Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Free San Francisco Wifi

So we get to our room at the NDGW house. After we get settled, I hook up the laptop to check my e-mail. I might have mentioned before, they don't have desks in the rooms at NDGW so you often have to use the floor. I almost have to use the floor, especially since I bring along a standard keyboard to use with the laptop. No tables in the rooms big enough to accomodate my stuff.

We were on the third floor this time, as opposed to the fourth where we usually stay and I've successfully used the wifi connection from the Hot Chili Kitchen, across the street from NDGW before. I have had some problems connecting, though.

This time it seemed to be working ok. I figured since the third floor was probably closer to the source, it should work better, and it did on Sunday night. Next morning, though, things went south.

I got up and went to check my e-mail and enter my sweepstakes, first thing. I couldn't connect. I tried about three times with the last time finally getting what seemed to be a good connection but, within minutes, the signal faded to almost non- existent. I tried a few more times before realizing I was playing a losing game.

I finally went down to The Parlor- their name for their large living room- where I knew I'd always connected well before. It was on the second floor and not far away. Set up and tried to connect. I seemed to get a good connection again, but after a few minutes the signal got worse and worse.

I couldn't figure why the signal was fine the night before but so erratic now although I know atmospheric conditions affect radio and night and day often affect the atmosphere. All I could do was look through the list of connections the computer's radio was detecting and see if I could freeload on a different one. Most of the connections displayed were secured.

Then I noticed it for the first time. I don't think I'd seen that connection last time I was here: Free The Net, it was called. Hmm??? I guess that means it's free, but is it legit, or some connection a hacker put up? I gave it a try and hooked up right away. I got a good signal and it stayed good. Finally got most my internet stuff done. Didn't have enough time for everything.

I tried again later back in the room. Same problem with the signal dropping and, oddly enough, I couldn't detect the Free The Net signal in our room. Only in The Parlor.

So later on, about an hour before we leave for UCSF, I go down to The Parlor to check my e-mail for the last time before leaving. Tried the Free The Net connection, connect, and immediately get taken to this page. It didn't take me there before.

Ahhh... so this is what they're doing.

Apparently, Meraki- a private company- is trying to establish free wifi throughout San Francisco. This doesn't seem to be the wifi network San Francisco government officials keep talking about. They're still talking about that one.

I noticed they offer a free booster for their network and decided to try and get one but it wouldn't accept my address because I don't live in San Francisco. Well that's ok, says I, I'll just let the NDGW House manager know about it.

Meraki offers free indoor and outdoor boosters for their network. They're trying to get everyone to take part in expanding San Francisco wifi. How they can afford it, I don't know, but I'm sending an e-mail to NDGW this morning and suggest NDGW take Meraki up on the offer.

I figure putting an indoor booster in The Parlor on the second floor might get the signal to the third and fourth floors and an outdoor booster would send it further around the neighborhood. Good deal, especially since Meraki's providing it free.

When we got to UCSF I made a point of tracking down one of the powers- that- be to suggest they see about installing Meraki boosters on the campus. He said they're already planning on it, although I'm not sure if we were talking about the same network.

Cool stuff, although I can't help but wonder why I get so excited about it. I prefer hard- wired DSL.

I wonder if Meraki would be interested in teaming up with Myrtletown.net in expanding their network?


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