PACKET RAT

The wireless one hears the sound of silence

The Rat lately has been pushing the envelope of wireless computing on a daily basis. Here's what he learned. WAP stands not only for Wireless Application Protocol but also for the sound made by beating a cell phone against the wall in frustration when it won't respond to a Web request.

The wireless one recently upgraded his personal wireless service with a WAP phone as part of his quest to keep the boss out of trouble with bleeding-edge wireless enterprise schemes.

But aside from some accidental use of the phone by the 4-month-old ratling, who accessed several Norwegian sites dealing with embedded systems design'at least one hopes it was accidental'the wireless one found little opportunity to put his new hardware to the test. It turned out to be pretty hopeless reaching sites any more useful than the duds that came preconfigured on the menu.

So he started programming the most mission-critical tasks: remotely setting the recording times on his digital video recorder, starting the cubicle coffeepot from the subway to ensure fresh brew on his arrival, and checking the boss' calendar program so as to beat him to the office.


width="154">Once these crucial applications were flying somewhat faster than a directionally challenged carrier pigeon, the Rat registered for a wireless conference. He needed to learn to exploit the somewhat less than 14.4 Kbps of bandwidth currently available for WAP through Cellular Digital Packet Data networks.

At the conference he happened to bump into an English developer who claimed bandwidth was superior on standard European wireless networks. The two of them sat down to exchange shoptalk in a break area, having bought their tuna subs from vending machines via toll calls from their cell phones.

'The poor man's Bluetooth,' the wirebiter sighed. 'What's WAP like across the pond?'

'WAP is the sound of a phone hitting the dustbin,' replied the English bloke, who was trying without success to check the status of his U.K. servers through a rented WAP unit.

'Well,' the Rat said, 'there's always Generation 3 wireless just around the corner.'

'Not bloody likely to change anything,' his companion replied. 'Europe's wireless providers don't have enough money to bid on the spectrum, let alone roll it out. I suspect I'll have to keep using Short Message Service to tell my underlings which key to press for me instead of updating my entries on the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Web site from my cell phone.'

The Rat shook his head in disappointment. 'Maybe someday we'll get real wireless data services over here'maybe right about the time that California falls into the sea.'

'Or gets a reliable electric supply,' his acquaintance lamented.

'Well, I'm off to my next session. So long, and thanks for all the fish.'

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@postnewsweektech.com.

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