back to article Not a Cloud in my holiday sky

As I type this, the cloudless sky is a deep azure, while the bright green, sprinkler-assisted lawn offsets the ochre of the sunburnt wild grass beyond the untidy hedge of rhododendrons. Our man on his mission Dabbsy spies out his nearest Wi-Fi hotspot Evidently, Toto, I am not in Britain any more. I am on vacation. The …


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  1. Eponymous Cowherd


    "I like the American term 'vacation' rather than 'holiday' because it lets people know that you are somewhere else and therefore probably unavailable it is safe to burgle your house."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Vacation

      As we are using American terms, that should read 'burglarize' surely.:-)

      1. Lee Dowling Silver badge

        Re: Vacation


        Gah! My eyes! They burnalarize! Somebody please rinsabilitarianize them immediately!

        Seriously, what a stupid-sounding, horrible construction of a word.

        1. JimmyPage Silver badge

          It gets better

          Obviously, if your house is burglarized, it was done by a burglarizer. And obviously, a burglarizer burglarizes.

          1. Mephistro

            Re: It gets better

            Burglarizitation: The act of burglarizitating something

            1. Chemist

              Re: It gets better


              Failure to rob a single-story property

    2. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: Vacation

      Who said my house was unoccupied? I have a house-sitter/cat-minder in loco. He is armed and very very dangerous (on the dance floor)..

    3. N13L5

      cloud is gone as soon as you need it.

      I'm perplexed at the prevailing blind belief in the cloud.

      Sure, Google must believe in the cloud, it sort of is part of their business model.

      But leaving a Micro SD card slot out of a shiny new device "cause you can just stream it from the cloud" is just idiotic.

      Anyway, you were asking for laptop advice.

      I'm generally no Dell fan, but the XPS 13 is a rather nicely designed and engineered overall package, even though it doesn't boast the top specs. If you want an IPS screen with 1080p, there's the UX31A (13") and the UX21A (11"). If you want the best sunlight readability, there are certain models of Samsung's and Toshiba's Ultrabooks.

      If you don't need it right after you come back and can wait till xmas, Otellini has promised 140 more ultrabooks in the fall.

      I just got through translating a decent review of the latest MacBook 11, but you'll forgive me if I don't recommend Apple kit in general, and this one has a horrible glossy, low rez screen, not to mention the bezel is so big, they could fit a 13" screen into the Air 11.

      Dell wasted the least space of all of them with excellent fit and finish. Which is quite a turnabout for the company who usually made the clunkiest stuff.

  2. Lionel Baden
    Thumb Up

    Perfect !!!!

    and its weight suggests that half the interior is stuffed with concrete to offset the spin cycle of the hard disk,

  3. Captain Underpants


    13" MacBook Air? Should be powerful enough for what you need to do, all solid-state so no worries about knackered spinning-drive-based data loss horror, and it's lightweight/slim enough to not be a burden...It's not cheap, exactly, but then neither are the comparably-sized alternative windows-based versions from other vendors.

    (Me, I've got a 10" dual-core-Atom-based Eee that comes with me on holiday but then it's not a work machine for me, so much as a "dick about on the internet, watch the occasional ripped film/tv episode and run 16-bit console emulators for retrogaming fun" machine)

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: Laptop

      As long as you don't buy mine - I have my eyes on that as my next one as well. Macbook would go to my son after getting an SSD of sorts, because it's robust - childproofing a computer has more to do with physical robustness than any misguided attempt at locking a child out from what it already knows more about than its parents :).

      But no, you won't - because I need a non-UK layout on account of having to deal with various languages that had to reach beyond the 26 characters A-Z to express themselves..

      Having said that, the retina Macbook is also eye-watering. But that has less to do with its display than the price..

    2. N13L5

      Re: Laptop

      Apple considers its MacBook Air line as consumer machines and fits them with low resolution, glare type screens.

