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I'm a poster-boy

8 July 2019

I'm baaaaack!

What a crazy week the past 7 days have been -- filled with ill-health, a wedding, extreme fatigue, angry cats and a burning desire to simply go back to bed.

Fortunately, the dust is settling, life is returning to something of a regular pace and I can contemplate the week ahead.

Well almost.

I say "almost" because today will be yet another hectic race to apportion my time and resources efficiently so as to fit into other people's timetables whilst ensuring that my own goals are met.

The biggest call on my time today will be the arrival of some people with cameras to film me doing what I do -- that's because apparently I'm going to be a poster-boy for ultra-fast fibre broadband. Okay, "poster boy" might be perhaps flattering myself a little too much... a "case study" might be more accurate.

Apparently I am the type of UFB user that they think would be a good example of how this technology is opening new doors and changing the way we work.

It's hard to argue against that assertion... certainly my daily routine would be a lot different without ready access to megabit per second internet speeds and the rapid growth of all video streaming services are highly dependent on such capabilities for their growth and even their very survival.

It's kind of cool to think that I mess around in a tin shed here on the back-side of the planet, taking short videos of people and products. I then shape and polish those videos into something which is designed to entertain and inform an audience (the total number of which is measured in millions), who are scattered around the four corners of the globe.

Stuff that is on my test-bench on a Monday morning here in NZ can be appearing on the screens of interested viewers by dinner-time the same day, even though they are half a planet away. And all this happens while the wife watches Stranger Things 3 on the big-screen in the living room, using the same flickering beam of light to stream HD video.

How does this contrast with the image, still clear in my mind, of the handset of our "dial" telephone sitting atop an acoustically coupled 300bps modem overnight as I downloaded a Z80 emulator onto a genuine IBM PC back in about 1985. This tiny file took all night to transfer using XMODEM protocol and I slept with my fingers crossed because even the smallest phone-line glitch could have produced issues.

I also, not so fondly, recall doing battle with other users of a partly line when I lived in the countryside out of Auckland in the late 1980s. Hooking up to StarNet (the gateway to a global "packet-switched network" -- a precursor to the Net) was rather difficult when, at any time, the link could be dropped by others on that line picking up their phones and saying "WORKING?".

And the cost of such international digital conversations... well don't get me started on the cost. If you had to ask...

As time moved on, so did my reliance on comms tech and by the mid 1990s I had three phone lines and two dial-up modems humming full-time (at 28Kbps, falling back to about 16Kbps over time due to noisy copper). This was needed to keep the bits flowing between my 7amNews server in the USA and the broom-closet up at South Kaipara Head from which it was all run.

Moving to Tokoroa gave me my first taste of true "broadband" because I got hooked up to JetStream... Telecom's first ADSL-like service. A fantastic 128Kbps was what you got and although it seemed like light-speed, the fact it took another overnight session to download a single episode of ScrapHeap Challenge from a friend in the UK proved that it wasn't.

And now, many years later, I have 100Mbps down and 30Mbps up -- but it's still not enough.

As I start publishing more 4K content involving files measured in gigabytes, 30Mbps is becoming too slow. This means I'm about to switch to the full gigabit plan which, so I'm told, might give me 600Mbps or so of upload speed --a handy 20x increase on the current rate. That should do me for another year or two (I hope).

Ah, you've got to love technology.

How irritating this will all be also for our local council.

When Tokoroa was nominated as one of the first two towns to have UFB installed I lobbied them to take this huge opportunity to sell the concept of setting up teleworking centres here and working to attract Net-based hi-tech startups to the town.

The Mayor, in his wisdom and clear depth of knowledge reliably informed me that this was a ridiculous idea because they'd already tried to encourage "call centres" to come to the town with no success.

And now, here I am, being used as a showcased example of how the UFB makes it possible to reach a global audience from a tin shed in Tokoroa.

Sigh! So many dim-witted people who can't see for closed eyes and won't listen for closed ears.

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