Portrait of Edd Dumbill, taken by Giles Turnbull

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What I make

a conference management web application

XTech Conference
a European web technology conference

Rage against the machine

Travelling sucks.

Maybe it's my age, but the novelty of going somewhere 5,500 miles from home has well and truly worn off. As I fund myself primarily by writing there are no megabucks to bounce me into business class. Instead I cram my -- admittedly overweight -- frame into cattle class for ten hours from San Francisco to London.

It always amazes me that it's the beginning and end of each journey that takes most toll. The early train ride to the airport, the late bus journey meandering up from San Francisco to Sonoma County. It's great to be home in York again, and I am thankful that technology enables me to work from my home office. I guess I just stopped being able to cope with travel.

However, my journey was made smoother by progress in wireless communications. Now on the train I can get work done and send email via the Bluetooth link to my GPRS phone. Roaming GPRS is possible in the US, but prohibitively expensive. However, wireless ethernet is pretty widespread in the places I visited. Even the little motel in Sebastopol has got it now.

I was particularly pleasantly surprised by T-Mobile's hotspot in San Francisco airport who make sure to mention in their help documentation that all operating systems are supported. Even now, most hotels in America restrict their supported operating systems to Windows and Mac OS. Come to think of it, Linux was explicitly mentioned in the help card in the motel in Sebastopol, too.

The only odd thing was that Mozilla's name resolver didn't want to do DNS properly on the T-Mobile hotspot, so I was stuck using just email and IRC. A little browsing was possible with the trusty w3m.

Mobile phone coverage was fine in San Francisco, but a little patchy up in Sonoma County, where inconvenient hills tend to interpose between me and the cell tower. I took a kind of geeky pleasure in showing off my P800 to all the new Nokia 3650 owners in America. There's no contract bundling of the P800 there, apparently, so it's prohibitively expensive.

One wonders where all this is leading. One, chillingly believable, view of where it might be going is painted in my favourite E. M. Forster story, "The Machine Stops" (readable online). In Forster's future, people are reduced to living their lives in little underground cells, communicating electronically with each other. To enter the fresh air is a crime, an unthinkable act.

Fresh air was certainly what I appreciated this morning as I walked through York, despite the morning traffic. There's something so deflating about air-conditioned atmospheres. Sure, it might be filtered and at the right temperature, but several days with AC makes me dull.

It's time to practice random acts of disobedience against the machine. Open a window, turn off the computer. Quit a few IRC channels. Think about things before forcing my half-baked opinions on the world. Well, we can hope.

"Very well. Let us talk, I will isolate myself. I do not expect anything important will happen for the next five minutes."

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