      I don't know why someone who writes for a living would want a 13" screen with 768 vertical pixels and a TN panel. True, its a reasonable quality TN panel, but the glare surface doesn't cut it if you want to write while out and about.

      Even If I was an OS X user, I'd probably get an Asus UX31A and HackIntosh it.

      But waiting till fall beats all other options right now.

      1. Captain Underpants

        Re: Laptop


        Apple considers *everything* they make to be consumer machines - they don't call themselves a premium consumer electronics company for nothing. Before you try to argue otherwise, consider that Apple are the only approved computer vendor I've dealt with that is considered suitable for HE establishments despite refusing to provide any sort of next-day on-site hardware support for laptops. The best you'll get is a 1-2 week turnaround through either the Apple Store if you take it in there in person, or through an Authorised Service Centre via CAR (and at least half the ones I've dealt with have been the sort of cowboys who'll do things like lie about having had your authorisation to needlessly change the hard drive without doing a migration, reverting you to your two-versions-old initially-installed OS, not that I'm still bitter about that particular shower of useless bastards or anything...).

        Personally, I don't see the point in any of the current crop of 13" machines - they *all* seem to have shite display resolutions and a fetish for being "thin" - I don't care about it being thin, I care about a good tradeoff between weight and power, and if that means making it a bit thicker then so bloody be it!

  4. Sordid Details

    Enlighten me

    If your intention was to get away from it all, and you went to the lengths of telling your clients that you would be unavailable, I am struggling to understand why you went to such lengths to make yourself available. Or am I just missing the glorious irony?

    1. keithpeter Silver badge

      Re: Enlighten me

      Yes, STOP WORKING, you are showing me up.

    2. Richard Ball

      Re: Enlighten me

      Missing deliberately it would seem.

    3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Enlighten me

      Too true. When I go on vacation the laptop stays firmly kensington-locked at home, and the mobile phone gets used for personal phone calls (booking restaurants), nothing else. What's the point of a vacation if you're going to work?

    4. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: Enlighten me

      *sigh* irony yes, and light humour.

  5. Arrrggghh-otron

    You wouldn't steal a car?!?

    Slurping someone else's wifi without their permission... isn't that illegal these days?

    Might as well download some films while you are at it, after all, it looks like HADOPIs days are numbered...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You wouldn't steal a car?!?

      Sorry to interject a serious note, but that is a hotly debated topic (check out

      Define "permission". Explicit, written permission. Vebal ? Or is the fact the WiFi is open and unsecured enough to indicate the owner has given permission for it to be used ?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You wouldn't steal a car?!?

        Old debate.

        From a privacy perspective: access to my resources, paid for by my money, without my permission. If I leave the keys on my car it remains illegal to drive away with it, if I leave the front door open it remains illegal to help yourself to the contents of my house - irrespective of how stupid I have been (I have the insurance to remind me of that, thanks).

        From a piracy perspective: but information wants to be free, and data, and everything else you have, it's ours because you left it open - Google did it, and if Google gets away with it with a stupidly small fine so must we - it is our RIGHT, even though we are shy of our obligations. And we're entitled to it all, mainly because we're to cheap to spend any of our own money on those large evil corporates we actually happen to work for ourselves because our egalitarian attitude hasn't quite pervaded Tesco and other food shops yet so we have to still pay them..

        As a matter of fact, it is legal for me to leave it open, but put a detector on it that nmaps the hell out of your illegal tap the moment you enter the network. Because I can do on my own network whatever I want - not my fault you stepped in..

        1. tony2heads

          Re: You wouldn't steal a car?!?

          It is more like fruit from a tree hanging out over the edge of your property; the WIFI signal just keeps on (unless you have built a Faraday cage to live in) and its owner cannot seriously be inconvenienced by others using it (or otherwise it would be secured). However that could not be argued for a (even badly) secured WiFi

        2. Marty

          Re: You wouldn't steal a car?!?

