Saturday, June 12, 2010

Internet while in the UK

We've done a fair bit more planning on those parts of our UK trip that are amenable to planning, while leaving most of the days open to just having a list of possible activities, which we've also fleshed out with a few new options, like the Merchant Adventurers' Hall (be sure to try out their Be A Merchant Adventurer game).

Based on this I think I have a better idea of what I should be planning to pack, how much cash I need to have on hand, and other questions of preparation. There's one big gap, though. We know that the flat we're renting doesn't come with Internet, but it appears to be part of a large block of flats, so we can't speculate on the odds that there'll be someone else's Internet we can, ahem, borrow a bit of.

When I first wrote this post we didn't have any idea from there except a few Internet caf├ęs in the area, but they were all a little removed from the flat -- maybe farther than I'd want to go at the end of a long day in museums or shopping. They were all bars or pubs or clubs, so probably loud, noisy, smoke-filled, and crowded. Some of them had bad hours -- the nearest one closed at 6pm. I wasn't terribly eager to only be able to get to the Internet from any of them.

Then we re-evaluated the clues about where the flat is (we should get a definitive answer soon, but the landlady's being cagey until the final payment has wended its way through currency conversions and gotten to her hands, so we had to correlate images with Google Streetview -- it felt like we were on a TV procedural!). According to BTOpenzone's map, we think there are hotspots there, which we can probably buy service from for... well, a lot of money, really, about $40 for five days, possibly per computer, but at least it means we've got an avenue to pursue. But it's not 100% certain; BTOpen's got weasel-words about not being able to guarantee the hotspots are going to be available, and we're not 100% sure that's where the flat is, and we sure don't know the signal will be good enough.

And then we posted about this on a forum and got a great tip. While BTOpenZone wants £26.99 for five days, for £19.99 we can buy an O2 3G dongle that includes both unlimited access to those same wifi hotspots, everywhere, and access to the 3G network at pay-as-you-go rates. For instance, £7.50 for a week's usage of up to 1G. That means for a total of £26.49 (still £0.50 cheaper) we're getting two more days of 3G usage and unlimited wifi. What a deal! And they even come in two colors, so Siobhan and I can tell ours apart. (She, being recently all girly, will get the pink one, no doubt. The black one would disappear against her black Eee anyway. Not fashionable!)

The preparations I need to make for my absence change a lot between "I'll be online regularly, though not as much", "I'll be online an hour or two each day," "I'll be online a few minutes each day," and "I won't be online for the whole trip", largely due to my activities in Lusternia. There are things I have to do once a day that take ten seconds if I have my computer and Internet, but that would take ages to get someone else able to do, and which would be impossible to do on a cell phone. Knowing which to expect settles a lot of questions.

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