Saturday, March 04, 2006

A Computer Named "Tawanda"

More expensive, but more fun than, A Fish Called Wanda
Triplicane, Madras

Blessed Event:
I am now the proud parent of a laptop computer -- a Compaq Presario 1822 with memory bumped up to a total 712. Whoo hooooo!! All thanks to the beneficence of a travelling English philanthropist who describes himself as "an agent of Shiva." The Compaq store guy in Spencer Plaza, Mr Singh (Punjab), says that it writes both CD and DVD, which means I can store lots of my pictures as well as watch Valley of the Wolves - Iraq when it comes out on DVD. (Just kidding,George!)

Now I need to connect my computer (named "Tawanda" in honour of Fried Green Tomatoes) to the Internet. As a special deal, Compaq (HP) is giving away a completely free Reliance R-Connect Data Card which is a digital telephone-on-a-card. The demo guy showed me the card - it looks like a credit card thing with a tiny antenna sticking up like a tail. You insert this in a special drive on theleft side of the unit. Never seen anything like it. In Pune, my friend Sohan had the mobile phone for the wireless connection, but the card thing is new to me.

This wireless setup will not be connected for 4 weeks at least. It has to go through Delhi Reliance, so in the meantime I will still be hitting the sweaty cyber shops at all hours. For the Reliance card, I had to get a 500Rs DD made and send itregistered mail only to Delhi. Then it must get delivered to a reliable address - probably my friend in Delhi since I plan to be up there around 2ndweek of March for the Dalai Lama again. ( I miss the Dalai Lama.)

The advantage of the phone-on-a-card is not speed - it is slower than broadband, yet faster than dialup (then again most bullock carts are faster than dialup). It's that I can connect to the net anytime, anywhere there is Reliance coverage (all over India, even most small towns) and I don't have to leave my house or hotel room, go and plug into anything at an unwieldy, porn-filled crowded net shop at 12 midnight. When I saw it demonstrated in the shop, I was impressed. The other option is to find a WiFi network. Unfortunately, most cybercafes do not have wireless. Reliance Webworld is the biggest net chain in India and they don't have it. "Tawanda" has wireless is built-in. But all the private wireless places, like the Taj and Barista, require that you"subscribe" to their in-house wireless. If you don't mind paying $200 a night at the Taj, you can use their wireless for free.

Truth in Advertising, Indian Style
In Kathmandu, I know 2 places that have free wireless for any customer, no signup involved. But that is Nepal. Everything is easier in Nepal! Everything except actually getting into the country; actually moving about the country, and having a real government. The Shiviite Philanthropist and I were all excited when we heard that all Barista coffee houses (Indian version of Starbucks) had wireless. Barista advertises itself quite proudly as "complete wireless hotspot." So we took a rickshaw specially to Barista, only to be told that you had to buy a special card to use wireless. Okay, fair enough, set us up with 2 cards please! Oh, one problem meddem, all Chennai Baristas have been out of their subscription materials for 2 weeks now.

So then take down your freakin' sign saying "We are a wireless hotspot" then. The only thing to be counted upon in India is frustration.

A mouse, as well as supplementary speakers, are the next step for"Tawanda." Her built-in speakers are merely perfunctory (read: sound like an old AM radio). The mouse is necessary, maybe even a wireless mouse. With a laptop, it is easy to wear out a touchpad... not to mention my fingers. Tawanda also needs a sort of "tea cozy" slipcover (a laptop cozy?) to cushion her in transit. Unlike more ungainly (less gainly?) older models, Tawanda is a sylphlike, willowy and delicate model which cannot withstand any blows, knocks or drops.

Now that I can type 24 hours a day, my only limitations are what my carpal-tunneled wrists can withstand.

1 comment:

stirling said...

That Barista sign saying "we are a wireless hotspot" is exactly like all the "Fax" signs in Mcleod/Dharamsala. They might have had a fax machine once, and it might have even worked. Maybe they'll have one in the future. But sorry ... not right now.