Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How to find free internet in the exceedingly far east. Or, how I came to love Makudonodo.

My first day in this country was also my first day of work. I can thank the omniscient gods of Mitsubishi human resources for that I suppose. I had this kind of insane hope that there might be internet at work that I could use, as web-withdrawl stacked on top of 14 hours of chronodisplacement syndrome is a troublesome ailment, I tell you.

"Well there is internet here, just not useful internet." says the always light-hearted Saita-san. "Go ahead and email friends and family -- if you can." DUM DUM DUMM

Gmail - blocked. Engmail - blocked. Meebo - blocked. "Pretty normal, right?" xkcd - blocked. questionablecontent - blocked. dinosaur comics - blocked. "Really? Come ONNN" pdeng/uwace - blocked "hah, okay thats going to suck" GOOGLE - blocked "WHAT!?!?! FUCK NO, I'M GOING HOME, EVERY MAN HAS A LIMIT AND THEY JUST FOUND MINE."

I do get access to an awesome email address. Yah, no names, just a number. Very efficient and all that. I am allowed to use it for non-business stuff, but theres this bizarre delay of almost an hour to send something that just screams "VIOLATION OF PRIVACY". Oh wait, never mind, they SAY they will read it right here. No violation then, keep walking.

So the next day, refreshed and feeling much less suicidal, I headed out into the world to find some tamer internet pastures. My first stop was Tulley's Coffee, right across the road from my dorm. Its like a Starbucks, but more expensive and with a fancy wood burning fireplace in it.

Theres also a wireless network called "WiFine." Awesome, punny and effective, I can dig it. It forwards me to some web portal with weather and sports and news and shit all in Japanese. No matter what website I go to, it takes me there. I'm completely willing to pay for internet at this place, but there isnt anything obvious where I could pay to get access. I fumble around and get to a couple sign in pages, but my Japanese knowledge isn't enough and I can't get anywhere. I desperately ask every employee and patron how the fuck I get internet, to no avail. "I'm sorry, no English"...

So I keep walking.. 20 minutes later I hit a McDonalds. I pull out my handy-dandy-completely-useless-on-the-900Mhz-band iPhone to check it out. "FON_FREE_INTERNET_PCM network found!"

I swear, at this moment I loved the large life-size Ronald McDonald standing infront of me more than any other human being. And not just because he was the only caucasian I'd seen since the airplane.

Turns out McDonalds in Japan have this FON internet plan. You can pay 5 bucks a day to get full internet access (or 15 bucks for a week). Or you can surf for free and have access to "Limited pages". Before I could even form the words "Net neutrality", I realized that the limited pages were everything in the extended Google fiefdom. That is, Google Search, Maps, Mail (with video/audio chat), Blogger, Youtube. And free skype access just to sweeten the (free) deal. And a little thing I like to call Google Translate. Turns out this tool can be used as a proxy to see the entire internets through Google servers. Thanks Google, you're great. The only other thing a human being could want is Facebook, and really, who cares... fuck Facebook.

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