On the road but still “in the cloud”

(This is my column for Sun.Star Cebu for tomorrow, Oct. 27)

Two days before I was to run in the Smart Subic International Marathon (SIM) 2009, I finally learned how to properly tie my shoes. It’s hilarious if it isn’t excruciating to have to bend to retie shoelaces that come undone after running several kilometers.

All my life, I have been apparently tying my shoelaces using a Granny Knot, which easily comes undone. I wouldn’t have known any better had I not started running. In longer runs, my shoelaces always come undone and I’d cringe in pain every time I had to bend and retie it.

It turned out that there’s a better way to tie your shoelaces to make sure that these do not come undone. The trick is to use a Reef Knot and a Runner’s World video shows you just how to do that.

Learning how to tie my shoes via a Runner's World video
TYING MY SHOE. Learning how to correctly tie my shoes using a Reef Knot, which doesn’t come undone, using a Runner’s World instructional video viewed through a Smart Bro USB modem connection.

But first, I had to make the Smart Bro USB modem work with Linux—specifically with Ubuntu 9.04 or the Jaunty Jackalope.

Making USB modems work with Linux, at least in my experience, can be such a pain in the knee. Almost always, you’d have to rely on hacks or unofficial packages and often, you’d still not be able to make it work. In the more than five times that I tried it, I was only able to make it run twice.

Ultimately, I gave up. I don’t go around that much anyway and wherever I may be, I’m usually within walking distance from a cafe or any other establishment that offers free Wi-Fi. Making the USB modems work wasn’t a life or death situation for me.

Well, that was then.

Days before I was to leave for Subic, however, I made a mental note to again look into making the Smart Bro USB modem work with my Linux laptop. I needed to be constantly online because most of the data that I need access to—from articles notes to my 21K training schedule—are on the Web or “in the cloud,” in tech industry parlance. I knew the hotels in Subic charged Lunarglides for their Wi-Fi connectivity and I wasn’t keen on paying that much for the access. I wanted to pay pasaload.

Having read somewhere that the newer models of the unit stood a better chance of working with Linux, I grabbed a colleague’s ZTE MF 627 HSPA USB modem before he could say “10K” and made a perfunctory search for possible solutions.

I spotted one in the Linux Diaries blog of Dax Solomon Umaming. His solution involved adding a repository in your Linux software sources, installing two packages and restarting the system with the Wi-Fi turned off.

I installed the packages before leaving for Subic and crossed my fingers I would be able to make it work. When I got there, I found that the hotel Wi-Fi still cost P100 an hour or P500 a day or a Lunarglide a week. I knew I had to make the Smart Bro USB modem work.

It turned out that I didn’t need to worry. I was able to use Smart Bro after setting the configuration variables Umaming already listed in his blog post.

And that’s how I learned to correctly tie my shoelaces, via an instructional video from Runner’s World viewed through a Smart Bro Internet connection. And it worked. When I tied my shoes using a Reef Knot, the laces didn’t come undone even when I ran several kilometers and even when I still used rounded shoelaces.

The connection was dependable and speedy and pretty soon, not only was I working and browsing as if I never left the Sun.Star Cebu office, I was already checking out a satellite map of my 10K route through Google Maps.

But old habits die hard. On the 10K race itself, I laced the right shoe correctly but inadvertently used a Granny Knot on the left pair. As expected, it came undone and in such a bad time—a few minutes after I had to stop to take a leak, blowing away my chances at setting a personal record.

Neither Linux, Smart Bro or even a Lunarglide could help it.