          "if I leave the front door open it remains illegal to help yourself to the contents of my house"

          if you leave your frond door wide open, then anyone walking into your house is only committing an ( civil) offence of trespass once you ask them to leave.. it only becomes criminal once they pick something up with the intention of permanently depriving you of it.

          I have said this before and I will say it again, you leave a wifi open, broadcasting a SSID, then when you scan for wifi on your device and tap on "connect" you REQUEST access.... if your equipment is set up and configured in such a way that that REQUEST is granted by issuing an IP address and allowing you on the network then I cant see how that can possibly be seen and "unauthorised" if you use any security even something as basic as MAC filtering, then bypassing that security then its unauthorised....

    2. AndrewInIreland

      Re: You wouldn't steal a car?!?

      My view on it is: You are free to use my unsecured wifi as long as I am free to use your unsecured data flowing thru my wifi- you know, data wants to be free and all that...

      1. John H Woods Silver badge

        Re: You wouldn't steal a car?!?

        To make it clear, my open WiFi network has the word "OPEN" in it. Feel free to use it if you are passing. I feel that running an open network (firewalled and throttled to 1.1 Mbps) as well as a secured one is protective - I'm pretty sure the majority of people who'd try to break into the secure one are looking for free internet access rather than targetting my own network.

  6. James 36


    I have a suggestion , actually have a holiday you will feel better , and your clients will get the message.

    If you keep working on your holiday it will be expected so you will never have a holiday.

    So either don't go on holiday and buy a better laptop with the money saved or go on holiday and leave the laptop at home and only use the ipad for angry birds and suchlike

  7. Nev

    Wot, no 3G?

    Current a local French 3G SIM on PAYG will set you back 9.90Euros for the SIM

    and 6Euros/day "unlimited" connection or 15 Euros for 500Mbytes. (Valid for 60 days)

    You can also roam in the rest of Europe (plus the USA) with it.

    (At an obviously bigger expense)

    Okay it's not fibre/ADSL + WiFi, but beats looking like some kind of scrounging tourist, coming over here taking our internets.....

    1. Richard Ball

      Re: Wot, no 3G?

      Given the trouble I see trying to find a working 3G signal in a British town, what are the chances that he'll find he has LOS to a 3G base station within the requisite 20m, there in the countryside of the developing world?

      (giffgaff: it's crap, but feel the cheapness.)

      1. Lee Dowling Silver badge

        Re: Wot, no 3G?

        Hell, my ex lives in the middle of a large town in Cornwall. The quote was:

        "If you text me, I won't get it until the next time I drive over the hill" (a hill which is miles away).

        And that's SMS, which is sent in the GSM control channels. 3G doesn't work in most of the Highlands or Cornwall, I can assure you. Especially if you're *trying* get away from civilisation.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wot, no 3G?

          3G doesn't work in most of the Highlands or Cornwall, I can assure you. Especially if you're *trying* get away from civilisation.

          Aren't you already away from civilisation in those areas? Sorry, UK geography is not my strong point..

      2. Nev

        Re: Wot, no 3G?

        France is way ahead of the UK in most respects concerning wireless, cable & fibre.

        And he's near the Med. So coverage is good.

        There's only one country with dodgy infrastructure in Western Europe and we all know which one it is:

        The tinpot one on the arse-end.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wot, no 3G?

          > France is way ahead of the UK in most respects concerning wireless, cable & fibre

          Really? You shoudl try living here. I live 30 minutes from one of the top technology centres in France, with it's Orange research lab and high-tech companies all over the place. I get a crappy 2Mbit/s DSL, no terrestrial TV now that digital switchoff^H^H^Hover has happened, and I had to buy a femtocell to get reliable mobile phone coverage at home.

          My sister, on the other hand, lives on the edge of a small provincial UK town, has 40Mbit/s broadband, full Freeview even before switchover, and pays less for her mobile phone than I pay for mine.

