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October 17, 2008

Bad Connectivity

The only serious drag on an otherwise great vacation is the ten pound bag with computer, batteries, adapter etc. that I'm lugging around on my back. The other day we walked the literal length and breadth of Venice with it. There is no straight footpath through Venice; it's a long way to anywhere unless you're a boat.

It wasn't meant to be this way. Last time Mary was in Italy her host had a USB GSM data modem from TIM (Telecom Italia Mobile). When Mary put it in her laptop it worked fine and she became Skype central in return for the use of the USB device. Since we're staying on a canal boat we rented; we knew we wouldn't have any Internet access from a hotel; but I figured I'd just get one of those modems which Mary said we're on short-duration plans, probably just pick one up in the airport; mobile coverage is great so I'll be online everywhere.

But in the airport I got caught up in immigration, slow luggage, hidden ATMs, and local transportation and forgot.

In Casier there was no Internet access I could find.

In Treviso we found a TIM store but closed on Sunday which is when we were there. On Monday, as we went down the River Sile, we found some open WiFi when we had lunch and got the first connectivity fix since coming to Italy. The computer took a ten mile bike ride on my back.

No WiFi in the marina we stayed at in Portagrande.

Asked if there was a TIM store or any Internet Cafés on Burano; told no. There were some locked networks which looked commercial if I'd only known how to get the WEP credentials (legitimately) to access them; certainly you wouldn't name a network Venice>Connect unless you meant for someone to do that. Also a couple of open signals but too weak – which brings up mistake #2: I have my highpowered WiFi card and antenna with; almost surely could find something with that; but the drivers aren't installed on this computer and I didn't bring the driver CD. Looking for them online not much of an option.

Found the TIM store in Venice! It's open. Through a language barrier, the sales person explains that they are out of (or no longer make, I'm not sure which) the USB modem. But they have a PCMCIA card. Great and a 25 Euro twentyfour connect hour plan. Great! Doesn't work with a Mac, though. No problem. Only works with Widows XP. Vista? Only XP.

The sticker on the box says compatible with the Mac and Windows Vista. Not, insists the sales person; coming in two weeks. Would cost $300 non-refundable dollars to call his bluff and I'd be trying to debug problems in Italian. But he says a computer store may have a solution; points me to one down an uncertain street; turn at the optometrist (I assume that's what he means when he makes glasses with his fingers); make a left somewhere. Somehow we find it.

They do have a USB modem; claim 7meg download. Wow. Only available with a two year subscription. No other way to buy it.

So we find an Internet café for an hour.

But now it's a day and a half later. Signal everywhere here in Stra but nothing I can connect to.

Looks like the computer'll have to go to Padua for the day. Yuk.

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