Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What's That?

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

What do you suppose this apparition is?  Why is this guy wrapped in a flag?

No, he is not doing something political.  He is trying to use his laptop computer out in the bright sunlight in a place where he found (a) an electrical outlet and (b) an unsecured WIFI signal.   That is part of normal life for many of us cruisers.

Actually, I've been there and done that many times.  I think there may even be pictures of me in the archives of this blog sitting on a grass lawn under a blanket trying to use my computer.   Nowadays, I've graduated to elite status.  When I can't sit in an easy chair at a library to use their WIFI, I just use my phone to couple my laptop to the Internet using 3G instead of WIFI.   I also have a laptop with pretty good battery life so I can get useful stuff done without an electrical outlet.  

Actually if I'm just reading or watching video, it is easiest to use the phone and skip the laptop.  I can watch a movie while  swinging in a hammock under the canvas tarp up on the fore deck.  That's the ultimate in decadent pleasure.

It is interesting to think how fast things have changed,  just 7 years ago when we started cruising, even WIFI was rare.  I either had to find a hard-wired internet connection, or use a phone dial-up.   The only widespread wireless solution back then was Blackberry.  I do however, remember Robb a friend at work, using his cell phone as a modem way back in 2005.  He was way ahead of his time.

Many cruisers in those days had pocket email devices about the size of a smart phone today.   You could use the device to compose your email, then dial-up your ISP and simply hold the device up to the telephone handset.  It looked very strange to see people standing there doing that.  Now, I haven't seen one of those devices in several years.  I assume they are mostly gone to the trash heap.

Free WIFI doesn't reach to most places out in the harbor, but there is an expensive, slow and unreliable WIFI service from Maricoms.   It appears that many cruisers use that rather than bring their computers ashore for free WIFI.   Evidently, people are willing to pay lots for convenience.   Many smart entrepreneurs got rich providing convenience.

Note that all the above relates to coastal cruisers like ourselves.   Blue water cruisers, and those who circumnavigate have to learn to get along without the Internet and without their smart phone apps most days.  One can send and receive text emails via SSB (single sideband radio) but that's expensive and very limited in what you can do.  I do it to post blogs and to receive weather data, but I still miss the full blown net.

What does the future hold?  Wonderful wireless things for most of us, but probably no improvement at all for sailboats thousands of miles from land.

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