CES Rant: When Mobile Tech Seems to be Too Hard

Computer crash

The CES 2010 show hasn’t officially kicked off yet, but I have a full day of show-related activities under my belt already. The endless walking, shaking hands and jostling for position to get a better look at a particular gadget got started from the moment I hit the tarmac in Las Vegas, and it will continue at a frantic pace the whole week.

It may seem early in the trip to be ranting about something that is giving me trouble, but to a blogger connectivity is vital and when it fails, things get miserable in a hurry. That’s my big trouble so far, the hotel network is abysmal to say the least. It never fails to surprise me why big, expensive hotels always seem to have the worst network connectivity than that in other hotels.

Even hole-in-the-wall cheapo motels have good network connectivity these days. It can’t be that expensive or difficult to do as you can find good connectivity in almost any hotel, except gigantic, big buck palaces like these in Las Vegas. Most hotels on the Strip offer wireless connectivity for a big daily charge, and it’s a fee many of us are willing to pay if it allows us to get our work done. What is a total killer to us is when the hotel includes the connectivity in a special mandatory daily “resort fee”, and the connectivity turns out to be problematic at best.

That is my exact situation in the Venetian Hotel. Wonderful place, but they insist on charging a $15 mandatory daily resort fee to the room. This fee allows you access, not necessarily free access, to different amenities the hotel offers; that includes the in-room network connectivity. It is offered with both wired and wireless access, so things should be fine. The problem is the connectivity is difficult to tap into, and once connected it is spotty as can be.

The wired connection doesn’t work at all, and the wireless is an exercise in futility. Some times I can connect fine, others not at all. The real frustrating part is how connections are totally inconsistent when made. The bandwidth is nice and fast for a few minutes, then either slows to a crawl or drops me off the network altogether. This is fatal for blogging, as I have already lost posts in progress a couple of times due to the network failing when the post is being saved.

I have been using the Verizon MiFi in the hotel room, and it is working as wonderfully as it always does. The bandwidth is good in the hotel, and the connections are solid. So why even bother with the hotel Wi-Fi? Other than the fact I am paying a mandatory fee for room Wi-Fi, using the MiFi drains the battery. I like to have it fully charged when I leave the room for the show events, and that doesn’t happen when I am using it in the room too. For some reason connecting the MiFi to the Thinkpad via USB, something I have done many times, is not working. The access software will not see the MiFi no matter what I do. This forces me to use it on battery over Wi-Fi. The MiFi works well; I just need the battery to be full when I leave for the day.

These network problems have pointed out a glaring problem with the Google Chrome browser. I have been using Chrome as my default browser on the ThinkPad as it is faster than Firefox under Windows 7, and is a solid performer all around. What I have discovered to force me to change back to Firefox is that when the connection gets very spotty, Chrome has a tendency to hang up. It can even hang up the entire system, and once the browser hangs it doesn’t always resume when the connection heals. Firefox does a good job at resuming the session when the network reappears, so I have switched back to using it by default. Having seen this side of the Chrome browser, it makes me wonder how well the Chrome OS will handle spotty connections, given its “always connected” nature.

So come on big hotels — get your act together and get your networks up to par. It is 2010, we expect (and need) good connectivity when we stay in your house.

UPDATE: This post took me well over an hour to complete due to the connectivity issues. I got fed up, and reinstalled the Verizon Access Manager in an attempt to resolve my MiFi USB issue. That worked, and I am now able to connect seamlessly, and more importantly stay connected, vit the MiFi over USB. It’s not the best solution for uploading videos, but for everything else it will work like a champ. I am much happier than I was when I began this post.

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