J. – the video virgin

I’ve spent the past week or so sorting out a mobile broadband package and laptop for J. so she can keep in touch by email and messenger software while in hospital. We had the first link-up last night and managed to get the webcams working both ways, even though it was J.’s first time using messenger software. We used mobiles for the audio link, but I aim to get her set up for the audio side of the software shortly.

Friends who want to get in touch with her this way should let me know and I will pass on her email address and messenger ID.

I had no idea hospitals were so forgiving in the amount of technical equipment they allow patients to have. Perhaps it’s unique to wards where patients have to be in isolation from the germ-ridden world. And the idea came from J.’s neighbour in the next bed, who’d been set up with mobile broadband so her children – who are too young to be allowed into the ward – can see her.

I plumped for a T-mobile package. First, because it give coverage both here in Freshwater and in Southampton, therefore making it useful when J. comes home. Comparatively, 3 offers no coverage at home, yet this was the option pushed by the one mobile phone shop I went into to find out details. The salesman seemed put out that I wanted to go home and check coverage first before committing. Vodafone, Orange and O2 are comparatively patchy when it comes to reception of 3G signals, though Orange phones work OK at home. Second, and the killing argument on the deal, was that T-mobile doesn’t charge if you go over the 3GB monthly data limit (it instead aims to discuss your broadband usage); the cost of all the other mobile broadband deals goes through the ceiling if you exceed the data transfer limit.  Three gig is a lot, but it only takes six programmes on iPlayer to bust that limit. And we don’t know how much J. will use the system during her stay in hospital.

The cheapest overall option was a long contract, but with the potential to use it while out and about once J. is back means it will most certainly get used. Plus it works with my Mac. My Macbook may be my worst ever Mac, but I like the way it handles and presents email; even a Vista PC doesn’t do it for me in this area.

Jimjams also benefited from the deal. Her comparatively new computer has gone to hospital for J. to use, and a more powerful one has taken its place at home. Jimjams is doing graphics and art & design GCSEs, and needs to run the Adobe suite of Illustrator, Photoshop and so on; the previous laptop was mainly bought with wordprocessing, email and the like in mind. I’m impressed by the new machine, another HP laptop (J’s is also HP): they seem very well set up and work well, and when the evil Macbook dies I will probably abandon Macs for ever.

Email aside, I think Vista looks very good; I’m even running it on the Mac thanks to Bootcamp, which in effect turns the Mac into a dual OS laptop. I use the Mac for work, and the Vista side for entertainment – and for communication with J. via messenger. Unfortunately, the only Mac messenger software that supports a webcam appears to be iChat, which is about as effective as two tin cans linked by limp string when it comes to communicating with PCs, on which Live Messenger and Yahoo Messenger predominate.

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