Showing posts with label Internet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Internet. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Will computers and the Internet improve people?

When specialized stores for art supplies sprang up in cities throughout the world, optimistic thinkers might have imagined that hordes of new Michelangelos would soon be appearing on suburban streets. But that was as silly as thinking that the existence of cheap typewriters would have given rise to many new Shakespeares.

A few years ago, I imagined naively that the presence of powerful computers and rich Internet facilities would improve society. Over the last decade or so, these devices have become as popular as TV, and people had the impression that this technology was enabling them to become smarter and indeed happier. Like would-be novelists, they could write anything that interested them, and show it instantly to readers. Alas, they failed to realize that they still had nothing much to say. Today, I’m starting to have my doubts. I feel at times that more and more ordinary people will move away from alleged “tools of the mind” and simply become run-of-the-mill users of gadgets for dummies.

A close-to-home affair convinced me that computers and the Internet would encounter problems when trying to get accepted in popular contexts. A friend told me she was looking into the problem of getting her domestic Internet installation improved. When she called upon a local specialist to look into the situation, she was shocked to find that he expected to be paid the same tarif as a local doctor called in to take care of a child with a cough. The lady found it outrageous that a computer fellow might imagine that he was dealing with more serious problems than the sickness of a child. In fact, her two sons were doctors, so she asked one of them to “fix up” her computer system… which he promptly did. In this way, her expenses were reduced to a minimum.


As far as I know, her computer is still working well… which proves that a good general practitioner can cure almost anything. Computers must never be thought of as more complicated than sick children.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Mac-based psychotherapy experience

Over a year ago, in July 2015, inside my house at Gamone, I suffered a severe accident. After consuming a little too much tasty white wine in the warm weather, I fell down the stairs and bumped my head. As a doctor told me later, I could have easily killed myself. My son François assumed the harsh task of taking a train from Brittany down to my region, and then driving me and my dog back up to Brittany. There, I was housed and cared for, not only by my son, but also by his mother Christine and her companion Michel. It was rough work for them, for several months, since I wasn’t an easy patient. To cut a long story short, I finally survived, thanks to my family and several skilled medical specialists, who patched me up remarkably well.

Since I was accompanied to Brittany by my Macintosh computer, I tried as best I could to manipulate it… but some of my previous Internet skills had been bumped into the backwoods by my accident. Personally, I was totally convinced that my basic technical intelligence—that’s to say, my computer skills—was intact…. which corresponded to official medical evaluations of the patient. Little by little, through playing around with my faithful Macintosh, I was able to confirm, slowly but surely, that most of my former Internet functionality was indeed operational, although there were several technical zones in which I continued to behave a little shakily.


Over the months that followed, right up to and including today, I have been able to use my hardware (including a new iMac and several external disks) to confirm that I know what I’m doing in the Internet domain. It’s not an exaggeration to say that my friendly Mac world has been playing a significant role as a psychotherapy guide and yardstick. For example, since the accident, I found it impossible to link a powerful external disk to either of my two iMac computers. It was only yesterday that I played around with this external disk long enough to discover that it must have been screwed up a little by contacts with somebody’s PC environment, and that I would have to reformat and reinitialize it. I lost no time in doing so, and everything returned to normal… as it had been before my accident.

The most amazing thing of all is that I am now tackling various aspects of my familiar Macintosh world in a more rigorous manner than before my fall down the stairs. The therapy challenges have made me an even better Mac user than I used to be.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Nobody owns me

Since yesterday, the administration of web names, carried out by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), is no longer under the control of the US Department of Commerce. Icaan is henceforth in the hands of a private non-profit organization (NPO). In spite of its name, an NPO is not obliged to avoid making profits. It’s simply an organization with no owners. Wikipedia informs us: A nonprofit organization uses its surplus revenues to further achieve its purpose or mission, rather than distributing such money to shareholders as profit or dividends.

