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"Our Boy Graduates to Broadband...for Good"

[NOTE: written on Jan. 27, 2000]

Well that's it. I'm finally shedding myself of the modem world. Barring unforeseen circumstances next week, I should never have to use anything less than cable or DSL again.

My roommate and I live in a suckass dorm with management too cheap to install something as basic as ethernet (for UT campus, ethernet IS basic, so don't scoff) and we've been hemhawwing for the past year or two on whether to dish out the money for cable or DSL. As I've explained in a previous Soapbox, DSL and cable in Austin hasn't been on the cheap.

However, a lot of things have changed for me since last year. And in fact since Christmas. My goal for this year is basically to become more liquid with my money -- asset allocation and spending of money on good investments. Typically I'm pretty miserly with my cash, but this year I've realized that I can trust myself with spending responsibly. And what I decide to spend money on provides me with far more value than its actual extrinsic cost.

The goal is to spend more money. On gadgets. On computers. On access. On things that make my life more efficient. And also on things that just make life more fun. This may sound like an absurd goal to most, but it's difficult for me.

I realize now that buying certain things is in my best interests as an investor and student of technology. It helps me to better gauge where things are and what's missing. Maybe The Big Idea will come to me this way.

To make a long story short (and in the tradition of many writers, he goes off on a long discussion of everything even tangentially relevant), my roommate and I decided to shell out the cash for DSL through Southwestern Bell. Time Warner's cable Road Runner service in Austin is pathetic and we decided to pay more for quality.

DSLReports.com shows no complaints for Southwestern Bell. A dedicated, non-shared broadband connection is dreamy. DSL has its own set of problems, but most are specific to the individual. I'm crossing my fingers for the best.

So I called up Southwestern Bell and was prepared to pay the $200 for the modem and $50/month for the service. Installation is free under this contract, which is a one-year plan. Moving the service to another apartment, which is what my roommate will do once I graduate, isn't that expensive.

After all this bloody time, we decided to spend the cash on the service that we could have had for a year now. The lesson in this for me, in which I've learned from deciding when to upgrade my computer, is that you're not really in a better position if you wait. If you want it and you can spare the cash, get it. Waiting around for the next best thing is a waste of time. This of course depends on if you're a techhead wire junkie like I am. We could have been on DSL a long time ago.

So after I talk to some chick at SWB about setting up the service, she tells me to wait a week for the results of the line test, in which they see if your location is capable of DSL installation. Kind of sucked that it took SWB to take that long, but it's standard operating procedure for telcos I guess. The woman e-mailed me and told me eventually that everything was good to go. She set up an appointment without my having to ask, which was proactive and saved time. The date was perfect for me, the day after my birthday.

And then my roommate checked DSLReports.com again and found an ultracool promotion that lets new subscribers get the DSL modem FREE, plus they'd get free setup fees. Suhweet! I e-mailed the woman again (e-mail is fire sent to us by the physicists/military geeks) and she honored the deal even after we set up everything over the phone. We have to pay $14 setup, but that's okay.

What's even better than ALL that, in which I get DSL next week, is that E*Trade has an offer to sign up with them and get three free months of DSL. Unfucking believable. We're basically getting DSL for free. And since I wanted to open an E*Trade account anyway, this works out for the best.

So there we have it. I've had cable at home, but not at school. I've suffered at school. Downloads are slow, connections are slow, trading is slow. Having a decent computer with a modem is a severe bottleneck.

Ubiquitous broadband is the whole thing for me. It's the big kahuna. Well, let me amend that. Ubiquitous and wireless broadband is the thing for me. I got a Palm V for Christmas instead of a suit (my priorities are towards things that "plug in" right now, but more honestly, I have no need of a suit just yet), a device I had ignored for the longest time but was instantly infatuated with it once I stopped to look.

Palm Computing, 3com's little spinoff baby (3com execs no doubt have dollar signs in their eyes in the face of PALM's upcoming IPO in the last week of February), produces the Palm line, handheld devices running PalmOS (and not WindowsCE). You can keep track of addresses, memos, to-do lists, and you can download programs off the Internet and hotsync them from your computer to your Palm. (it's not just a tip calculator!) So you have infinite customizability in what you want on your device. It has an infrared port so you can beam messages and electronic business cards to others who have Palms. It's nifty, it's light, it's cool. And it's eons better than the first PDAs like the Newton.

