Dallyings with a Dongle

Dongle

There’s something about that word that makes me snigger. As a colleague explained it brings out the Benny Hill in us all.

Anyway now that I’ve suppressed my sniggers let me explain. UKOLN have now got a pool of 3G cards/Orange Business Everywhere cards/USB Modem/dongles (call them what you will) for staff to borrow. You can book these out for short periods of time. These are USB sticks that when you connect them to a laptop they allow you to use mobile broadband – Internet and email access on the move.

This makes a lot of sense. At the moment I’m sat on a train on my way to Edinburgh for the JISC Conference. UKOLN will pay for train tickets but I only fly if I really have to (environmental and ‘fear of flying’ reasons) and a bit of forward planning means I can get from Wiltshire to Scotland and back in two days. The result is 14 hours on a train. Having a laptop and an Internet connection means that I can carry on as normal…or as least have a go at trying to do that.

Setting it up

I started setting up Business Everywhere in the middle of last week. It’s supposed to be just a case of plug and play – you plug in the USB stick and the software loads itself on your laptop, then you connect to a network. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite so straightforward for me (I see myself as a good test case because if it’s possible to break it…I will). It just didn’t work. I spent hours taking the software off, putting it back on again, walking round town with a laptop held above my head (just in case it was a reception issue), but alas no joy. Thanks to the systems team (especially Nicola and Eddie) for all their help. My laptop is now in the ‘laptop hospital’ at work. Anyway I’ve been lent another laptop on which the software does work.

3g

Using it

So I’m now writing this on the train. I am working on the move! Pretty exciting stuff really. I have had a go at wifi but have yet to embrace the beyond the office working that Paul Boag talked about in his post.

The connection has been pretty good so far but there are moments of loss, this means that I’m a bit concerned about losing information, so am becoming obsessive about saving things (like this post).

It’s also pretty slow. I’m not very good at using slow computers. I tend to bang more and more keys until the computer gets its knickers in a twist and crashes. I’m trying to read the paper while the laptop is chugging. I’m thinking that I’ll maybe work on a word document saved on the C drive on the next leg of the journey.

All in all I’m really enjoying the freedom the 3G card is giving me. I know that I don’t have to worry about the wireless at the event and I won’t have to use or pay for wireless in my hotel. Although I’m not working as efficiently as I would at home I’m still in touch (my phone doesn’t really do Web) and I can fire fight problems and know that if I need Internet connection to do so it’s there.

Having a collection of dongles is an effective and cost-effective way to support your staff when they are out on the move.

Right, time to change trains…..

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