Chad Perrin: SOB

25 February 2008

the scourge of public wireless access points

Filed under: Geek — Tags: , , , — apotheon @ 01:01

Free wireless access in “public” places — airports, coffee shops, et cetera — is really making my life difficult these days.

I’m a Firefox user. It’s not because I think Firefox is great. I don’t. I think Firefox is crap. I just think everything else out there is, in some way/shape/form, worse.

Using Firefox, I make extensive use of its tabbed browsing capability. When I shut down Firefox, I often have twenty or thirty tabs open (I had 23 open last time I shut it down). When I restart it, all those tabs reload automatically, and I can pick up where I left off.

With free wireless access in public places, on the other hand, all that comes apart at the seams. Many providers of free wireless access — coffee shops and airports in particular, lately — redirect one’s browser to a welcome screen. Sometimes this is to show you an ad before letting you see the Internet. Sometimes it’s to get you to click “OK” on some damned terms of use agreement.

I just opened up Firefox in a Panera Bread in Florida, and all but three of my 23 tabs was irrevocably lost to duplicates of the damned Panera Bread welcome screen. Fuckers.

The three that remain are the page I have set as my homepage in Firefox, one that isn’t that important, and a Wikipedia article (thus easily found again). That’s it. All it left me with was the three I was least likely to give a shit about.

So much for picking up where I left off.

Providers of free wireless network access, to give access to the Internet, listen up:

Don’t fuck with my tabs.

Motherfuckers.

This really does encourage me to go somewhere else to get my coffee and get Internet access away from home. You lose business by doing this.

I’m sure no such providers are reading this, but I can’t really be arsed to let them know. I’d rather just warn others of the dangers, and quietly damage their business, with this little rant. It’s considerably less work that way.

I don’t want to have a second JavaScript-capable browser installed just to use some technically deficient moron’s idea of what constitutes reasonable public wireless network access, either, so don’t bother suggesting it.

9 Comments

  1. I think Firefox is crap. I just think everything else out there is, in some way/shape/form, worse.

    Damning with faint praise! I have noticed a very annoying problem that has recently developed: sometimes when I close a browser tab and then switch applications, Firefox pukes. This is on 2.0.0.12 on WinXP.

    As to the main thrust of your rant, yeah, I can see that being very annoying. The terms-of-use agreement thing sounds like a symptom of the need for businesses to pull CYA maneuvers on every service they provide, lest the Feds make up yet another law because they didn’t protect customers from their own stupidity.

    People suck; I’m surprised you venture outside the home at all! ;-)

    Comment by Brian Martinez — 27 February 2008 @ 01:28

  2. “Free” is the key word here. You forgot the basic tenant, “You get what you Pay For”. Sorry, I had to say that. We all forget that from tome to time. Personally I make extensive use of bookmarks to do what you trying to do there. And after Every Internet sesion I clear my History. Maybe it’s just an old paranoid habbit, but security is security, and these days one never knows. Besides, (now I’m reaching out here) these pages loaded as / in Tabs, are not (or no longer) valid until a net is (re-)established, unless of course you have set them to off-line readable. In that case they would be there in the interum. No? -d

    Comment by dawgit — 27 February 2008 @ 05:05

  3. Brian:

    As to the main thrust of your rant, yeah, I can see that being very annoying. The terms-of-use agreement thing sounds like a symptom of the need for businesses to pull CYA maneuvers on every service they provide, lest the Feds make up yet another law because they didn’t protect customers from their own stupidity.

    I’m usually okay when I know in advance and the redirect doesn’t require JavaScript — then I can just use Lynx to establish the initial connection, and switch to Firefox once that’s done.

    People suck; I’m surprised you venture outside the home at all! ;-)

    Me, too.

    dawgit:

    “Free” is the key word here. You forgot the basic tenant, “You get what you Pay For”.

