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Lessons from mini world tour

I've spent the past week on the road in a mini world tour of Scotland, catching up with family and friends on the "meaning to visit" list. Three things became apparent during my travels.

First, I'm becoming a Wi-Fi whore. In every house I stepped foot in, after general preliminary greetings my first question was "what's your wireless network details?" as I sought to check e-mail on my notebook PC. The most noticable thing is that everyone now has a router, and that few know their login details (though that is readily available on the router itself, so no big hassle to flip the thing over and type in the details.) Data speeds were generally pretty good for what I wanted to do (I wasn't downloading movies or anything), and there was no discernable difference between the plethora of routers I encountered.

Second, rural broadband is still garbage. My nephew's friend reliably informed him that the reason his XBox Live experience was so poor is that I brought another computer into the fold, and thus onto the wireless network. Close, but no cigar for the friend in question (or, worryingly, my nephew) as it's the ageing phone line into the house that's the problem. Nephew wouldn't buy that (or that sitting the Xbox closer to the router would help). They live in a rural town of around 6,000 people, but it's not an area that's ever been brilliantly covered by the mobile networks, leading me to suspect fiber is still a far flung dream for the inhabitants.

Third, we need simpler PC cleaning tools. Many an unhappy father was met on my journey, who bemoaned the sudden drop in performance of the family laptop after various children installed all sorts of unnecessary programs and clicked all too eagerly on a social network application. Aside from flagging that, for most regular people, one household PC is still the norm (second screens are still smaller TVs), this also highlighted to me that simpler PC tools or interfaces are needed for cleanup operations. We've got a generation that has, pretty much, grown up with PCs now, so it's well informed on the need to run anti-virus and -spyware regularly. But those do little to bring performance back up to speed - for that you seem to need an intimate knowledge of programming that most of us simply don't have.