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Jewish World Review
Oct. 17, 2008
/ 18 Tishrei 5769
Mobile musings in Manila
MANILA, Philippines "Mabuhay," or "welcome," is the word one hears all over this
bustling city, where gasoline sells for around $2.25 U.S. per gallon, and the SM
Department Store is offering 10-percent off on a "Barong Filipino," the
national dress shirt and one much more amenable to the high humidity here than even
a linen suit is.
Arriving at the start of a 10-day visit, I learned several things about computing 12
time zones removed from Washington, D.C.
First, Wi-Fi is everywhere, sort of: at the Philippines International Conference
Center, wireless Internet access is free of charge. However, it seems that we can
only access e-mail using Wi-Fi and not do any Internet Web browsing. The only
conclusion I could arrive at is that there's some kind of Web-browser blocking going
on, in order to preserve bandwidth for all other e-mail users. There would seem to
be no other explanation.
Second, high-speed Internet is in place at The Heritage Hotel Manila, where I'm
staying. However, expect to pay around U.S. $18 per day for the service, which is
rather steep in my view. The hotel service is good, but not as speedy as one might
like: downloads can take some time, and firing up an online service such as Adobe's
Buzzword is much slower than in the States. However, once launched and running,
Buzzword does just fine.
This begs a question about online applications in general: how good is it to have
so-called "cloud computing" when one is traveling and access is slower than at home?
Is it not better to carry your applications with you on a computer (or, perhaps, a
flash drive) and store them and your data for quick access?
The question is not merely academic, but cuts to the heart of the matter. I'm a fan
of such "cloud" applications as Buzzword and G.ho.st, as mentioned here in recent
weeks. Google Docs is another worthy contender, especially for its integration with
Google's Gmail service. However, bandwidth can be an issue, and it's one worth
watching out for.
On the road it's always interesting to see who's carrying what and how it's being
used. The Microsoft Windows platform still dominates, of course; I've only seen a
few Apple Inc. notebooks here. But Apple's iPhone is a bit more prominent among
users. Indeed, it was a pleasant surprise to see both a first-generation iPhone and
the iPhone 3G quickly connect to local wireless networks for both voice and data
calls. Here, connection speeds are on the whole quite good. What my bill will look
like on returning home might be another question.
Which, in turn, leads one to Skype, the killer Voice-over-Internet-Protocol, or VoIP
application of all time. With a few clicks to configure, I was chatting with
the office back home as easily as if the people were standing next to me; the
bandwidth at the hotel proved no problem in terms of a connection or of sound
quality. If you're a frequent traveler and don't have Skype, you're missing a lot.
Traveling to the other side of the world, of course, takes a bit of time, and
inflight entertainment might not fill the gap. Once again, the iPhone with its media
component, and Apple's iTunes can come to the rescue. But on a very long flight,
such as the Dulles-to-Tokyo run at just under 14 hours, you need more than the basic
battery on the phone or an iPod. Enter the "2-in-1 Charger & Back Up Battery" from
i.Sound, a rechargeable, high capacity 1000mAh polymerized lithium-ion
battery that the maker says provides up to 30 hours of additional music, 6 hours of
video or 3 hours of talk time. It lists for $50, but can be found on Amazon.com for
around $46; I used it successfully and happily.
Most of all, I plan to keep it charged for the flight home, back to regular time and
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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.
© 2008, News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit the paper at http://www.washingtontimes.com