Sunday, 4 May 2008


I had pretty high expectations on this trip for being able to remain connected and continue the e-mail, blogs and such like. Now back in Singapore, I can report it's been a very mixed bag. The Hong Kong hotel had wired Internet for £2.66 / hour, or £8 / day, but that was per computer, so 2 travelers would need to pay separately. I'm 60% confident that my Apple Airport Express wireless router would allow 2 computers to share a connection so mental note for future trips, but don't tell anyone heh?

The Guangzhou hotel was similar to HK: £2.66 / hour, £4 / day but now behind the Great Firewall of China, was inaccessible and my GMail went AWOL as well, staying in "Maintenance Mode" until well after I left China. I haven't figured out who to blame for the GMail blackout; it might be a defensive posture when Google suddenly sees a login from an IP address within China, or just a technical burp, but the timing suggests a Chinese connection. Whatever, I'm now far less keen to recommend GMail for business use unless you have a backup as I was locked out for over 3 days.

If you are wondering, the selective Internet blocking in mainland China won't affect Olympic visitors as they plan to derestrict the IP addresses for the buildings and hotels reserved for foreign visitors for the duration of the games.

Despite the room rate being fully one third that of HK, the NingBo hotel Internet was wired and free, as in, without charge. But with all the services I needed (blogger, GMail, encrypted tunnels) not working, it was the most frustrating of times. It seems free Internet and Internet freedom are mutually exclusive.

Back in Hong Kong, working feverishly in a daily 1 hour window, everything came back online. Hong Kong advertises a free (no cost) GovWiFi network, whose phase-1 works from libraries and some of the larger Government buildings. I never found the signal and couldn't connect.

A local HK telco, PCCW, has WiFi-enabled phone booths that provide access to their subscription and Pre-Pay services, but as a visitor, I might as well use the hotel rather than sit on a kerb.

I held out some hope for 3G cellular data and popped into a 3 shop, the retail front of the local 3G telco. They had the same Huawei 3G data modem that I have in Singapore, and their hardware is not networked locked like mine, but they don't do the 3G data tariff on a PAYG basis.

Throughout all of this, Google defaulted to a Chinese language interface. Everything is in the same place on the page and the search results are still English but it slows you down a tad. Geographic language selection is a sound technical choice, but I should learn how to force revert to .com or at least English at the domain.

After 10 days of this, it was looking pretty grim leaving me in the mood to be pleasantly surprised when the Hong Kong airport offered free WiFi Internet with nothing blocked so I blogged and e-mailed and talked to my machine at home until the gate boarding queue for the plane was down the last 3 people. Finally.