    Nonsense. It’s a service provided for the purpose of making one business seem better than another (Panera Bread competing against Starbucks, for instance), or to offset increasing annoyance at a business (i.e., free wireless vs. increasing wait times at airports). If that service is substandard, or even so bad as to be worse than using nothing at all (as it sometimes is in my case — when I wrote this SOB entry in the first place, I lost 20 tabs because of those idjits). Y’know what effect that has on me as a customer? It makes me choose a different business.

    As such, the “value-added” proposition of “free” wireless is hurting their business, rather than helping it. Clear yet? Don’t tell me I get what I pay for — if they want me to use their business, they have to stay competitive with businesses that don’t hose up my work.

    And after Every Internet sesion I clear my History. Maybe it’s just an old paranoid habbit, but security is security, and these days one never knows.

    I clear browsing history when I have reason to — such as when I’m going to travel on an airplane and don’t want to have to deal with TSA picking through my browsing history.

    Besides, (now I’m reaching out here) these pages loaded as / in Tabs, are not (or no longer) valid until a net is (re-)established, unless of course you have set them to off-line readable. In that case they would be there in the interum. No? -d

    Uh, what? I open up my laptop, connect to the wireless network, and open a browser. Do you usually open the browser before connecting to the network?

    Comment by apotheon — 27 February 2008 @ 05:04

  4. Damn, I think that’s the most foul language I’ve seen you use in a long time. Must have lost some important documents/pages there. Sorry to hear that. It would be nice to know in advance that is what is going to happen, though. Now that I know in advance, I can let my friends know before the connect at Panera.

    Comment by Joseph A. Nagy, Jr. — 28 February 2008 @ 10:51

  5. Panera’s disclaimer/agreement redirect may not require JavaScript — so that if I’d realized that was going to happen, I could probably have done the initial connection with Lynx before opening Firefox. Alas, that’s not how it worked out.

    Comment by apotheon — 28 February 2008 @ 09:57

  6. Like my Mother used to say, “Some things would piss off the Pope”.

    I use tabbed browsing much the same way you do. I’ll often have a tab set to some particular website for more than a day, sometimes a week, long enough for me to use it to the extent that I need. Losing tabs for any reason other than exercising the choice to close them myself is the same thing as a crash and I hate crashes.

    Tough that happened to you but good (to me) to see that you can get righteously pissed off. For some reason that made me feel better about myself.

    Comment by AlphabetSoup — 29 February 2008 @ 04:04

  7. I do what I can to help my readers feel better about themselves and the world, AlphabetSoup. I’m glad that, amongst the ridiculous keystone cop quality hijinks of my “vacation”, someone was able to get something positive out of the experience.

    I’ve learned a couple things, especially now that I’m sitting in the airport waiting for my flight home, that I can probably share with the world in a new entry here at SOB to make the lives of others a bit easier when traveling. Watch this space, I guess — I’ll probably have a nice, lengthy complaint about traveling by air in the next few days.

    Comment by apotheon — 29 February 2008 @ 05:11

  8. Uhhh… I found this blog while trying to figure out how to get Firefox to redirect to those login screens, since it never happens for me. This post went a different direction than I thought.

    However, rather than bitching and moaning, why not find a quick and easy workaround? On my bookmarks toolbar, I have a folder called Common Links. Inside, I have stored, in my preferred order, all of the places I like to visit. When I load up Firefox, it starts with a single tab. If I connect to a wireless spot where there’s a redirect, this doesn’t affect my bookmarks. When it’s time for me to visit the links, I click into the Common Links folder and select “Open All in Tabs” at the bottom of the list. Works perfectly every time.

    Now, as for your apparent anger issues…

    Comment by The Doc — 15 April 2009 @ 12:38

    1. I’m not talking about commonly used pages — I’m talking about pages that are pertinent to something I happen to be working on now, and will no longer be needed when I’m done with them. My work tends to involve a lot of online research.

    2. You probably aren’t a therapist, and if you are, you should have your license revoked for trying to diagnose people over the Internet.

    Comment by apotheon — 15 April 2009 @ 02:04

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All original content Copyright Chad Perrin: Distributed under the terms of the Open Works License