3.2 Ways to Go Abroad and Stay Wired

I stole this iPad image from an Apple Web site. Shh.
I stole this iPad image from an Apple Web site. Shh.

(Editor’s Note: What follows is a rather technical discussion on how to go abroad with a lot of new techno crap. Should you decide to embark on such an adventure, make sure you consult with someone who actually knows what he or she is talking about.)

Before heading out on a long trip to Asia, I realized I was facing a stark technology deficit. I had recently left my old company that consistently kitted me out with the most curmudgeonly equipment  available. But now I was digitally adrift.

After some deliberation, reading tech reviews, and counseling with a younger, target audience, otherwise known as my sons, I decided to buy a Mac Book Air and an iPad Mini.

I ordered the Macbook online and they promised to deliver within a few days. Instead it took weeks. Not sure exactly what happened but they appeared to take my order and then took the liberty of fiddling around. Occasionally they sent me messages on how they were “processing” my order. Then, they fiddled around some more. At some point they finally woke up a small family in China. They of course got cracking, right after making their bunk beds in the middle of the night.

For the iPad, I decided it might be better to go to an Apple store, so as not to bother that aforementioned family, who were, hopefully, vacationing in Singapore with the princely sums Apple no doubt paid them.

Buying from the store in the Toronto area was quick and a bit of a marvel. A young woman approached us after only a few minutes and we got down to business. She walked around with her own iPad and whenever we needed something, she would tap her device and instantly a dude arrived with the product after which we lusted.

The first time the guy appeared out of nowhere I almost fell over in shock. But the second time, it was getting old.

So with gadgets in hand we soon flew off to our first destination, Sri Lanka.

Now to get connected to the big WWW in the sky I devised a plan where I would use my iPad as a “Personal Hotspot.” You might think I’m referring to some trendy bar or even something illegal here but in reality it just means the iPad, so equipped, sucks the Interweb out of thin air and then sprays it around the room until it “couples” with devices of your choosing. Dirty, yet effective.

For this you need a Nano SIM card and it’s best to buy one in each country you intend to visit, I think. I popped into one of the main mobile phone stores in Colombo but the first foray ended rather quickly. I had forgotten my passport.

The next day, the process slugged along, with a nice woman at the first counter. The options were confusing but I chose a plan with unlimited data. It was unlimited unless you went over a certain amount of data and then you got hit by a speed check. No idea what she was on about, but to be fair, no one can possibly understand this stuff.

Once we picked out the product, she began filling out paper forms, because clearly there was a lot to sort out. There was the deposit, prorated monthly charges and the need to buy a dummy card along with real one. Again, no idea what she was on about.

Before the average person could finish War and Peace, we were done. She said all I had to do was pay for the product, although that was not something she could handle. I was told to go over to another counter. That guy looked at my paper, took my credit card and began re-entering all the information into his computer and this generated more paper. Now, obviously, I was directed to a third counter. He needed to start from scratch and gave me more paper. Alas, I finally got the SIM card.

I was quick to remember to give back the dummy SIM card. And before I knew it I was standing all dummy like in the middle of the room with my iPad, a lot of paper and an uninstalled card.

In the end a nice dude at the front got us going. When I first asked for help he handed me a device that looked like a paper clip. Could this be to keep all my papers in good order or would it help me unlock the vast power of the iPad? Immediately I handed the device and high tech pin to my comely assistant (otherwise known as my wife) and she began performing acupuncture on the iPad. The nice dude, thankfully, took pity, and installed the card in fairly short order.

There was no reason for the device to work right away. After dealing with a half a dozen people and being inundated with the said paper, I was told it would take four hours before it would work.

Well into the evening, it finally came to life. Why did it take so long? Probably because all those papers had to be hand delivered to the president and/or, they couldn’t stop laughing at my passport picture. (I make the mug shots of serial killers look like the work of Rembrandt.)

Ok now for my technical analysis of its performance. Fricking amazing! Web pages zoom in and out. Well worth the money. I can’t actually tell you what I paid but if I hazard a guess, it will likely cost about 6.23 billion rupees, or about $30 fo a month.

And my little hotspot: cool and radical. I’m writing this nonsense on the Macbook Air, thanks to the “signals” sent over from the iPad Mini.

So I’m up and running, wired, digitized and now can be safely tracked by all of Sri Lanka, should they stop laughing at my passport picture.


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