A struggle to connect in Cambridge

1st August 2008 at 01:00

At the age of 48 I can claim to have had a Cambridge education. Admittedly, I was only there for a week. The course, on radiological protection, was held in Christ's College though it was not run by the university. Some day I might write about how I let assessment and (probably) my ego slightly dilute the overall excellence of my experience, but not today.

Cambridge is beautiful. A quarter of a century ago, most of my physics and computing friends fled south to follow the jobs. I unthinkingly assumed that they'd probably rather not be there, but I can see the attraction of staying on now. There aren't enough hills for me in Cambridge and I prefer the Scottish education system. On the other hand, I never saw an FTP or FTMoTGAoTCoS painted anywhere. Work the last one out yourself. I've never seen it in Scotland either, but someone somewhere who doesn't like the General Assembly has probably scrawled it on a wall.

I missed home and, sadly, I missed my workplace. To that end, I took a small, state-of-the-art laptop with me to wi-fi my way to those I cared about. Flipping open the lid, admiring the Linux-based operating system's quick boot-up time, I anticipated an electronic sea of wireless networks sloshing around my hall-of-residence room. And, indeed, there was, all secured against use without a password. One claimed to be open, but its signal was just below the threshold usable by my petite PC. I tried moving it around the desk. Under the desk. In the en-suite loo. Standing on a chair. Balancing, Eros-like, on one leg. Nae luck.

In the end, I went roving and for the price of a diet cola, was able to get connected in a cafe bar. Email-wise, it wasn't really worth it unless I was worried about my physical endowment or desired to squander my earnings in an online casino. I spent half a cola MSN-ing my daughter on Livingston FC-related nonsense. I had my fix, and when I visited my friend and his wife the following evening, I was able to enjoy myself, hooking up to their home network only for a very short time.

Gregor Steele, particularly enjoyed a seminar on radioactive pigeons.

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