Tag Archives | Wi-Fi

McDonald’s to Offer Free Wi-Fi By January

Soon the Golden Arches will become the spot to go if you wanna grab a bite to eat and check your e-mail for free: McDonald’s plans to drop its free for using Wi-Fi in 11,000 of its 14,000 US locations. Previously, two hours of access set the customer back $2.95.

I gotta say it: I’m loving it.

The change is part of an effort to continue drawing in a wider customer base. Part of it could have to do with its efforts in gourmet coffee — the McCafe offering has more than doubled sales of coffee and now is five percent of its overall sales.

Free Wi-Fi is something that can be found in many local coffeeshops, and certainly the two have almost become synonymous with one another. Starbucks charges a fee for access, but is one of the few that still do.

As McDonald’s remakes itself into more of a destination rather than a quick stop for a bite to eat, company officials say they don’t mind adding services that keep customers in stores longer. There will be no time limits on wireless access, the company said.

Both Starbucks and McDonald’s partner with AT&T to run their Wi-Fi offerings.


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Too Many Next-Generation Wireless Standards

This I know: We need faster wireless home networks. The Roku box hitched up to my TV works fine most of the time, but it’s also prone to unexpected pauses and freezes–and sometimes gets the video and audio out of sync in an amusing fashion. The moment I try to do something else that involves shoving a lot of data across my network–like performing an online backup–things get really gnarly.

So even though the ink is barely dry on the document making today’s 802.11n standard official, I’m happy that major technology companies are pooling their resources to come up with faster wireless technology more suited to HD video and other demanding applications. But the thing is, there isn’t one consortium figuring out what’s next–there are three of them.

As Dean Takahashi reports on VentureBeat, the Wireless Gigabit Alliance is announcing its WiGig standard, which combines Wi-Fi with 60-GHz networking that’s theoretically ten times faster than 802.11n. WiGig joins WHDI (Wireless Home Digital Interface) and Wireless HD in the next-generation wireless race, inevitably bringing to mind that old saying: “The great thing about standards is that there are so many of them.”

As Dean notes, WiGig, WHDI, and Wireless HD aren’t trying to do exactly the same thing, and there are arguments in favor of all of them. But the fact that the industry’s pursuing a trio of related, overlapping standards still reminds me of the long, tedious, counterproductive squabbling that bogged down 802.11n’s progress–not to mention the equally pointless Blu-Ray/HD-DVD wars.

So I’m left with visions of consumers buying networking gear and gadgets that are doomed to obsolescence, and worrying that it’s going to be awhile before it’s clear which of these standards has legs and which doesn’t. Anyone want to make the case for competing standards being healthy? And is there anyone out there who knows more about these three than I and can outline their pros and cons?


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5Words: Free Airport Wi-Fi? Thanks, Google!

5wordsGoogle springs for airport Wi-Fi.

Blockbuster’s memory-card movie rentals.

Nvidia shows off tablet prototype.

How many Droids? Maybe 100,000.

LinkedIn talks to Twitter now.

Nokia starts shipping N900 handset.

A whole new Google coming?

Blu-Ray managed copy: looks awful!

A projector dock for iPhones.

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Virgin America Wi-Fi for Free (Thanks, Google!)

Virgin AmericaI love in-flight Wi-Fi so much that I’ve used it on every flight I’ve ever taken that offered it, and don’t object to paying for it–actually, I’d probably still go online if it cost twice as much. But I’m still tickled by today’s news that Google is sponsoring free Gogo Wi-Fi on every Virgin America flight between November 10th and January 15th. More details are available here.

I presume that Google will get some promotional value out of the deal–maybe ads when you log in, with links to Google services–and am intrigued by the possibility that in-air Internet could go from a somewhat pricey paid service to a free, ad-supported one. Back on terra firma, Wi-Fi is increasingly complimentary (both Borders and Barnes and Noble now offer it gratis). Wouldn’t it be cool if that were true at ten thousand feet, too? May Google’s experiment be a success for everyone concerned, and therefore a widely imitated one…


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It’s Wi-Fi, Only Direct

This sounds neat: The Wi-Fi Alliance is announcing Wi-Fi Direct, a new standard that will let Wi-Fi-enabled gizmos talk directly to each other, without a home network serving as middleman. Applications would include jobs like letting a camera send photos directly to a TV set, no cables required. And the capability could be added to gadgets that already have Wi-Fi, such as phones, cameras, and printers, via a firmware upgrade.

We’ll see if it actually takes off. Wireless USB sounded neat, too, but so far has failed to go much of anywhere…


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Lufthansa Brings Wi-Fi Back

LufthansaThe longer the airplane flight, the harder it is to go without Internet access. So as happy as I am with the ongoing adoption of Wi-Fi by U.S. carriers for their domestic flights, I’ve been glum about the fact that the widely-used Gogo service is cellular-based and doesn’t work for international service. And I’m pleased to hear that Lufthansa is bringing back Wi-Fi after being forced to abandon it in 2006 when Boeing discontinued its brief-lived Connexion service.