          The UK is far, far away from having the worst infrastructure in W. Europe, believe me.

          1. Ian Moffatt 1

            Re: Wot, no 3G?

            Thank you. Lots of people forget that our comms are not the worst in the world - it just seems like it sometimes.

            P.S Dabbsy - Panzers didn't have hubcaps. Maybe on one of those sissy boy US Army things. Never on a manly Third Reich beast ;-)

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Wot, no 3G? [@AC 13:49]

            30 minute commute into Sophia?

            I didn't think Nice had such bad ADSL...

  8. Anonymous Coward

    and this is meant to be.a)news b)amusing or c)entertaining ?

    a nobody goes somewhere dull and el-reg are short of news and decent bloggers. dull.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Come on be kind - this Friday thing is a bit crap, but I find I look forward to it.

      1. Robert Ramsay

        I'm warming to it. I'm reading it for the same reason I used to read Guy Kewney, Martin Banks, and Huw Collingbourne.

        1. Rob


          ... I like the writing style.

          Particularly liked this one as I did similar in Cyprus feeding off a neighbours weak open WiFi (couldn't get a decent signal for the mobile data booster I'd bought), although mine wasn't for work purposes, more I needed to download some books from my cloud storage.

    2. Alistair Dabbs

      tleaf100 - and you're somebody, I take it. I'm really impressed.

  9. Lee Dowling Silver badge

    Cloud is crap in proportion to your connectivity.

    You work when you're not being paid to.

    Precisely what else am I supposed to take away from this article?

    We all know cloud is reliant on a connection, which you can't reliably get in Britain, let alone anywhere else.

    And you're apparently silly enough to post Reg articles while on holiday rather than just queue them until you get back - to the point that you steal others wifi and balance things precariously in the only place you can get that stolen signal. And your "getaway" involves a iPad, a laptop, Bluetooth keyboards, etc. So what?

    All I took away was that you're an idiot who doesn't know how to relax.

    I do take my laptop on holiday, mainly because it's a god-send to play movies and TV shows on the plane and can be used to clear off memory cards and send photos around and Skype home. But when I went to Scotland last month, there was no connection at all, even via a 3G dongle, for 99.9% of the time. So I didn't use it. I work in IT, I had projects on the go, people wanting to contact me. So what? I'm on holiday, so they'll just have to find a way to deal with things.

    It's the same if you phone me while I'm driving. There's nothing THAT urgent that you can't wait for me to get to my destination. Honestly. And if it *IS* that urgent, you'll ring a few times and then send a text describing the problem, which I can read when safe and convenient.

    Stop being an idiot at everyone's beck-and-call. Hell, I *WANT* people to notice that I'm not there. It saves effort when they whinge about not being able to find me, and it also works well when something does go wrong - they realise what I've been managing silently as part of my job all that time, and the difference my knowledge/skill/presence makes.

    If you can't say to your boss "I'm on holiday, bugger off" (unless it's the absolute huge extreme of major problems that going to bankrupt the company and you are absolutely the ONLY person who can save it - which means you weren't doing your job properly anyway), then you need to get a new boss.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm with this guy. Well, not totally, but mostly. When I go on holiday or anything else, the instruction left is "call me if something goes boom." The first time someone calls me and nothing has gone boom, I turn the phone off. If they're bouncing off the walls because they can't get hold of me, then that just demonstrates that I'm an essential member of the team, which comes in handy at the next pay review. ;-)

    2. Alistair Dabbs

      Thanks for calling me an idiot. I love you too. The reason I didn't queue several articles for El Reg in advance is because my other clients piled extra work on me in the week leading up to my holiday. Perhaps you skipped this bit. It's near the beginning.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      "You work when you're not being paid to."

      "All I took away was that you're an idiot who doesn't know how to relax."

