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Archive for April, 2009

Swisscom Hotel WiFi Service – almost worth the daily charge

April 26, 2009 2 comments
WiFi in European hotels seems to fall into three camps. In one, at good small independant hotels and one or two chains, WiFi is provided as a free commodity. At other independants, they’ll simply share their DSL line via WiFi and charge a nominal daily fee. And then there are the vast majority, including most of the chains, that use third parties such as major telcos (BT Openzone, Orange, The Cloud) to manage the service, and levy charges bordering on the extortionate – anywhere from £5 a day, to £5 an hour.
Swisscom have always been the most extortionate I’ve ever experienced – I’ve stayed at a hotel where it cost £20 a day in the room, but £60 a day in the conference hall. And judging from my recent stay at a Marriott Courtyard, they still are – €22 for 24hrs for the business service.
However – they provide value-adds that actually add value!
Swisscom Landing Page
A simple landing page interface through which you can get access to local printing, comprehensive weather for anywhere, local info, live flight info, streaming radio, and, most impressively, online verisons of today’s print newspapers covering every paper I could think of – anything from The Times down to smaller Regional papers, in full colour. Granted – many telcos have often offered such portal services, but few have ever got them to work really consistently. However, it’s evident Swisscom have put very considerable resources into these, and makes the traveller on expenses actually not feel too guilty about signing up to it.
On the other hand – it’s not all roses. For me, the print service didn’t work at all, and BBC Radio 1 was empty. But the flight info was fine, and an online copy of The Times was fantastic for the morning. The problems felt like lack of maintenance on those modules – failing to update URLs, and the like. However, the entire service, end-to-end, including billing, quality and bit-rate, and so on, were all completely effortless, and just worked. No faffing with VPN firewalls blocking the homepage (alas Hilton, BT Openzone!), no stuttering video… I could even use Spotify and BitTorrent!
Granted, given the choice of this, or a no-frills £5 shared-DSL – you’d still choose the DSL. It works, it’s the internet you know, and you’re used to it. But faced with the single choice of Swisscom, you’ll reluctantly pay the fee, but then find that you’re actually getting something near your money’s worth.
Categories: Uncategorized

OnSpeed review – still doing what it says on the tin

April 20, 2009 Leave a comment

I’ve been a regular user of OnSpeed (www.onspeed.com) for a few years now, and even though the dial-up modem lines it was designed for are long-gone, I still use it on a regular basis when travelling.

Firstly – it works. I typically get 3-5x compression when using it, which means my web browsing is 3-5x faster, and the data charges are 3-5x less. In fact, the £24.99 annual charge pays for itself in the first week – half in roaming data charges, half in time saved when on a GPRS link.

I also often find myself on slow WiFi hotspots – such as the mobile ones on train broadband (National Express East Coast, Heathrow Express). Again – OnSpeed means my connection is usable.

Finally – since the link is compressed, it’s not plain-text readable; a bonus, if there’s a casual eavesdropper on the WiFi, such as on a rogue hotspot.

Oh, and second-finally – the proxy is in the UK, so if you use a service that requires a UK presence (eg. local websites), then this may help. It doesn’t work with BBC iPlayer unfortunately, as the streaming connection is ignored by OnSpeed.

But still – it’s pretty much an all-win, no-lose situation. I’d recommend OnSpeed – or a similar proxied-compression service – to any regular traveller.