So Far, So Near...

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So here's the problem with the Internet. They say it's supposed to bring everyone closer together and make the world a smaller place. But actually, at least in a virtual sense, the opposite is happening. Things that are geographically "next door" now seem like they are hundreds of miles away. It's all a bit like looking down the wrong end of a telescope.

OK, so you are probably wondering what kind of weird tangent I've gone off on this week. Maybe, as a friend commented on my blog a week or so ago, I'm on either too much (or too little) medication. As justification for my wild allegation, therefore, I'll materialize my virtual procrastinations by explaining the actual scenario that played itself out this week. It all started with wooden delivery pallets, tarpaulins, cats, and jumble sales...

The basic problem is that our local cat sanctuary raises money to look after a considerable number of waifs and strays though a variety of events, of which my wife is an active participant. A major one of these events is the bi-monthly jumble sale, which requires the accumulation of large volumes of assorted bric-a-brac, clothes, toys, and all kinds of other assorted saleable items. And, therefore, somewhere to store them.

Having exceeded the capacity of our current storage facilities, the only option now is to store non-delicate materials under tarpaulins on wooden pallets in the yard. However, even summer weather here in our wild and desolate corner of England often consists of rain and gales, and keeping the tarpaulins secured to the pallets is a problem. So my wife decided that she needed a big box of those hefty clamps that market traders use to secure the covers on their stalls, which seem able to withstand all kinds of inclement weather.

No problem! That's just what the Internet is for. OK, so finding a supplier required some frenetic application of various sets of search terms, but after a period of concentrated Binging we'd located a couple of suppliers. And having chosen the ones she wanted at a specialist market trader supplier's site, we flashed the plastic (including a not inconsiderable amount for next day delivery) and sat back to await arrival.

And, lo and behold, the next day a big van pulled up and deposited the goods on our doorstep. Strangely, the name on the van (different, of course, from that on the website) seemed oddly familiar. The reason only became apparent, however, when some loud and entirely unladylike language began to emanate from the kitchen where my better half had just read the delivery note and discovered that the name of the supplier we purchased from is actually a trading name, not the real name of the company.

Yes, you guessed it - the reason that the name on the van seemed familiar was that the company is located on a local industrial estate only about a mile and half away from us. My wife had peered down the wrong end of a telescope and paid nine pounds for the privilege of doorstep delivery from a company that she assumed was hundreds of miles away. And my mentioning that the site did have a "collect from warehouse" option as well as an "expensive next day delivery" option on the purchase page didn't really help...

Yet you only have to visit a search engine, mapping web site, or one of those sites that tests your connection speed to discover it's possible to determine your location from just your IP address. And I guess it's even easier on a phone that has a location capability built in. So here's a suggestion for the IE development team: as well as protecting users by checking the validity of the site's certificate and displaying a nice padlock if it's OK, how about also popping up a dialog that says "It would be cheaper just to walk down the road and fetch it"...

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So Far, So Near...