Thursday, November 20, 2008

While in Paris...

My latest reason for being off the air has to do with the amazingly bad internet capabilities of Paris hotels. Yes, I'm in Paris, city of lovers, but certainly not of lovers of wifi. There are at least 30 networks visibile wherever you go, but they're all secure, so no mooching. The hotel-provided wifi is actually a generic service that costs 22 E/day for connectivity, with all kinds of bandwidth caps and a very slow connection. If I were to splurge for the "business" level, I get the luxury of paying 27 E/day, with unclear benefits (presumably I can now download my bootleg bittorrents (just kidding)).

Other things I've noticed since I last came to Paris: (which is not to say that they are new, just that I just noticed them):
  • Every second store on the podunk street my hotel is on is a fancy clothing store. Clearly the world-wide economic collapse has not hit.
  • Speaking of world-wide economic collapses, it really hurts to have a weak dollar. $7 espressos, sigh...
  • ....but it's always a pleasure to walk into a cafe and order a 'cafe' and just know that something good will appear. This is in contrast to the unbounded depth circuit needed to specify a proper cup of coffee at Starbucks.
  • Speaking of Starbucks, how on earth can they even survive in Paris ? I mean, you go to a Starbucks here, and you get the same experience as in the US, ending with a paper cup of coffee of questionable quality that you drink perched on a high bar stool. On the other hand, you go to a cafe, and they serve you with nice cups, and a little cookie, and let you sit there for hours nursing your coffee, and will even give you the WEP key for their secured WiFi. It's no contest !
  • You can change the world while nursing your coffee. I was staying in the 14th Arrondissement (the Montparnasse area) and had to have a coffee at the Dome cafe, a place apparently frequented by Lenin and Trotsky before the Revolution. I have to say that at the time I went, the clientele looked like they were plotting a revolution... in 1907.... I'd link to a verification of this, but I can't make any sense out of the search results on
  • Speaking of which, how does one tell google NOT to return results in french ? every time I edit the URL to go to, it sends me back to Suivant !!!
And why am I blogging from Paris, you might ask ? Well here's why. I'm an invited speaker, no less. Conference blogging was limited because there was no wifi at the conference site either. It's a long story involving military schools (and maybe even NASA). Details will appear shortly.


  1. Google defaults to a localized version, not matter which country you are in. I would guess that it does the same in India, say.

    It is not just the search engine, it is also the same problem with

    As for ordering a café, you are right. It is a great thing in France to be able to order a café and just get something good. Even in Montreal where we have the best restaurants in North America, ordering a good café is a problem.

  2. For Google, click on the Preferences link (to the right of the searchbox), then modify Interface Language (the first item in those preferences).

    Hope it helps :)

  3. To change your language in Google click on the "Preferences" link next to the Search button, choose "Anglais" next to "Langue de l'interface", then "Enregistrer les preferences". (Assuming it's insisting on still showing everything in French.) Then you can choose to prefer English results if you want.

  4. Concerning Google: try adding &hl=fr to the url.

  5. Regarding hotel wifi, get to Lenox Montparnasse if it's not too late. At least in 2007 they had wifi included into the standard room price. And they are not too far from the Dome :)

  6. While in Paris: buy L'Officiel du Spectacle from any newstand for under 1 euro. It lists all the movies, theatre, & concerts for the week. You can even find great free concerts, often in churches.

    (re: google redirecting:

  7. should give you results in english.

  8. When in Paris: buy L'Officiel du Spectacle at any newsstand (< 1 euro), which lists all the movies, theatre, exhibits, and concerts for the week. There are usually a number of free concerts that can be great.

    (re: google redirecting, see

  9. When in Paris: buy L'Officiel du Spectacle at any newsstand (< 1 euro), which lists all the movies, theatre, exhibits, and concerts for the week. There are usually a number of free concerts that can be great.

    (re: google redirecting, see

  10. To avoid the French (or Dutch, or Chienese, or whatever) Google:

    ncr = no country redirect

  11. Suresh,

    It looks like there was more than one blogger at dinner on Wednesday night. I probably also confused you with somebody else as well :-)

    I wished I could have gone to the meeting but things did not work out. I look forward to your summary. On a different note, there is just no way to go around the french Google search except if you have a google account and logged into it. You may even have noticed that the search results will be different in the U.S. and in France.

    On a different note, the reason wi-fi is so protected is that the french ISPs sell routers to their customers with WEP/WPA enabled. Because the internet lagged for so long, most of the population has developed their communication habits through high end cell phone services. For that reason, public wi-fi services are generally seen as backward since they require heavier laptops. For that, they are generally only available for home/office use when larger bandwidths are required.



  12. To get an English Google interface: try adding /intl/en/ to the Google URL (the / after en matters too), whether at or And if you're getting too many French results (that's unlikely...) you can search for only English results by adding "&lr=lang_en" to the URL of the page which shows you the results.

  13. lovers of wifi! ha ha I like your characterization of Paris for what it is not!

    speaking of economic collapse, i think soon the world will realize that they dont have to look downbeat just because the US economy is looking down. here in India inflation is down, govt servants just got a huge pay hike....surely reasons to rejoice

  14. For Google, click on the Preferences link (to the right of the searchbox)


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