How much thought do you put into your browser? For many, the answer is probably "not much." For years, I lived with Internet Explorer (IE)—thinking it was the sole survivor after Netscape faded into oblivion. Some of you have probably had your internet service upped to get better speeds. Maybe you switched from DSL to cable or vice-versa. Maybe Fios was your answer. While those are important factors, it just might be your browser slowing you down. Let me say this — if you're still using Internet Explorer, you're wasting your time.
It's less than a year since I first discovered that there was life beyond the painfully slow, close-then-reopen, hanging-up ways of Internet Explorer. I was freed first by Safari. Wow, who knew browsing could be fun again? No hanging up, speeds that began to live up to the promise of the internet. Sure, some websites will not open in Safari—but that's OK, I'll use IE in those few situations. Then a few months ago, I tried Firefox. You have to love a program that looks for your cookies and bookmarks and installs them (if you want) when you install the program. Wow, and what are these add-ons? I can do more than surf the internet, I can interact with other programs on my computer—launched from the speedy confines of my browser? This is exciting, and practical. Downloading is clean and easy to use. For the last 3 months, I'm happy—I'm opening multiple tabs, speeding along, cringing every time I have to open IE for that ONE program that only uses IE. I detest having to open that program on these occasions. The IE symbol gives me the chills, makes me angry, and symbolizes the useless stagnation of this critical software. Once finished with this temporary regress, I return to Firefox...now even better in 3.0. Its open-sourceness dominates my desktop real estate. All is well.
Then, last week, enter Chrome, Google's foray into the browser war. I'm a fan of trying anything from Google—though they're not all winners(love Gmail, don't love Google desktop). Could this be better than Firefox? I had to try. Speed--It seemed slower than Firefox at first, slightly, and now seems faster, slightly. Design is not radically different, but does offer a spacious window with less clutter. I like this. It has a "paste and search" option off right click—nifty, saves me at least 30 nanoseconds per use. Sorry mac users, not available for you just yet. I'm not sure which I'll end up using—but the choice for me is between the new top two: Firefox or Chrome. Open source appeals to me in the same way a mom and pop bookshop does. But Google is a bit like bog box stores—hate their methods, love their prices. Ultimately the fastest browser with the most options will win my vote. For now, I say, try them all.
Have you ever been disconnected from your email or the internet for an extended period of time (for some this is 30 minutes)? For everyone else, maybe you were delayed in an airport or on vacation—you know that trip "with no cell phones or blackberries." But what about the scores, spring training just started, after all. Or politics—there's a presidential race going on—and you have to know what the pundits are saying or writing You may be thinking about getting an air card—but you're just not sure if you can justify the expense. There is an something that you already have that might satisfy your needs: using your blackberry as a modem. Remember cell modems—using your cell phone to get 9600 baud? Things have come a long way since then, and with the wifi revolution, air cards gaining popularity, and wi-max on the way, we forgot that this device is more than email on our belt. The RIM folks knew what they were doing when making this part of their product.
If you have a blackberry (something made in the last 2 years or so)...and a similarly up-to-date laptop—you just may be able to create this legal union (though not with all corporate IT departments). Using your blackberry—simply connect it to your laptop with that USB cable that came with the blackberry (if you don't have one, it's probably still in the box). Well nothing is that easy, but if you have an hour or so—and can follow blog-direction well, you might have your emergency connectivity answer. For this assignment, I did it this afternoon for my T Mobile 7290 blackberry (full disclosure, I am a loyal and happy Verizon air card user). Air cards are GREAT...but as a responsible personal consumer, I'm not sure I would need this level of technology or expense. Now that I know my blackberry can cover my internet dead zones, maybe I would just get a blackberry and use it as a modem occasionally. I was surprised at how easy it was to set up—just some basic menu options and a few assumptions about my blackberry—and I'm set up.
After setting everything up, and connecting I went to my favorite web pages (Excite, ESPN and of course, cbsnews.com). I was also able to access my corporate webmail account and gmail. In my small experiment, the signal stayed connected for about 2 hours, no locking up. Refreshing the webmail was a bit slow, but internet mail was totally acceptable. Another great thing about this connection is that it will also work while moving--driving in a car or riding on a train.