Have you understood? Will this change affect ordinary web-users like me, for example? Decide for yourselves. For me, this change might be superficial, but I find it fine. I never like to be owned. Particularly by the US Department of Commerce.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Life after Facebook

I pulled out of Facebook a few years ago. Since then, I've never experienced any nasty withdrawal symptoms and my existence has remained very much the same as when I had an operational Facebook account. In that last phrase, the adjective "operational" is a slight exaggeration, because I never went to the trouble of building a so-called "wall", so nobody ever "liked" me, just as I refrained from ever "liking" any other addicts in the Facebook universe.

The celebrated French cartoonist Charb has kindly authorized me to reproduce one of his marvelous drawings:

— from an article by Patrick Pelloux in Charlie Hebdo (France)

So, life after Facebook is a reality. Maybe, since abandoning Facebook, I've been missing out on all kinds of communication pleasures. But, since I'm not aware of what I'm letting slip by, it doesn't seem to hurt me. Some people might say that my Antipodes blog is "worse" than a Facebook account, since I'm constantly exposing myself on all kinds of subjects, and I know that Google drops in regularly on my latest blog posts, to see what I've been talking about. The big difference is that I never set out to write stuff that will make me "liked". In fact, as you can see from certain comments, there are readers who hate my guts... but that's normal, and I don't get upset by run-of-the-mill criticism (which often says more about the individual writing the criticism than about me). In any case, I've nothing to hide, and I'm happy to be known publicly as the sort of fellow who might write a blog such as Antipodes. I'm not at all like Groucho Marx when he said: "I don't want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member." Above all, I'm pleased to learn (through my Site Meter account) that dozens of my old blog posts get read every day... mainly by readers in the USA, the UK and Australia.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Paris tea business

These people certainly know how to market tea through the Internet.


Along with the four packets I ordered, they've sent me three samples of related products. The post-free delivery was rapid, and they included two attractive catalogues.


They have an excellent website. I notice that their orders are processed in a dull warehouse in a small street in the neighborhood where my daughter lives.


As for their headquarters, it's a typical wholesale boutique in the Marais neighborhood, not far from the place where I lived for some twenty years. So, the business is almost certainly run by a well-established Franco-Chinese family. In any case, they've got their act together perfectly.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Internet shopping

Towards the end of my blog post of 12 June 2011 entitled Basic beverages [display], I mentioned my discovery of a shop in Valence named Pivard that sells many varieties of high-quality coffee grains, roasted in their big factory on the southern outskirts of the city. Since then, I've often found myself driving all the way to Valence and back simply to purchase fresh coffee. Now, when I take into account the time it takes for such a trip, and its cost in terms of gasoline, I realize that this excursion to Valence is somewhat absurd. So, I decided to look into the possibility of purchasing high-quality coffee grains through the Internet. I soon discovered that this solution was perfectly feasible, and that the prices were similar to what I had been paying in the shop at Valence. Besides, since proximity (within France) was no longer an issue, I could choose the vendor who seemed to offer the most interesting range of products. I soon discovered that, in Strasbourg (Alsace), an ancient establishment named Reck proposes three varieties of Ethiopian Arabica for which I've acquired a taste: Yirgacheffe, Sidamo and Harrar.


Sure, it would be nicer if I were to drop in personally and buy my coffee grains at the old Reck shop in the Rue de la Mésange, five minutes away from the great cathedral of Strasbourg. But being able to purchase such products through the Internet is indeed a convenient luxury.


I've always been fascinated by the atmosphere and aromas of ancient shops that sell tea and coffee. Thanks to my KitchenAid burr grinder, I can reproduce at least the aroma of freshly-ground coffee in my kitchen at Gamone. And the true pleasure, of course, is in the drinking.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Language example

Often, when I notice that such-and-such an old blog post in the archives of Antipodes seems to receive numerous visits, I'm tempted to explore the reasons for its apparent popularity. For example, over three years ago, I wrote a rambling article entitled Professional bias [display], and I now discover that it is accessed quite frequently. Here's why:

[Click to enlarge slightly]

Click here to visit the website in question. Reference.com is an online encyclopedia, thesaurus and dictionary. Click here to visit a Wikipedia description of this service.

