Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Spectral

587 words

Last week I indulged in a seminar on spectral sequences. They’re a cool topic which you run into occasionally in mathematics (or at least in topology-related topics). Where ‘occasionally’ means ‘frequently enough to appreciate the power but not frequently enough to learn about them in detail’. We had plenty of details in the week.

Apart from the interesting talks, the seminar was in a nicely situated hotel in the Brandenburgian countryside right at the Beetzsee which let us go on a boat trip when we had the afternoon off. While the rooms and food were all fine, we were unfortunately left with a unnecessarily bad aftertaste in a few situations. Like when what sounds like a free shuttle service from the railway station on their websites means we’ll call you a cab or when the wireless internet access they advertise on their website isn’t actually part of the hotel but is just something they’ll sell you at the front desk.

Luckily the price of their ‘conference voucher’ sounded tolerable when they sold it to us (5 people, a week, €25), but that joy was spoiled when the voucher stopped working after a day and we had to complain about it. Obviously we met some other person than the one who sold it to us originally who claimed it’s always only good for a day. I then took fair bit of nagging and (in addition to us clearly remembering what was stated) us showing that the printed out voucher we received didn’t state that it’s valid for a single day only, until he grudgingly agreed to give us an additional voucher. Technically that wasn’t a good solution (after all we would still have been cheated by a few days) but we figured it would be enough to read mail and find out when trains leave. A bit later we also notices that we didn’t even need to try an ‘cheat’ in an advanced way (say by faking MAC addresses) to let two people use the same voucher, but that their system would lets anyone use the same login code as long as he’s the only person using it.

Another aspect that was baffling about the internet access was that their DHCP server needed a few minutes to assign an IP address to your machine. For a millisecond task, that’s quite an appalling speed and really ruins the idea of instant internet access and replaces it by minutes of wondering and OMG-BORKEN! The whole business model of hotel internet seems hard to understand. The hotel could just pay for the line (apparently a bit non-trivial in that countryside location), put a few cents on each room to pay for it and offer it as part of good service just like hot and cold water (this being the 21st century and all). Instead they decide to make people pay what turn out to be ridiculous amounts for the inconvenience of having to pick up some voucher, wait ages for an IP address and then enter some codes on a crappy flash ridden web site. The price of their service is too high to be worth it for casual holiday usage and anybody really needing the internet connection will probably be better off in terms of money, comfort and reliability by using his mobile phone for the connection anyway.

Luckily we had talks going on with little time to use the internet anyway, so the practical consequences of this weren’t too grave. But the aftertaste it left was, errm, unfortunate.

in a boat on a lake

August 11, 2009, 0:00

Tagged as hotel, internet, maths.

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