The following text is copyright 1998 by Network World, permission is hearby given for reproduction, as long as attribution is given and this notice is included.

Road warrior connectivity

By Scott Bradner

Network World, 6/1/98

I know I travel far too much. Getting to 100,000 miles on United
Airlines by July, as it looks like will happen, should indicate
something is wrong with my priorities. But, for many reasons, the
travel continues.

I also get far too much e-mail (and far too much of that is spam).

The combination of my travel and e-mail excesses means that I spend
long hours online from hotel rooms. Somehow the glamour of this
lifestyle has eluded me so far.

At least there is now some potential for things to get better. Internet
access in hotels and airports has become more common, but there are
still some rather basic problems. Strangely enough, the systems
themselves seem to have been designed by people who do not actually
use the Internet. The features of the in-room, TV-based systems are
strange at best and marginally useful as a norm. And it must have
taken quite a bit of research to come up with a keyboard as bad as the
model found at so many of the Internet carrels at airports.

Business hotels are beginning to get a clue about the need for
connectivity, but most still need lots of help. Just having a second
phone line that can be used to dial out is a good start. At least you do
not get cut off when the hotel's call waiting signal comes on. But it
would help if the data jack were on a phone near a desk suitable for
laptop use.

It would also help if there was a power outlet within 30 feet of the
data jack that would not get switched off when you turn out the room

What I would really like to see is more Ethernet-based Internet access
in hotel rooms. With this technology, there would be no need for
special interfaces or drivers. If the hotel has a reasonably fast
connection to a decent ISP, then the performance can be quite good
using an Ethernet-based system. But there can be significant
configuration changes required when plugging into someone else's
LAN. The image of the average traveling executive trying to
reconfigure his laptop is amusing as long as you're not the one
running the help desk back at the executive's office.

I saw a neat service offering the other day from Elastic Networks that
could alleviate some of these problems. It is designed to work in hotel
rooms and other places where many people may want to plug in. The offering listens to the Ethernet traffic and configures itself to do address translation so that your laptop works without any reconfiguration. I was even able to use the secure shell from my laptop Macintosh back to the computer in my office just by running the secure shell.

I expect you might run into problems with Elastic Networks' offering if you were trying to access sites protected by certain external firewalls. But since we do not have an external firewall at Harvard, I'd change hotels if I could get this service in my room.

Disclaimer: Harvard hardly ever travels, so the above observations and wishes must be mine.