Friday, September 16, 2011

No problems



It's easy if you try.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Online clothes

For the first time ever, I've just purchased clothes on the Internet. It wasn't such a big deal: just a few quite ordinary T-shirts, some of them black, and the others white. And not particularly expensive.

It might be thought of as a small step for the blogger in front of his Macintosh, but it'll be a huge step for William parading through the village streets wearing sexy T-shirt gear purchased online through La Redoute. If ever I were to obtain any breathtaking visual scoops on this affair, I would of course let you know.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Swiveling

I've just purchased a fabulous new TopStar swivel chair, made in Germany, for my computer desk. It's a genuine Porsche. I'll have to get used to wearing a crash helmet when I'm blogging.

[Click the image to download the TopStar video on office chairs.]

In a recent e-mail to my Australian expatriate friend Badger in Austria [blog], I informed him that the presence of this new chair in front of the sturdy walnut-and-steel-framed home-designed desk on which my Macintosh resides is likely to bring about spectacular increases in my personal creativity. I told him, too, that my creativity will be enhanced still further by my acquisition of powerful new computer-screen reading glasses of the celebrated Essilor brand, set into my lovely old gold rims.

Friday, March 25, 2011

In front of what?

Friends see that I follow current affairs on the web (including events in my native land). Then they hear me raving on about my blogging, my Internet-assisted genealogical research, my use of word processing for creative writing and, now, my intense involvement with the complex domain of Macintosh and iPad programming. Inevitably, they pop the obvious question: How many hours a day do you spend in front of your computer screen? This question annoys me, because I can see their brains ticking over and getting ready to subtract my answer from 24, obtaining X, enabling them to conclude: This poor guy only lives in the real world for X short hours a day!

Their question is indeed poorly worded. No doubt poorly conceived. A more significant question would be: How many hours a day do you spend in front of your brain, your reflexions, your intelligence, your background, your culture, your identity, your ambitions, your creative activities, your intellectual projects, your passions, your destiny, etc…? And my answer would be something in the vicinity of 17 to 18. In other words, I have little spare time to waste, to be bored.

Back in Paris, when I worked as a technical writer in the high-powered ILOG software company (now a part of IBM), my fellow-workers used to laugh about a cleaning lady who, before dusting down a computer screen, would always say to the user, politely: "Excuse me, give me half a minute to clean your telly." Her use of the term "telly" gave us the impression that she looked upon our group of ILOG software engineers (who often worked late into the evening) as a joyous throng of guys and gals who seemed to be paid to spend hours on end watching mysterious TV shows, in languages that they alone could comprehend. Well, she wasn't really wrong. Except that purists would have pointed out that our screens didn't capture and display the heavenly signals designated as TV, but something a little different, emanating from within our "tellies". We were watching and appreciating shows that we ourselves had just produced. But none of us had the courage (nor the desire, for that matter) to attempt to explain that situation to the cleaning lady.

In a similar sense, I wonder if there's any point in trying to explain to friends, today, that the vast time I seem to spend sitting in front of a computer screen is not simply "time spent sitting in front of a computer screen". It's much more than that. As I suggested earlier on, I'm seated, for much of the time, in front of… myself! Introspection, maybe, or even narcissism. I would speak rather of computer-assisted cogitations or meditation. Much more, in any case, than dumb screen-watching.

To my mind, in terms of wasting time, there are worse things than a computer screen to be seated in front of. For example, the steering wheel of an automobile. Or fellow passengers in public transport (trains, buses, trams, etc). Sitting in front of a TV screen in certain English-speaking societies (which I hardly need to name), or their media in general, can be a most effective way of plowing mindlessly through time. Personally, I would not willingly swap the least amount of computer screen-watching for, say, time spent waiting to be served in a dull restaurant offering poor-quality food. But the deal would be off, of course, if I happened to be dining on a warm evening, say, in Arles with a dear Provençal friend [display]. It's not so much a question of where you're sitting, but rather a matter of the quality of the entity in front of which you're seated!

