broadband End User

Digital Divide Anglesey Style

Pillaging mobile broadband service gold, they are!

Last night I met someone at the Engineering Dinner at Bangor University who put a different slant on the Digital Divide.

Stephen Yates lives on a small-holding just outside Holyhead on the Anglesey coast. Although only a three mile walk from his nearest pub in Holyhead he can’t get broadband service – the copper winds its way around the lanes and by the time it gets to his place the speed has slowed to an unusable dribble.

Interestingly, he does get a very fast mobile internet connection but only when there are no ferries passing by. This puzzled me at first. Is the steel side of the ship having an effect on the signal strength? Actually no. Whenever a ferry comes into sight of Holyhead everyone on board starts using their mobile phones and all of a sudden instead of having the base station practically all to himself the cell is shared with the incoming hordes.

In the old days these incoming hordes were called Vikings, pillaging gold on their way around the Irish Sea. In modern times they just pillage the mobile broadband service bandwidth.

End User engineering

Engineering at Bangor University

Attended a meeting of Bangor University Industrial Panel today. I am pleased to say that undergraduate intake is up on the previous year which was itself up on 2007. Moreover all places were filled well in advance. This is I’m sure helped by two factors.

The first is that Bangor’s School of Engineering is ranked second in the UK according to the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise.

Secondly when students are graduating with debts of £20,000 they are increasingly looking for value for money in the degrees that they take, particularly during these recessionary hard times. An Engineering Degree from Bangor is not an easy option but a valuable one once attained.

An University faces challenges remarkably similar to industry. One of these is to provide products, in this case course material, relevant to the employment market place that their graduates will face. This is of course where the Industrial Panel can add value and I feel honoured to be invited to contribute.

The irony is that the meeting today was held in the library of the Engineering building. Somewhere I hardly visited as a reprobate undergraduate 🙂 (Only kidding…?)

End User fun stuff

Bangor University Industrial Panel

Attended the Bangor University Engineering Department Industrial Panel meeting yesterday. I always enjoy a trip back to my alma mater. It is an honour to be asked.

The Electronics and computer science departments have enjoyed a resurgence with entries up by over 50%. This is no small achievement in an environment where kids are moving away from the harder maths and science based subjects. The computer science department was ranked 4th in the country by the Guardian newspaper.

Universities are having to be innovative in attracting students and at Bangor they are given a free laptop in the first year. Clearly a marketing initiative that seems to be working.

It was interesting to note that entrants in engineering departments around the country  require additional coaching in maths. This is apparently the case regardless of the university, Imperial College and Cambridge included!

Life for students has changed in other ways as well. When I were a lad nobody had a job in term time. There wasn’t time. Lager was 40 pence a pint and you had to be in the pub by 7pm to get a seat!

These days they all need to work to pay the bills.  This is in turn must have a knock-on effect on academic performance. On a recent visit to Lincoln University I was told that a typical student graduates with £7,000 of debt. That’s over $11,000 for the benefit of American readers (subject to a continually shifting exchange rate).

I look forward to the next opportunity to help the Univeristy. The picture below is of the members of the Industrial Panel. A fine body of men and women 🙂 . It’s not often I wear a tie!