The problem with small wireless cafes

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Wireless networks that don’t work are especially frustrating. I’m stuck at Kaveh Kanes waiting for the monthly HoustonWireless meeting. For the last hour, I’ve been struggling with the wireless internet connection here, changing my settings every which way but loose, trying to get it to work. No dice. Can’t even get my wired connection to work, can’t get an IP address, can’t win for losing. Since I’ve been in here, two other guys have sat down with laptops, fiddled with ’em, and then given up in frustration. I guess I’m a slow learner.

Scratch that, I guess I’m slow to give up my money. I blew $5 on parking, $7 on a latte and pie, and I drove all the way down here. I’m reluctant to give up my investment, admit defeat, and just pack up my gear and go home. It’s looking like I don’t have a choice.

Sun had it right when they said the network is the computer: these days, I just don’t want to bother with my computer if it’s not hooked up to the wider network at large.

Tonight, HWUG is discussing the future of the group – where we are now, where we’re going, and how we’re going to get there. A lot of the group members want to concentrate on building publicly accessible wireless hotspots like this one (this one that isn’t working) at Kaveh Kanes. The more I think about that, the less I like it, and right now I can’t even begin to list all the problems with it. We don’t do a good enough job supporting and maintaining the nodes we have – why try to build more?

My idea instead would be to educate the community on wireless networking, and get the savvy computer people started on building their own wireless networks. The technology still isn’t mature enough that we can just drop-ship a box to a small business and expect things to always work. Instead, we need to prepare our infrastructure so that when the equipment IS that reliable, we’re ready, and we can build a mesh of connected, reliable nodes.

That’s my two cents, anyway. I’m not going to push the rest of the group too hard in that direction, because I didn’t really get into this to be a leader. I joined HWUG to meet cool people and do cool things with wireless. If other people want to build nodes, fine, I don’t want to stand in the way. We’ve had members that tried to redirect the group to their own fiendish purposes, and as the saying goes, I want to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

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