      "If you can't say to your boss "I'm on holiday, bugger off""

      Lee Dowling,

      I'm tempted to be rude here, and say that all I take away from these three quotes from you is that you're an idiot who can't read. In this case, the bit about Mr Dabbs being a freelance. But leaving out the abuse I'll put it down to a sudden onset of grumpiness (causes unknown), given I see you make perfectly sensible posts regularly.

      He's a freelance. It says it in his blurb. It implies it in the article - by talking about multiple clients. So by definition he works when he is being paid to. More importantly if he's not working, he's not getting paid.

      When you're a contractor/freelancer, and a client phones you, the option to say bugger off is not one to be chosen lightly. They may well do that very thing. And possibly never come back.

      In my business if we're not there to answer a few simple questions (for which we won't get paid) then we may not get asked the question next time, which might include the magic words 'can you do me a quote for that'. If I happen to be on holiday, I can point them at the office, or if it's quick, just answer the question. I guess a single freelance scribbler doesn't have that option.

      However if they've happened to pick my mobile, rather than the office number, then I've got at least a small amount of work to do on holiday. This is balanced by the advantage of only having to carry one mobile phone for the rest of the year though - and the money I save from not having to pay a personal mobile contract.

  10. petur


    A signal amplifier and directional antenna have saved me quite a few times already. Available from DX. The amp is very much not allowed though...

  11. AndrewInIreland

    Deju vu...

    "The week before leaving on vacation was hell. Despite me giving my clients plenty of warning and asking them not to send me work later than usual, almost all of them did precisely that."

    Yep, sounds like the week I spent before going to Spain. Right now all my clients are getting 'yep, I'll get onto that when I get back off holiday' auto-responses (5 so far).

  12. Tankboy


    An IT journalist that doesn't have a decent laptop. Your credibility is shot. Further, you couldn't get your workload sorted out before heading out for vacation? Should have filed this clap-trap under EPIC FAIL.

  13. jake Silver badge

    Learn to use a CLI, Dabbs ...

    I spend about a week/month at my place in the wilds of Mendocino County. Off the grid, and only dial-up for connectivity. I'm so far from the CO, and the cable plant is so old, that I'm lucky to get 9600 BPS ... 2400 is more common, dipping to 1200 when it's damp (cracked, dusty wires & moisture make for a bad signal/noise ratio).

    I just use the command line, and ignore GUI applications. 99% of everything I do online is text only anyway, so this doesn't affect my "Internet Experience"[1] appreciably.

    When I'm actually on VACA[2], I carry no connectivity tools. Not even a phone.

    [1] Whatever that is ...

    [2] STR, win a beer.

  14. Steve Crook
    Thumb Up

    I can see how you found your WiFi by accident...

    "since it involves opening a gate, pacifying two barking dogs and noisily traipsing down a gravel path to get there"

  15. TwoWolves

    Providers and Manufacturers need to sort it out

    3G roaming charges are still extortionate but worst of all you will get a tiny inclusive charge allowance (after which you require a mortgage) which because all your apps now expect a limitless cloud you will hit within 40 minutes of usage and come home to a shocking bill for sending a handful of text only emails to some clients.

    P.S. I do find wireless telecoms much better in Spain [than France].

    1. Tom 38

      Re: Providers and Manufacturers need to sort it out

      Only if you turn on 3G roaming. If you don't turn on 3G roaming, your 3G doesn't roam.

      It's tricky, this telecoms lark.

  16. bazinsane

    Work sometimes provides a needed break from vacationing!

    Am I the only one who feels that being available on the line sometimes gives you a chance to skip out of stuff you didn't really want to do in the first place. Maybe I just have no choice in my vacationing options!

  17. killzone

    Laptop recommendations

    I'd consider the Lenovo Thinkpad X1 if you're flush. If you're even more flush then get the carbon fibre version. Up until a few months ago I would have been a staunch advocate of a Macbook of some description but my 3rd and 4th Macs are now on their way out, so while the shiny is unprecedented I now seriously question their durability.

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