I don't deny that spending hours in front of a computer screen might, in certain circumstances, be thought of as a waste of time. (But who am I to judge?) Maybe that's why I detest all kinds of games (including bridge evenings with suburban neighbors… who don't exist here, fortunately, at Choranche). On my Macintosh, there has never been anything that looks remotely like a video game. I hate all that fake stuff. On the other hand, it's fact that I can "waste" precious time gazing up at the Cournouze, or down into the eyes of my dogs. As I said, it's not so much where you decide to sit down, but rather what you want to watch. And I would be a liar if I were to suggest that I don't like spending a lot of time watching what gives on the screen of my faithful Macintosh. I hasten to add that I'm also very fond of my splendid TV screen, and vaguely concerned (when it's absolutely necessary, which is rare) by the relatively insipid screens of my iPad and iPhone.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

First snow for Gamone newcomers

I've had an outage of the Internet and my house telephone for the last couple of days. Funnily, I don't think this breakdown had anything to do with the violent winter weather that hit us at the same time. It's more likely due to a mishap brought about by the armada of earth-moving engines that are working nonstop, down on the road below Gamone, installing a new sewage system for the entire district. These huge renovations (which will prevent us from driving through the main street of Pont-en-Royans for another month) don't concern me personally, because my house was renovated according to the new sanitation legislation in vigor in 1993, and I have an excellent ecological system of sewage disposal—inspected annually by the competent authorities— installed underground on the slopes below my house.

Meanwhile, Fitzroy has had his first in-depth contact with snow… and he loves it.

That's to say, he sees it as a marvelous soft support for his never-ending jousts with Sophia.

The little donkey Fanette has also experienced, for the first time, the slight discomfort brought about by the disappearance of the greenery (grass and weeds) under a 25cm-thick blanket of snow.

I prefer to speak of "slight discomfort" rather than of hunger, because the two donkeys are obscenely fat, after dining regularly on apples and walnuts over the last month or so.

As for the mésanges (wild birds, known in English as tits, which spend the winter months at Gamone), they've been happy to discover a big stock of sunflower seeds in the bird-house, and they swarm around it as a throng of a couple of dozen tiny black-and-gold creatures.

As of this morning, the sun is shining, the snow is melting, the road has been cleared by Frédéric Bourne in his tractor equipped with a giant steel blade… and my Internet is up and running. All is well at Gamone.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Most boring day of the year

For the second year, the French web daily Rue89 has launched the concept of the Most Boring Day of the Year. It falls in the first fortnight of August, when many French people are on summer holidays, and the flow of interesting news events drops almost to zero. The exact date varies slightly each year, for technical reasons. This year, it happens to fall on August 11: today. And, since the early hours of the morning, observers have been astounded to discover that today is indeed an exceptionally boring day in France.

This morning, the media dullness got off to a good start with a perfectly boring video showing the French president Nicolas Sarkozy riding his bike down on the Rivera, and halting briefly to savor a dish of frittered courgettes (zucchini) at a roadside tavern… where a TV crew just happened to be ready to shoot the event.

The instigators of the Most Boring Day of the Year phenomenon were thrilled to find that their media colleagues on the other side of the English Channel apparently shared their enthusiasm for dull news by publishing a perfectly boring front-page story with a photo of the unshaven president and his wife.

For the moment, everything's going fine in France. All the news stories of the day (which I don't intend to summarize) have turned out to be incredibly boring. With a bit of chance, unless a major catastrophe occurs in the next few hours, the day will be a total success.

