In Rome, nothing can be assumed to be particularly easy.
Since I am back in Rome for a short period, I am not in my usual residence, but another temporary place, also run by the Holy See. In times past use of the internet has always been difficult here because of proxy settings, blah blah etc. etc… (can you say "control freaks"?) … but this time, the access has been made even more complicated.
I wasted a bunch of time last night trying in vain to get on line, only to be told later by the guy at the front desk: "Oh yah… I forgot to tell you about that…" In short, everything had been changed. I was to go over to the Vatican Internet Office to get access.
"Of course! Silly me!"
That office was closed.
By this point I was pretty irritated. The desk guy sympathetically groused something about the whole world having internet access, "but here…!" He rolled his eyes. Apparently he is pretty sick of this too. I can’t imagine how often he is asked to solve problems he can no longer solve.
In the meantime, I was without access… no a good thing.
I couldn’t go to the press office, and use the internet there: that office was closed. The press office closes at 3 pm every day. After all, why should an internationally important entity like the Holy See have a press office that is actually open? But I digress…
I wound up using a friend’s computer for a few minutes before and after supper.
Thus ended stage one.
As rosy-fingered Roman dawn graced my room, and after I attained my first decent night’s rest since I flew over the Atlantic, I went over to the Vatican Internet Office to get my laptop connected. Are picturing Oliver going to Mr. Bumble?
But long years in Rome teach you never to be too daunted and to persist, with a smile, and never let the first line of opposition think for very long!
Figuring that anyone who was competent would only be in the office when it first opened, I went over early enough in the morning to get real business done. Success. The usciere actually was rather like Mr. Bumble, as it turns out, but after various frowns he sent me to the office of two great young guys who instantly understood my quandry.
They strolled with me over to my room, Marco and Lorenzo did, great guys both, and worked on the connection.
It took them about 20 minutes and a phone call.
Not too complicated, huh?
I invited them out for coffee afterward, which is the basic Roman gesture of gratitude. Nice guys. We had a good chat. I am grateful to them… but… damn! Could the internet office control freaks make this any more complicated?
Thus ended stage two.
I am reminded of a religious sister years ago who would pull all the matches but two out of a book of matches intended for the use of the altar boys for lighting candles before Mass. Of course, two might not be enough and so everyone was constantly asking sisters for matches. When the pastor asked her to leave matches for us, she groused "But someone might use them!".
Why was the system here made even more convoluted than it was last December? They told me that people outside the house were using the wireless internet feed.
"But Father, but Father!" you are saying. "That isn’t so hard to prevent. You just…." Yes, yes… know. But…. this is Rome. Moreover, this is the Vatican. If something is simple, it must be made impossibly un-simplified, so involved and ineffective for sooooo long that the people with the problems simply give up. And then… you see… problem solved!
Cunctando regitur mundus!
Anyway… what was the story behind the problem?
They use here a series of wireless routers in all the hallways, since I am sure the idea of wiring the whole house with ethernet is a little daunting: these old buildings are barely up to code as it is. When you start rewiring, chaos reigns… ehem… more chaos reigns
So, when I checked in, I asked for a room where I know the signal is very strong: a router is across the hall from my door.
Little did I imagine that my travails were just beginning.
I fully understand the Holy See wants to protect the connection from dasterdly people "out there"… and of course all the people "in here", for that matter. It would really be better to have internet, but not let anyone use it. Or even better, not have it. Or maybe, have, but never turn it on. But, again I digress…
Someone in the internet office must know about wardriving, etc. and therefore has imposed the most byzantine series of portculises on the feed as can be dreamed of. Were someone to do nefarious things with the connection, that could be a little embarasing. A few years ago I found a hole in the server security of the house I was living in and found that someone was doing dasterdly things. This meant that the header of the e-mails being sent out from the server looked like they were coming from the Vatican, which was probably not so good.
Boy did they spring to life when I told them about that little problem, thus proving that when they really want to, Italians undoubtedly can do anything, really well, at top speed.
By now you must be observing along with me that every ma and pa corner coffee shop can solve this problem about who has access to the access point with relative ease.
But the Holy See?
So, as of now I do have some access. It only took an evening, a morning, two technicians, a phone consultation, a couple espressos at a nearby bar, but it is done.
Well, not quite done. Now if they would actually let access the sites I need to use!
I already got the name and phone number of the guy who handles that stuff.
That will be stage three.