As I sit in our surfside beach shack contemplating the surfers riding yet another great wave in this stunningly beautiful but remote village in the SW corner of Australia, I've had a good chance to measure up being a mobile (working) engineer for a few days. But as my teenage daughter says so succinctly - It sucks. There are unreliable mobile telephone connections and no web access here (despite being on the best plan).

I recently purchased a ghastly and expensive state-of-the-art PDA (personal data assistant - mobile phone cum email cum PC) which I peck away at and which again is a toy and a parody of my old PC. Its memory is simply inadequate. Weren't they selling Gigabyte tiny memory sticks at the same store for a few dollars? This PDA hasn't got anywhere near this capacity. It has also been totally non-intuitive and has required a few days to be bruised into submission in order to work it - me not it!

Yes, Bob, my very clever engineering friend from New England did gleefully warn me that these 'critturs' are worse than some mule crossed with an ugly coyote, and cussed that they are less productive. Furthermore, the support for the PDA from one of the top retailers was abysmal - and all I wanted to do was just hook into my dear old Google account. I was instructed to search the web to find a forum on how to set up the right port numbers. Que? I am not a rocket scientist and freely admit that I am not an IT guru. But surely when you sell a consumer item, it should be plug and play (not the clichéd plug and pray).

For the past ten years I have traveled the world with a Notebook PC and dial up connection which has worked reasonably well apart from the irritation at the bulkiness of the PC and the hassle of dial up in each location - which is sometimes non-existent (remember that flea ridden Inn in England), or barred (Middle East) or so tortuously slow (an old Russian republic). So when I heard that this great PDA operates in 99 countries around the world (including Europe AND North America) I thought at long last we have arrived at the next generation - mobile engineer II. Not to be.

I feel we are still at the very early stages with the technology and you still have to follow that great principle of Caveat Emptor. Buyer Beware. I do however know with absolute certainty that the next 2 to 3 years will bring us into a smoothly connected, easily effective and mobile world. Sadly, we still have some distance to go. Ah, well. I will have to resort to my quasi mobile life style and hoik Brutus (my venerable Compaq laptop) and dialup connection around for another few years.

Yours in engineering learning

Steve

PS Thanks to those of you who respond to these newsletters - I am truly humbled and grateful and respond to everyone and put a selection up on my blog site