Friday, June 27, 2008

Unemployment Diary, Part 5: Virgin Media, net neutrality, and "a load of bollocks"

When we moved into our current place, my fiance and I got Virgin Media for our TV and broadband (and theoretically our phone calls as well, though we'd already had a BT line installed and we continued using that). Almost immediately the broadband exhibited problems. We'd lose all connectivity for periods of a few seconds to a minute or more. If both of us were surfing the internet or playing online games at once, one of us would frequently find our download speed significantly impaired.

Then double unemployment hit. And what do unemployed people do? That's right, they play World of Warcraft all day. World of Warcraft doesn't require massively fast download speeds, but it does require a stable connection. As time went on, our connection got less and less stable, to the point that playing online games became more or less impossible.

While surfing around to see if others were having the same problems with Virgin, I found this article, and this blog post from science fiction author Charles Stross.

For those of you who don't know what net neutrality is, it boils down to this: ISPs treat traffic from different sources equally. If, say, the BBC serves a byte of data and The Sun Online serves a byte of data, my ISP treats those two bytes of data as having equal priority. What Virgin Media's CEO is saying, essentially, is that Rupert Murdoch should be able to pay Virgin Media to serve his byte of data before the BBC's byte of data. (Or, of course, that the BBC should be able to pay to shift its byte of data to the front of the queue.)

Now, I have no idea whether Virgin Media's service has been so rubbish because our traffic is being deprioritised or throttled, but I do know two things.

1) Virgin Media's service has been rubbish.

2) Virgin Media's CEO has called the concept of net neutrality "a load of bollocks" and threatened to relegate traffic to "the bus lane" unless the site serving said traffic pays Virgin Media a a shedload of money.

Bad Virgin Media, no biscuit.

We got ADSL installed on our BT phone line today. This means we're now using just one of the three services Virgin Media supply via cable. When our contract is up, we'll go back to good old-fashioned Freeview for our TV and Virgin Media's time will also be up.

And Virgin's TV service was out for half an hour yesterday. During Wimbledon, no less.

Days since leaving the house: 0
Fiance's clothing status: Shirt and pants. No trousers, but at least he's not giving the neighbours an eyeful when he walks in front of the window.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Unemployment Diary, Part 4: Death and Desperation

Not to worry, the death and desperation aren't mine. They belong to everyone in my local dole office. The floor where you fill in your initial paperwork is light and airy and pleasant enough, but the floor where you sign on just reeks of despair. The last time I was there, I felt depressed for the rest of the day.

On the plus side, I've been able to find my writing fu again, and I'm churning out two to three pages of radio play per day.

Days since leaving the house: 0
Fiance's clothing status: Shirt, but no trousers or pants. And the curtains are open. Not only can I not take him anywhere, I can't even leave him at home.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Emo through the ages

We interrupt this unemployment diary for a special commentary on current events.

As some of you know, the Daily Mail has been saying less than complimentary things about Emo music.

But what you might not know is that music made by the professionally depressed dates back hundreds of years. The most famous composer of Elizabethan melancholia was John Dowland. Here's a little sample of his lyrics, from the lute song "Flow My Tears":

From the highest spire of contentment
My fortune is thrown;
And fear and grief and pain for my desserts
Are my hopes, since hope is gone.

You can hear the countertenor Andreas Scholl performing the song below. Be careful though, if you listen too many times you might join the scores of Renaissance lute music fans who've topped themselves.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Unemployment Diary, part 3: Bleah

Time passes very slowly these days. When every day is more or less empty and more or less the sme, a week feels like a month. Is this how sloths feel all the time?

Anyway, to break the monotony and help myself pull my finger out, I've agreed to write a 45-minute radio play this month. I have an idea, but have I done any actual work on it? Of course not, that would interfere with my sitting on the sofa surfing the internet and playing video games schedule.

Days since leaving the house: 0
Fiance's clothing status: dressing gown again