Naturally, I've been wondering whether this special day could be celebrated simultaneously, in the same exciting fashion, in the Antipodes. A rapid perusal of today's Australian press reassures me that it was a remarkably dull day Down Under. A splendid example was a story about a football player who got mixed up in drug abuse. A dull 30-second video trailer on this subject is said to be "sending shockwaves across the country". Another great front-page news item reveals that a white van hit a woman in Melbourne, injuring her seriously, but failed to stop. Then we were invited to enjoy another boring item of news: a fine specimen of Australian reporting about hugely wealthy individuals and their pricey possessions. We have here, on the front page of today's web edition of The Australian, a photo (accompanied by an article) of a flamboyant 10-bedroom house near Brisbane that can be purchased for just over 8 million dollars:

Now, the trouble with labeling a particular date "the most boring day of the year" is that the day in question immediately becomes interesting, precisely because it's claimed to be exceptionally boring. In the case of the lucky individual who saw that photo and immediately grabbed his checkbook to purchase that house, the 11 August 2010 will surely go down in his personal history as a tremendously significant date. And I would not be surprised if he were to get around to inviting all his friends along to the house for a poolside barbecue, every 11th August, to celebrate this most happy event.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New computing, new Internet

Clearly, the birth of the Apple iPad (which arrived recently in France) has shaken up considerably the world of personal computing. And I've been attempting arduously to pick up the threads (which explains incidentally why I've been spending less time contributing to Antipodes). In this context, I've decided to create a new website based upon the "promised land" of HTML5. For want of a more informative technical title, I call my website Gamone. You should be able to access it using modern browsers such as Firefox, Safari and Chrome (but not necessarily Internet Explorer):


I shall be happy to receive feedback concerning your reception of this website. Meanwhile, I promise you that, with time, it will become less skeletal, more meaty and hopefully more interesting.

POST SCRIPTUM: I knew, right from the start of this project, that I would run into problems when attempting to mix English and French (because of accented letters). For the moment, I'm aware of this obstacle, which mars my website, but I hope to overcome it rapidly.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010

Enemies of the Internet

[Click the banner to access their website.]

The highly-reputed French association named Reporters Without Borders describes itself as follows:

Reporters Without Borders is present in all five continents through its national branches (in Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland), its offices in New York, Tokyo and Washington, and the more than 120 correspondents it has in other countries. The organisation also works closely with local and regional press freedom groups that are members of the Reporters Without Borders Network, in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Burma, Colombia, Democratic Congo, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Peru, Romania, Russia, Somalia, the United States and Tunisia.

Reporters Without Borders is registered in France as a non-profit organisation and has consultant status at the United Nations.

In 2005, the organisation won the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

Today, March 12, happens to be their World Day Against Cyber Censorship.

[Click the poster to access their description of this event.]

The association has just published a report entitled Enemies of the Internet. Here's a paragraph that mentions Australia:

Among the countries “under surveillance” are several democracies: Australia, because of the upcoming implementation of a highly developed Internet filtering system, and South Korea, where draconian laws are creating too many specific restrictions on Web users by challenging their anonymity and promoting self-censorship.

Browsing through the complete report (available on their website), we're obliged to admit that Australia is not exactly in nice company: Saudi Arabia, Burma, China, North Korea, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Uzbekistan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan and Vietnam.

BREAKING NEWS: The story about so-called "enemies of the Internet" has been reproduced widely in the French press, accompanied by the following map:

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Things to see in St-Marcellin

If ever you imagined that the only thing to be seen at St-Marcellin is their famous cheese, then the information I'm about to reveal will surely surprise you. First, there's an exotic intersection in the middle of the town.

There wasn't much light, and my photo is not very good. Besides, I was making an effort to avoid being run over by vehicles on the busy road where I was standing to take the photo. In the foreground, on a landscaped island at the center of the intersection, you can just make out the presence of a makeshift sun-shelter, erected with wooden poles, with a straw roof. Beneath it, there's an elegant wicker garden chair. If you didn't mind the busy traffic, you could sit there in the cool shade and contemplate the flowers and the shrub planted by council gardeners.

