In Search of Wireless Europe
Helen Varley Jamieson, 2003
10 June 2003
In just over a week, I'm leaving NZ for four and a half months in Europe.
Aside from the lists of things to remember to take, things to do before
I go, and dithering over whether to buy a Eurrail pass or not, the big
question is "How am I going to get online on the road in Europe?"
I've recently had an airport card installed in my trusty little iBook,
and have briefly experimented with it so I know that it works. But what
will I need to do, and where will I need to be, to pick up signals around
Searching the web has yielded some useful sites but there doesn't seem
to be one handy site to go to for everything I need. You'd think there
would be a commercial demand for wireless pan-Europe internet access.
It looks like many of the airports have hotspots, but it's still hard
to believe - until I've actually experienced it - that I will be able
to get online in strange places without complicated configurations and
secret digital handshakes. And I won't be spending any more time at airports
than I absolutely have to!
So far, I've bookmarked these sites as looking useful:
Watch this space to see how I get on ...
This journey was funded in part by a grant from Creative
New Zealand - thanks!
I'm sitting in the departure lounge at Heathrow, tired from the long-haul
flights, but excited because i'm online! I'm using BTopenzone; at £6
an hour it's excessively expensive, but the main thing is, it's working.
After failing miserably in my mission to post a humble postcard at both
Sydney Airport and Heathrow, I wasn't holding out much hope for getting
online, but there you go: sometimes things really do work as they promise.
I'm not sure when I'll be able to upload this entry, because getting online
in Belgrade hasn't been as simple as at Heathrow. I've entered Jelena's
dial-up settings into my laptop, and even managed to hear a person answer
the phone with one of the numbers we were trying, but it won't connect
to the internet : ( and I don't know of any wireless hotspots here. Anyway
it's too hot to be online.
Novi Sad has a different kind of heat to Belgrade - less dusty but just
as oppressive. Vruca. The INFANT
Festival has begun and at the university my laptop slipped onto the
ethernet connection without any problems. We are busy installing the text2speech
plugin onto 10 computers for my workshop this afternoon. There are no
wireless networks in the vicinity of Hotel Voyvodina, where I am staying,
and I haven't spotted an internet cafe yet.
Back in Belgrade, & Jelena's dial-up is working : ) (it helps if you
enter the complete phone number ... ). I've been trying to find a sniffer
application that works on Mac OS9 but they all seem to be for OSX ...
another site of interest is warchalking,
which recommends Kismac
for sniffing & stumbling, but guess what, it's only for OSX ... :
The heat has broken and a full-on thunder and lightning storm is buffeting
the caravan where I am staying, in Vinderup, Denmark. A small river is
developing behind the fridge in the awning - I've moved the power cords
and plugs out of it but it's a little worrying ... of course there is
no wireless internet in this remote spot (the north-west coast of Jutland)
but I can dial-up (thanks Antonella!) from the camping ground office (thanks
It's hot everywhere in Europe right now, so I'll stop complaining. In
Amsterdam, I plugged into ethernet connections at Brenda's home and at
her work without any problems, although wireless refused to work at the
office. But I'm connected so I'm happy! And I'm emotionally preparing
myself to upgrade to OSX (while staying with Brenda the Mac guru) so then
maybe I can use some of that sniffer software ...
In Munchen, dialing up with no problems from Karin & Biggi's house
and trawling the web I'm finding lots of information about wireless networks
and hotspots ... it feels like it should be possible but nothing is quite
close enough, and of course it's all in German ... & I didn't get
round to doing my system upgrade in Amsterdam - too preoccupied with life.
Success! I'm coming to you live and wireless from a grungy basement in
Amsterdam - the Tool Builders' Fair at Next5Minutes,
listening to presentations of Dyne:bolic
by developer Jaromil and StreamStudio
by developer Stoyan.
I'm feeling very aware of the limits of my technical knowledge but taking
in as much as I can, and very happy to be wirelessly connected without
any problems - at last!
It's great to be back in Belgrade; I'm rehearsing online for the next
performance of "swim",
this time in Ljubljana at the Mesto
Zensk (City of Women) Festival on 14 October, and also working on
it with Jadranka and Antonella. Strange things happened with the broadband
connection through CybeRex
- I'm online but not able to access web or chat, and no, it's not a proxy
server thing. Commercial wireless networks exist in Belgrade, but they're
expensive. After having lunch with the feminists, who have information
for me about other broadband options, I have negotiated to use a connection
at the Autonomous Women's Centre for the rest of my rehearsals.
In a hotel room in Ljubljana, Slovenia, rehearsing for our performance
of "swim" on Tuesday; the hotel said it wasn't possible to access
the internet from our rooms, but with a little help from Trudy and volja.net,
I've achieved it. Haven't found any wireless network here yet but the
ethernet at Galerija Kapelica and Kiber Pipa is good; I was even able
to go into the gallery at 5.30am this morning to join Vicki in Sydney
at Plaything (& Karla online).
Back in London, connecting (broadband) is not the problem but my power
supply is dead. I'd just like Apple to know that this is the second time
this has happened in a year, & I'm pissed off that it's so difficult
to locate a new one - even though it's only two years old, it's not being
made anymore. Why must we tolerate built-in obsolesence that is designed
to force us into buying new computers? Why make a completely sealed unit
when you could put in a couple of screws & it would be repairable?
There is Eurospot
access at Paddington Station - but as I'm on a train that's about to leave,
it's not worth plugging in the credit card details. I will entertain myself
by watching the signal level fluctuate and see how far out of the station
journey is over and I'm back in Wellington. On my return flight, I had
a great (but short) time at Singapore Airport, where there are free internet
kiosks as well as a PC centre where you can pay for wireless access or
simply plug into a free ethernet connection and do whatever you want.
Sydney Airport is less well-equipped, with only those stupid Samsung kiosks
where so much functionality is disabled the system is rendered almost
useless. For example, it lets me see my email inbox, but won't open new
browser windows so I can't actually read my mail. Frustrating! I detected
three wireless networks in the building, but none were open.
So to conclude: my fantasies of being able to connect wirelessly
around Europe have largely remained just that, fantasies. It's coming,
but slowly. What I'd like to find for my next trip is a mobile phone company
who can give me one phone, one number and internet access across all of
Europe. Any takers???
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