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Tetherless in Adelaide

By Scott Bradner

I just got back from the IETF meeting in Adelaide Australia where I went fully wireless for the first time. This stuff actually works and is a great distraction.

Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) meetings have supported one form or another of wireless LAN for the past few years but since I'm a Mac user, and the Mac drivers for the wireless cards seemed to be more funky than I was able to deal with, I've not been a participant. But I recently bought a spiffy new Apple PowerBook complete with a built-in Apple "AirPort" 802.11 compatible wireless card. I walked into the Adelaide convention center where the IETF meeting was being held, woke up my PowerBook, turned on the AirPort card (one click on a menu), selected the AirPort as the TCP/IP port (one click on a different menu) and I was fully connected.

Other than a few funnies due to a misconfigured DHCP server on the first day the connection worked flawlessly the whole week. And since the PowerBook can run for 10 hours on a set of batteries I did not even have to be plugged into the power outlet and was free to roam. (Except for one day when I did not notice that the hotel housekeeping staff had turned off the little power switch next to the outlet, apparently a feature of Australia hotels, and my batteries did not get charged as a result.)

This is great stuff! Very fast connectivity - theoretically 11 Mhz - just like sitting at my desk at the office. I could sit in the sometimes boring working group meetings and keep up with my email, check out what was happening in the real world at or on Wall Street at (Note that I differentiate Wall Street and the real world.) It’s the first time I've come back from an IETF meeting caught up on my email. Great stuff indeed but rather distracting.

If this is what it's like to be always on-line I may actually get less work done. It is hard to pay attention to the meeting you are in while engaged in a furious email exchange on a mailing list or seeing what the market is doing to the value of your stocks. 802.11 networks are beginning to pop up in all sorts of places including office buildings and airport lounges. Since I expect to see more, not less, of this wireless technology I better figure out how to balance the temptations. Now I think I'm going to get a base station for the house so I can be in the living room pretending to be sociable while actually surfing away.

disclaimer: Harvard tries to be sociable but the above trip was my own.