It’s a fantastic meeting here at #atheistcon, in a beautiful part of the world, with huge crowds (I have seen the theater, and I have seen it filled with people, and I am intimidated), and I can tell this convention is going to be a huge success. But I have to complain about one thing, and that is the internet access. It’s no fault of the organizers, but it’s a universal problem of big greedy hotels.
I can say from experience staying at way too many hotels that the South Wharf Hilton in Melbourne has provided the very worst experience in wifi ever. It’s abominable. Let me tell you what fun I’ve had.
The first day was OK; we actually briefly had free access. Everything was smooth, I was pleased, but of course it could not last, because then it stopped working altogether — we were told that they were going to fix it.
The next day, it was sort of working. My wife and I could both get on, I could access it via my iPad, but that’s also where my laptop started mysteriously crashing (a problem that has since vanished, since new wifi software started working).
Later that day, though, everything changed. We’d connect with wifi, and get a login screen for “DOCOMO Intertouch”. What, you might ask, is this? It’s what greedy hotels install to fuck up the internet and bring in some additional revenue. You log into this thing and then all your access is filtered through this new layer that exists solely to monitor your usage and cut you off at a specified time limit. And it sucks.
The cost is $9.95au for two hours, which is absurdly overpriced. Nothing is too absurd for these hotels, though, because when I tried to use their Business Center, the machines there charge $26au for two hours. No thanks.
So I composed some stuff offline, and bit the bullet and paid the $9.95 to get some stuff done. I started sucking in my email, managed some essential student business, then after about ten minutes went to do some of that blogging stuff, and this is what I got instead, a big stupid error message.
I followed the instructions, quit and restarted, and fired it up again…no go. Same message. Infuriatingly, the lovely DOCOMO software does put up a little countdown clock to tell you that your time will expire in 1Hour(s):43Min(s): 14Sec(s), which you can watch count down to the time it will stop working for sure. Just the fact that they use that clumsy (s) tells me these programmers are lazy relics from the 1980s. Maybe the DOCOMO code is even written in COBOL.
I let it time out.
So today, fool that I am, I figured they’ve been working on fixing this problem, and I paid them $9.95 again. I got about 3 minutes before it died. I thought I’d be smart and try to post something first; I wasn’t quick enough. So that morning I got to watch the ever-so-useful timer count down again.
I’ve run into this so often it’s become a kind of expectation for me. I get a cheap hotel, the room is fine, the internet access is routine and free; sometimes you have to enter a password, but that’s a function built into the router and it all works smoothly. Get put into a pricier, nicer, fancier hotel, and oh, no, they can’t possibly just provide access to all their customers — they have to gouge more money out of them. So they contract some company to build a wall, usually badly, that their residents have to pay to get through, and then they charge some ridiculous sum for limited access. And it almost always breaks, because the people running the hotel have no idea how to manage this clumsy chunk of code they’ve interposed between us and the internet. And we get really pissed off.
Because, you know, a hotel may have lovely amenities (like this one), but some of us see the world through the lens of the network, and all we see is incompetent IT people and money-grubbing asshole management, and that means the hotel looks utterly hideous to us.
The hotel staff did try to be helpful, and cancelled the charges, but none of them knew anything about the software, and the only way they could actually help me get on the internet was to connect me to DOCOMO. No thanks. They are the problem, not the solution.
Travelers, if you expect to get anything done on the internet, stay away from the South Wharf Hilton in Melbourne. All you’ll get is aggravation and frustration. Stay just about anywhere else — I’ve talked to a few people who got cheaper local accommodation, and they’re entirely content with their service.
Some good news: we do have free wifi in the convention center! Hooray for the organizers! I’ll try to post a few updates on the meetings throughout the Australian day (first up this morning: Peter Singer), but I also suspect that, realistically, once 3500-4000 people show up and fire up their smartphones all at once, it may get a little flaky. But at least I have one place where I can get through!