As Glen Fleishman is reporting at Wi-Fi Net News, Lufthansa is working with Panasonic to put satellite-based Internet (and cell-phone) service on 120 long-haul flights. Wi-Fi will cost $12 an hour or $22 per day–as Glen says, on the pricey side, although not unreasonable if you take a long flight and stay online for hours at a time.

Connexion wasn’t perfect, but its main problem was clearly that it was ahead of its time. I wonder if Boeing regrets having killed it?


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In Praise of Wires

USB Halo“It would have been more logical if silent pictures had grown out of the talkies instead of the other way around.” America’s sweetheart, Mary Pickford, said that. I’m not completely sure I understand what she meant–but I think of the quote often. And lately, I’ve been thinking that it would have more logical if wired connections had grown out of wireless.

A few weeks ago, I bought a gadget I’d been contemplating for awhile: an Eye-Fi wireless SD card, designed to transfer photos from camera to computer over a home network. Its slogan: “No wires. No hassles. No kidding.” Every once in awhile, it works as advertised. But mostly, I’ve spent more time unsuccessfully troubleshooting it than shooting pictures with it.

Continue Reading →


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We Need Coffee Shops That Cater to Laptop Users

laptopwaitressIt’s always dangerous to assume that anything presented in a newspaper article as a social trend is, in fact, a social trend. But I’m still a bit stressed over a Wall Street Journal story that says that there’s a growing backlash among coffee-shop proprietors over laptop users doing their computing on the premises.

A few years ago, notebook-toting workers and students were seen as an attractive clientele, which is why both national chains and neighborhood joints set up Wi-fi hotspots and installed extra power outlets near seating.  Now–at least in some restaurants in New York, according to the Journal–they’re seen as freeloaders who hog tables during busy times without buying enough to eat and drink. Laptop bans are going into effect, and some places are going so far as to padlock power outlets. (One chain with a zero-tolerance policy for computer users is, appropriately, called Café Grumpy.)

I take this all personally. Technologizer doesn’t have an office–not even in my home. I do my work wherever I have my laptop, an Internet connection, and my phone. Which, at various times, is in coffee shops, hotel lobbies, and public parks; on the subway; and in my car (not while driving). In fact, I’m writing this from the comfy corner booth of the Westlake Coffee Shop, near my house.

I try to be a good citizen. When I’m working from a coffee shop, I buy food and beverage–although I confess I’ve been known to nurse one Starbucks chai for hours, or even leave the empty cup sitting on my table in hopes that people would think I’d recently purchased it. I’m sensitive to busy times, and try to take off if a line’s forming for seating.

But I don’t want to hang out where I’m not wanted, and if a restaurant institutes a ban on laptop use–even if it’s only during certain hours–my instinct is to not do business with it, period. It’s not computer use itself that’s the problem. So why not just institute a minimum bill amount and/or a limit on the duration of visits if it’s absolutely necessary? Or charge enough for Wi-Fi that the joint makes a profit even if someone doesn’t consume any coffee?

Better yet, why not look at laptop users as an opportunity rather a threat? Maybe there’s a market for a sort of hybrid of Starbucks and Kinkos, with power at every seat, services like faxing and photocopying, and recharging stations for your BlackBerry or iPhone. And a promise that you’ll never, but never, be harassed for pulling out your computer and getting some work done.


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Look, Up in the Sky! It’s Wi-Fi!

Gogo LogoAt this very moment, I”m using inflight Wi-Fi for the third time in my life–and for the first time, it’s putting me in a good mood. The first time I did so was on a demo flight for the now-defunct Boeing Connexion service, and it essentially failed to work; the second time was on one of the last Connexion-equipped flights, and the fact that I knew it was going away put me in a melancholy mood. Even though Connexion, even when it worked, was kinda sluggish and kinda pricey.

This morning, however, I’m on a Virgin America flight with Gogo service. It’s six bucks for my flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and is quite speedy–YouTube is playing back more smoothly than it sometimes does via my home network. Virgin is the first carrier with an all-Wi-Fl fleet; it’s instantly become my default carrier on any route it travels. 

I should probably segue here into a sober rumination on the virtues of being disconnected and the downside of living in a world in which spending even 59 minutes (our flight time) without Internet access is a hardship. I’ll probably write one eventually, but for now, I’m happy. And it’s going to feel weird when I hear the plane’s wheels touch ground at  ourdestination and I have no need to seize my phone, fire up e-mail, and try to catch up…


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5Words for May 7th, 2009

5wordsI’m moving to southeast England!

Really fast Internet in England.

Your own personal Wi-Fi hotspot.

Yet another OS for netbooks.

Anonymous? You can’t watch Hulu.

Indian hacker’s Facebook-compromising tool.

Windows 7 requires no RAM.

WiGig: Short-range gigabit wireless.

Windows 7: no speed demon?

An aluminum EeePC: pretty swanky!

The Senate vs. Google News.


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