But the main thing I think behind Palm, besides the raw power of the damn thing, is that the Palm VII comes with a wireless modem (modem can be bought as an addon for the Palm V, but only the VII can use the latest OS) which lets you use many facets of the Web. You can check your e-mail, you can trade stocks, you can check out the latest news. From a little device that fits in your pocket. For all the crap and talk we've heard in the news about such devices, it's weird to actually HAVE them available to us. I was so surprised.

Wireless is huge. It's my fave right now. Just thinking about the possibilities of ultrafast PDAs with Transmeta CPUs and fast connections via wireless makes me wet myself. It seems as though we'll realize our dreams of owning a score of devices (I personally think desktops will be around a long time because of their flexibility) that can let you plug in and wire up no matter where you are and no matter what circumstance you're in. When you can do almost everything easily on a handheld that you can on a computer, you'll begin to see the possibilities and opportunities emerge. Once we freed the Internet from its low-band bonds, all these wonderful things started cropping up. Opening the eyes wider and wider is a necessity. Opening the digital pipe is the same.

I never thought I'd own a handheld device. But now I do. Handhelds are actually USEFUL now. And easy to use. And now I see the convergence of all sorts of technologies. Broadband and handheld flexibility are inevitably going to cross. I want my fat connection to stream all sorts of information into my system. My network of computers all with their own defined tasks. All without delay, showing the latest trends and waves and breakthroughs to me at my will. I want this 56k modem to burn in Hell.

Once you have an ethernet connection, your computer feels like more of a complete unit. You don't have to dialup or wait or anything. It feels so fragmented if you have to dialup. The cohesiveness of having the Internet available when your computer becomes available is something not to be taken lightly. Everything flows so much easier and your connection to the world is never lost.

Now extend that to see what the ramifications are of having DSL-type speeds beamed into your handheld while you're on the go. Think of neural interfaces, bionic upgrades, the works. Think of never losing your connection whether you're sitting at your computer or you're flying in a plane. This is a psychological breakthrough that will lead to many more great things.

As 2000 is the year of graduation for me, it only fits that I get rid of the modem. I am a digital child and I've grown up scolding politicians for wanting to wire up schools (oh so useless with current technology and incompetence of both teachers and students). I've grown up in a world where opportunities open up daily and only the lazy and undermotivated fail to take advantage of it all. Broadband is one of the keys I need to go to the next level. And I never have to lose it again.

DSL will be shared by my roommate and me. Our computers will be shared between a server computer that handles packets for us. The network is secure and stable. The information flows 24 hours a day into it. I am happy. I hate to wait minutes or hours for something that my eyes can process in moments. Modems are a bottleneck to the mind, not just to the computer.

The modem is on the way out. Companies like Media Fusion are going to revolutionize broadband. Media Fusion, which I do strongly believe I read about in D Magazine (thanks Mom!) before a ton of people, but unfortunately did not know about its small private investor window ($10k minimum), says it has a technology that lets you use power lines to transmit 2.5GB/s of data. It uses the magnetic field from electric currents to safely transmit data. Obviously, this would make everything else ridiculously obsolete. The power infrastructure exists everywhere. What's better is that Media Fusion says it only requires repeaters installed for every 2000 miles. That's a huge range. Easier to deploy.

Media Fusion looks like it's full of brilliant people, but even if they can't get it to work, someone will. And whoever combines that with wireless shit will be fucking rich as Hell. We're talking mega-bandwidth. My dream.

And needless to say, with my new E*Trade account (and whatever else I can find), I'll be all over Palm Computing, Alta Vista, and AsianHoldings IPO shares if I can get any of them. Tough luck. E*Trade has tons of people looking to do the same. And E*Trade, little tiny lapdog in the big mean world of Wall Street that it is, hardly gets any IPO shares of companies. Oh well, I can try, right?

Can I please please please have one of those color Palms coming soon?

I am going broadband for good. It parallels the rest of my life right now. I'm a different person. I have different feelings and priorities about things. I'm faster, more ruthless, more efficient, more flexible. Yet I wholly remember that this perhaps all came about at the time I finally put pride and arrogance aside. It's no time to blow it all away through stubbornness.

Things are changing for me. Things are changing for the world.

Screw this modem shit.

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