The façade behind the oasis is interesting. The owner of a flat on an upper floor has stuck her collection of toy animals out in the cool air, giving them an opportunity to gaze down upon the oasis and the road traffic. Here are closeup views:

The first time I discovered this balcony zoo, a month or so ago, there was a huge felt gorilla in the left-hand group, but he probably got blown away in a recent tempest and crushed by a truck.

The black and white cow in the right-hand window reminds me of a trivial anecdote yesterday at the local supermarket. A little girl, jumping around alongside her mother, was carrying a huge gray felt cow in her arms. At the place where you weigh your fruit and vegetables, the child had decided to place her animal upside-down on the scales, and she pressed randomly on a button that informed her immediately of the weight of her cow, and the animal's price if it had been a bag of tomatoes. Seeing me waiting for the scales, the child glanced up at me with a cheeky grin, as if to say: "Why shouldn't I weigh my cow?" I said to her, in a serious tone of voice: "Give me a carton of milk and a kilo of beef, please." The puzzled expression on the little girl's face suggested that she was analyzing my request. Her mother, on the other hand, must have thought it was a great joke, for she burst out laughing.

Back in the domain of sights to see at St-Marcellin, there's an affair that has amused me for ages. You can well imagine a businessman with a fleet of utility vehicles who decides to publicize his activities through an Internet website. Well, in St-Marcellin, there's a young entrepreneur who's handling his affairs the other way round. He has built an Internet site, designed to display small ads, and he uses his fleet of stationary vehicles to publicize his website.

When I say "fleet", I'm exaggerating a little, since he only seems to have a pair of little yellow vans, which are parked constantly at strategic spots in the town.

The fellow often turns up at the weekly market in St-Marcellin, where he has a small stand that publicizes his website... which is rather dull. [Click the photos to visit it.] He even has a scrapbook with photos of pages in his website.

Long ago, somebody asked me: "William, we want to sell our house through the Internet. Do they have a phone number, or maybe an office in the city? How much do they charge, roughly, for a house-for-sale ad?" Readers will have understood that, in this person's questions, her use of the word "they" represented the staff of the mythical company that owns and operates the Internet. At the time, I wasn't quite sure how to reply. Today, if she were to ask me the same questions, I would tell her that the ideal way of moving into the vast new Internet world is to go along to the St-Marcellin market on a Saturday morning and browse through the scrapbook of the fellow with the two yellow vans.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New dimension of news

Keenly-awaited revelations are being made at present (which means right now) by 82-year-old Charles Pasqua, former French minister of the Interior under both Jacques Chirac and François Mitterrand. A few days ago, Pasqua was condemned to a year's jail for his role in the sale of arms to Angola.

While writing, I'm tuned in to the website of the Le Monde newspaper which is providing me with a live textual transcription—minute by minute, almost sentence by sentence, accompanied by short comments from journalists—of Pasqua's press conference. The latest time indicated on the website clock is a mere minute less than the time displayed by my Macintosh, which means that I'm truly obtaining live information. And every time that the website is displaying a textual update, it warns me by producing a weird woodpecker noise. In other words, I'm obtaining a textual account of the Pasqua press conference in real time. It's certainly an impressive Internet achievement. This sort of technology would be fabulous if the entire planet were awaiting the words of a prophet or a savior... but it's surely a little too overkill in the case of the lukewarm revelations promised by Pasqua.

At the instant I'm writing (15 h 55), somebody has just asked Pasqua whether Sarkozy was aware of these illegal arms transactions. Good question. Alas, Pasqua's reply is hardly world-shaking.

As you can see from my words, I'm not yet totally convinced that naive observers such as myself can benefit greatly from this kind of super-live Internet display of press conferences. But I might very well end up changing my opinions on that question. So, be patient. After all, don't forget that you're listening to me live! I need time to reflect...

