A ringside seat at the future of the Internet

I’m taking a few days off writing the Sex.com book to cover what I believe to be a very important meeting in Geneva.

In fact, I write this from a hotel room in Geneva within spitting distance of the main train, tram, hotel, shop square called Cornavin.

Starting 10am tomorrow, for two days, the world’s governments, as well as academia, business, tech-heads and nosey sods like me will discuss how a new body called the Internet Governance Forum should be set up, how it should run, who should run and what it should discuss.

I am consistently finding myself faced with people who don’t seem to think this Forum is important. But the simple fact is that one very possible route will be that on 27 October this year we will have a globally agreed way of dealing with, and hopefully ending, spam.

That is if things go right and people can be persuaded to work with one another instead of scratching up against each other. There is no reason to believe that the Forum can’t act as the world’s solver of the Internet’s problems – and let’s be honest there are a few of them and they are beginning to affect every man, woman and child. I would count that as pretty bloody important.

Anyway, I’m here to see what happens and tell as many people as possible about it. I am a journalist, see.

Rotten Apple

I’m really pissed off with Apple. Not so much because of the iPod. No, this piece of hardware continues to provide me with such pathetic joy that it may actually be the best gadget I have ever had (may have to ponder that one at greater length).

What pisses me off is how Apple hides its problems under a cloak of arrogant disdain. I upgraded my iPod’s (fourth-generation 60GB photo iPod) hardware not all that long ago to version 1.2. I only just got around to upgrading it again to version 1.2.1.

And I am very, very glad I did because Apple made a huge fat mistake in version 1.2. They installed all sorts of things that I don’t use – iCalendar and other things for Mac users – but somehow they didn’t constrain them sufficiently so they drained the iPod battery about five times faster than usual.

I know this because before version 1.2, my iPod would last about eight hours play music. Recently I took the hour-and-a-half bus journey to London from Oxford and found that on the return journey the battery died on the way back. Completely gone. And no I hadn’t left it playing the whole time.

Apple had killed my iPod. Except version 1.2.1 – which, very oddly, required a big reboot of the whole hardware – resets whatever Apple did wrong and on my long journey to Geneva today – 11am to 6pm – the battery was back to normal and still have plenty of juice left.

So what am I annoyed with Apple? Because Apple has not – and will not – admit to any of this. It has made no mention that it has screwed up, and it hasn’t said to customers “look you really need to upgrade to 1.2.1 because your battery will only last two hours with 1.2”. In fact I know from bitter past experience that Apple will refuse to admit or even discuss the issue if I called up Steve Jobs himself right now and said exactly what I’ve just written above.

Arrogant sods.

On the plus side

But on the plus side, I have wireless Internet access in my hotel room – which is wonderful because it is a cheap hotel and it demonstrates that the hotel trade has finally recognised the importance of Net access.

Sort of, anyway. Because to access the hotel’s wireless network I have to go down to reception, buy a card off them and paying a ridiculous 9 Francs (£9 an hour) for half-an-hour, 19 Francs for 2 hours (£4.25 an hour) or 48 Francs for 24 hours (£1 an hour – although you can be guaranteed to be asleep for at least six hours of that).

Rather fortunately, the future – whether people like it or not – also popped up when I did a search for wireless networks in the area. An unsecured wireless network somewhere in a nearby building. A single click and I’m surfing for free.

It is becoming my firm position that not too far in the future, wireless Net access will not only be ubiquitous but frequently free. It really is extremely cheap to provide Net access once the infrastructure is in place. I wish someone with some vision would kick this artificial market in the nuts sooner rather than later. Google is threatening it.

I really, really do not understand hotels not grasping it though. Let me make it really simple: if a hotel says as part of its tariff it includes free Net access in the room, I will pay £10 more a night. Work it out. More money, more customers. Will someone get on with it! Otherwise I will have to continue take advantage of wonderful everyday citizens too foolish to stick security on their network.

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