Is there really a need to support unconnected modes?

The fact that we are sometimes unconnected is a strong motivation behind local Web servers like Java Card 3.0. I have sometimes doubted that, claiming that our world is becoming increasingly connected.

I am just back from JavaOne, and my major headache during that trip has been connectivity (yes, this was a trip to San Francisco and the Silicon Valley, one of the most connected areas of the world. I also happen to be quite a connected guy, as I traveled with a WiFi-enabled PC, a WiFi-enabled iPod Touch, and a rather old Windows Mobile-based GSM phone (also WiFi-enabled).

In such a context, I did not really anticipate connectivity issues, I have accumulated a number of different issues over the week, all different:

  • Roaming. My data connection worked rather well on various networks, which is a big difference from a few years ago. However, roaming fees are far from cheap, and it is very difficult to follow them, which really limited my use of that phone.
  • Bad service. My hotel was supposed to deliever free WiFi service, but that service turned out to be really unreliable. Most of the time, my PC was not able to access the Web in good conditions. However, the service always worked on he iPod Touch, for some reason unknown to me.
  • Overload. I was attending the JavaOne conference, trying to blog live from the show. Well, this did not always work, because JavaOne is a geek conference, and WiFi endpoints can become saturated at times. You then get this “Cannot connect” message, and no network access.
  • Software compatibility issues. That’s another problem that I knew about, and which turned out to be a bit painful. I once got a bit lost in San Jose, in a car, and with my phone connection being the only connection to the world. I tried two sites, but both of them told me that my phone was an antique, and that they did not support my browser. Also, in my hotel room, I ran into problems while painfully surfing on my iPod Touch, because I encountered a few Flash-based Web sites (not supported on the iPod Touch).

The only thing that did not occur in that trip is the most obvious connectivity issue: No connection. At all times, I was always connected, at least through the GSM network.

Beside significant headaches and an unwanted in-depth knowledge of WiFi connection management, all these problems allowed me to learn one important thing the way: Don’t take connectivity for granted.

This of course implies that there is an opportunity for local servers, and that this opportunity will be around for a while. It definitely justifies initiatives like the PlugDB project, but there are also many other things that can be performed there.

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