Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by IIR's Public Access Wireless LANs
conference, 1-3 October 2002, Lisbon
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Wrong, Wrong, Wrong
InfoWorld's wireless columnist's wrong-headed column on free networks: Ephraim Schwartz's latest head-scratcher makes me mad. I almost didn't blog an entry on his wrong-headed column about why freenets won't last, and I just can't bottle it up inside. First, go and read the column. Then, when you finish laughing or screaming read the rest of this. I know that Ephraim reads this blog, at least occasionally, and part of me says, don't insult a colleague in a public forum. Well, let me skirt that line a bit.
The column completely misses the point of why community networks (or freenets as he describes them) exist at all: because people want them to, not as tools for business. Any business use is incidental to the notion of ubiquitous, free access. They are acts of will. Because they are communities of interest, the notion that they don't serve a business audience has no impact on their growth or utility.
In his column, Schwartz quotes two commercial Wi-Fi providers (no community networkers or outside industry observers), both involved with reasonable companies. The quotes and the column emphasize the fact that free networks can't offer reliable service. Well, duh. [Wi-Fi Metro founder] Pereyra predicts they will slowly dwindle away because they have no place in a business-professional environment in which Wi-Fi is used to access office files from wherever users may be. Pereyra, a smart guy, also laughs at Pringles antennas disregarding the much broader amount of work done to create inexpensive ruggedized external antennas that have nothing to do with Pringles cans.
The point of a free community network is to build out redundant, variable, ubiquitous access, but quality of service, availability, and security will be all over the map. With enough people involved, these networks will be useful, but as has been well demonstrated in the last two years, with even a few access points, community gathers around the bandwidth water hole.
Bluetooth printing: using a 3Com Bluetooth PC Card and a 3Com Bluetooth parallel printer adapter, I printed my first document via Bluetooth. It was an accident, actually. My office is well over 40 feet (through walls) or 50 to 60 feet by line of foot fro the printer adapter. I was examining the Bluetooth software and saw that the printer showed up. I configured COM4 on the Windows laptop as the printer, and printed. It worked like a charm. That's discovery for you.
Chunderdriving? Down Under wireless: the fine folks at australia.internet.com have devoted a chunk of their site to the increasingly popular wireless standard that's making quite an impact in the land of Oz.
GRIC restructures: ISP aggregator GRIC reduces its forces, but the company has real revenue, growth, and a (potentially) viable model.
IBM introduces wireless starter kits: a neat idea from a support and deployment standpoint as long as IBM can provide world-class technical help.