BREAKING NEWS: I'm amazed to realize that I've already published a blog article on Pasqua's press conference before it's even finished! It's 5 minutes past 4 o'clock, and a journalist has just described Pasqua's revelations as a damp firecracker. I won't be offended if anybody uses similar criticism for the present blog.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Obnoxious Jap

Back on 10 July 2009, I published an article entitled Winning or losing concerning Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France.

[Click the photo to display the blog article.]

For reasons I don't understand, this inoffensive article has been polluted by regular "comments" from an obnoxious Jap whose link leads back to a vulgar porn website. When I say "vulgar", I mean that the home page of this guy's website has even less erotic appeal than a crude manga image. Pure dull shit.

I was hoping naively that this pest would simply disappear... but he's still there. So, I've finally got around to indicating his presence to the Blogger forum, to see if somebody can tell me how to eliminate this obnoxious intruder. What I really need to find, I guess, is a link to an attractive website containing incitations to commit hara-kiri.

BREAKING NEWS: For problem-solving, the Blogger forum is most efficient. A wizard-level contributor named nitecruzr has kindly told me how to react, by means of a sort of Hiroshima button (which I simply hadn't noticed up until he pointed out its presence to me). Normally, all the Japanese comments have disappeared forever, along with the evening rays of the imperial sun. But I wouldn't be surprised if the pest reappears in future unexpected kamikaze attacks on my Antipodes. At least I know now how to gun him down.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Communications infrastructure

We often tend to imagine that a technology such as the Internet simply arrives magically in our homes like water in the kitchen sink, or electricity, or TV. In fact, in rural areas, the installation of a high-performance Internet infrastructure is a major task.

For the last few days, road traffic between Pont-en-Royans and the neighboring village of Saint-Jean-en-Royans has been interrupted at Sainte-Eulalie-en-Royans because of improvements to the local Internet system. This road sign announces proudly that regional authorities are building a network in the Ardèche and Drôme départements to handle data flows described as "high-volume and very high-volume". I love their "very" (which is like the Super in Superman). It sounds great, but I'm not sure what it actually means. It's a little like the true clocked speed of Speedy Gonzales.

The photo is amusing in that the building on the left has a barely-readable old sign on the outside wall indicating that it was once the local railway station, many decades ago, for a tiny steam train (often referred to as a tram) that ran between Pont-en-Royans and Romans (in the Drôme).

[Click the image for a larger photo.]

The telecom boutique of my ISP [Internet service provider], Orange, is located in the former terminal city of the little train. So, I like to think that the soul of the lovely little train [What? You didn't know that trains have souls?] has been reincarnated in my Internet connection. Meanwhile, instead of fixing up railway lines, workers are busy at Sainte-Eulalie installing cables for the Internet network.

Don't let this photo mislead you into thinking that all the trenches are being dug manually. If I understand correctly, they only call upon human diggers when the Internet cables are located in the vicinity of existing infrastructural elements such as power lines, water ducts or sewage pipes. The rest of the time, most of the digging and cable laying is done by the following remarkable beast, whose powerful teeth (like those of a mythical prehistoric rodent such as a giant rat) could convert your front garden into a cable network in less time than it takes to down a hamburger and consult your emails at MacDonald's.

The latest models of mini-shovels are acquiring the look and feel of sports cars. [My blog friend Paul might not agree with me on that question.] The guys drive them as if they were powerful toys.

All these land-moving operations are directed from a civil-engineering base camp at the foot of the mountains.

The place where I took these photos this morning is about a minute, by automobile, from Pont-en-Royans. The antiquated steam tram took a quarter of an hour to make the journey from the bridge over the Cholet (seen in the earlier photo) to the terminus at Pont-en-Royans. As for the Internet, these words and pictures will be reaching the Antipodes, after I publish them on my blog, within a few seconds.

This Internet-oriented blog article is dedicated to the soul of the dear departed old train between Pont-en-Royans and Romans, whose rusty remains repose today, anonymously, no doubt, in some kind of graveyard for mechanical puffing elephants. If only I knew its address, I would love to send it an email. But do dead trains read their email?