self-tangling cable trailing around the place.  Now I want wireless screens, webcams, loudspeakers and scanners.  It does not seem much to ask, and will banish the wire crochet bag hanging from my desk at present.

Third, I want an end to Spam, the internet junk mail.  There is some slight hope; recently, an American internet service provider called McColo was closed down, amid suspicions that they provided services the spammers.

I think the suspicions were justified, because the amount of spam immediately dropped by around two thirds.  That was in November, and levels are on the rise again, but the overall traffic is still only half what is was; it is now about 50% of all traffic, compared to the 95% it used to be a few months ago.

For what it’s worth, my usual advice to anyone who is troubled by spam is to make sure that you are benefitting from whatever system your ISP uses, and then install a programme from New Zealand called Mailwasher (  Start with the free version, which is fine; but MailwasherPro (no adverts, is less than £25, and worth every penny.

Finally, I want Broadband providers to tell the truth about the speed of the connection they sell me, and charge me accordingly.  For example, mine (one of the biggest) charges me for a service that is “up to 8mbps.”  That’s eight Megabits per second; internet data transmission is measured in “bits”, which are different from Bytes, which how documents are measured.  There are eight bits in a Byte.  Not helpful.

Anyway, 8mbs would be fine, if that’s what I was getting.  The real determining factors are not what I pay but the distance from the telephone exchange and the numbers are using it at the time.  As a consequence, my service is much slower than it would be in if I lived in the village a mile away.  They cheerfully admit that the best I can expect out here is 2mbps (a 75% reduction on the maximum) but offer no reduction in price.  It’s my fault, you see.

The reality is far worse;  as I write (in the late afternoon on a working day) the download speed is a trivial 150 Kbps, which is less than 10% of even the reduced maximum they admit is my best hope, and less than 2% of the headline figure in the adverts.  Yes, less that 2% of the advertised figure.  Nevertheless, I am still charged as if I was getting their top service.  Oh, the small print covers this of course – but it is still pretty shabby, in my view.

You can test your own connection at the splendid  I’m prepared to bet you anything you like that it will be nothing like the speed that was described on the tin, and which you thought you were paying for.

Still, as Oldies, we are used to that.  Happy New Year.