21 December, 2010

The NBN Will Not Fix Your Computer

Last night the 7:30 Report aired an article on the release of the National Broadband Network business plan.  As part of getting all sides of the story, they spoke to a lady in Tasmania who is connected to the NBN and believes it isn’t providing the service promised, with slow and unreliable connections.

However, take a look at some of the shots of her computer:

The wide shot shows that she has at least three third-party toolbars installed.  The closer shot shows that one of them is the Google toolbar and another contains links to Screensavers, Smiley Central and Cursor Mania.  The report states that she has had technicians out to look at the problem several times.  If I were one of those technicians, I would have taken one look at that toolbar and said, “There’s your problem!”

As a teacher of, and trouble-shooter for computer novices, I regularly have to explain the difference between computer speed and connection speed.  Up until about ten years ago, the internet was a very handy add-on for a computer.  Today, it’s the only reason most people buy a computer at all.  As such, it means that “non-computer people” are even more confused between problems with the internet and problems with the computer.  This is why I often have to tell people that upgrading their internet connection will not make Adobe Reader load any faster and increasing their RAM will not speed up their downloads.

Let me be clear that I am not making any comment on Ms Jenkins’ internet connection.  For all I know, it may be just as bad as she says it is and even if it isn’t, I don’t doubt that she has made those complaints in good faith.  What I am saying is that the problem shown in the report is a classic case of browser lock up that would have happened if she were on dial-up, ADSL, 3G wireless or fibre to the home.  The report states that when they were there, it took six minutes to “connect,” however, picture below clearly shows that the browser has crashed while trying to load the add-on toolbars.

I’m not a computer snob who expects everyone to know the technical details of how software works or thinks everyone should set their computer up the same way I would.  However, toolbars are a menace.  You don’t need them.  Want to search for something?  Go to www.google.com.  Need a shortcut to Gmail or Ebay?  Put them in your favourites/bookmarks.  Toolbars do nothing but take up screen space and system resources, and they collect data on how you use them.  Having one is bad enough, but having three or four all trying to do the same things is utterly pointless.  Furthermore, that smiley central toolbar is well known for turning perfectly decent computers into frustrating pieces of crap.  While it probably isn’t the reporter’s place to point this out – he simply presented Ms Jenkins’ story as it was told to him – what was shown did not present any evidence of the NBN being substandard.  Also, whether it was their job to or not, the technicians should have done her a favour and ditched those toolbars and shown her how to use SpyBot.

Watch the report,
iTunes:  http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/730report/video/podcast/r692331_5227737.m4v
Windows:  http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/730report/video/podcast/r692331_5227734.wmv


  1. She should buy a Mac. Or something.

  2. LOL! Format C: tbh, this clearly isn't the fault of the fibre connection! Gotta love the people who blame their provider when really its their PC which is a POS!

  3. Why does that service have a child advertising their site? What are they trying to say?