Saturday, September 09, 2006

Safe & Sound

Safe & Sound
Use CE Devices To Keep You & Your Family Safe

As we move further into the 21st century, we surround ourselves with more and more technology. Our homes can contain state-of-the-art sound systems, ovens that start dinner while we’re still sitting in traffic, and closets that can dry clean our clothes. We fall in love with our favorite devices for their time-saving, entertaining, and/or practical sides, but can they also protect us from danger--or save us once we’re in it?

CE Lifestyles, October 2005

Gifts For Grads

Gifts For Grads
Grant Your Graduate’s Wishes

College graduation is a rite of passage—a time to rejoice over completing four long years of study; a time to prepare for arrival in the “real world.” In an informal survey of students graduating from Smith College, the nation’s largest women’s college, the most commonly wished-for graduation gifts (by a landslide) were iPods, cell phones, and digital cameras. It’s a safe bet that the grads in your life share these three wishes.

CE Lifestyles, May 2006

Less Is More

Less Is More
Our Favorite Devices That Know How To Keep It Simple

Women, of course, are no strangers to the concept of multitasking. Heck, we probably invented it. But in a world where convergence is the trend, do we really want our CE devices to be jacks-of-all-trades? As we all know, when you take on too much, something is bound to suffer. The same is true for mobile phones, MP3 players, and other products that try to be all things to all users. Because it’s getting increasingly difficult to find devices that don’t try to be three things at once, we set out to find the best products for users who understand the beauty of simplicity.

CE Lifestyles, February 2006

MP3 Players Built For Sport

MP3 Players Built For Sport
Up The Mountains, On The Trails & To The Gym

In 1999, during a 5-month training regimen for the San Francisco marathon, we invested in two very important accessories: the perfect running shoes and a handheld CD player. The disc player (from Panasonic) featured 40 seconds of “Anti-Shock Memory II” and even flashed the word “Sorry” across its display whenever it skipped. At the time, it was top-of-the line, and it racked up miles all over the city, tucked into a sports bra or strapped to a palm. As our training runs grew longer, we quickly came to wish there were some way to run with more music than one measly CD. And after a few miles, a lighter player would have been a dream. Little did we know that our prayers would be answered, and that one day, we’d be able to fit more than 10 times as many songs on a device an eighth of the size that would never, ever skip.

CE Lifestyles, July 2005

True Colors

True Colors
Do Women Really Think CE Are Prettier In Pink?

There is an old story among ad executives that when Gillette first wanted to sell its razors to women, it simply colored them pink. Many consumer electronics manufacturers are still taking this same approach. Want to get more women to buy your portable computers? Just color them pink. But do women really want a pink laptop, an orange camera, or a lime green PDA? Vendors may be surprised to discover that for most women, the answer is, “Not really.”

CE Lifestyles, January 2006

Living Smart At Playa Vista

Living Smart At Playa Vista
A New California Community Brings Cutting-Edge Technology Home

Just 40 years after "The Jetsons" first invited us into a futuristic community where talking robomaids and flying cars were the norm, a planned community in southern California was born that is not so far off from the animated world Hanna-Barbera envisioned.

CE Lifestyles, May 2005

You Can Take It With You

You Can Take It With You
Best Accessories For Your Laptop


Truly mobile computing requires more than the perfect laptop. As with even the best outfits in our wardrobes, our notebook computers are nothing without the right accessories. Who among us hasn’t groaned at the sight of a truly hideous laptop bag ruining a perfectly good ensemble? Or grudgingly massaged the sore muscles we earned as we bent our wrists and necks like crones to hear our tiny speakers, make use of a teeny touch-pad, or look down into our laps at our screens? The trade-off for portability has been painful.

CE Lifestyles, September 2005

'Tis The Season

'Tis The Season
The Best Digital Camera For Everyone On Your List

Every year, as December approaches, the quest to find the perfect gift for everyone on our lists makes us wish for our own personal army of elves. Among the most coveted gifts this season will be a new crop of digital cameras. Manufacturers are keeping pace with demand and trotting out a whole series of sleeker, smaller, higher-resolution, more fully featured cameras, which will be sure to make the faces of your loved ones light up like a Christmas tree. But sorting through them all to find just the right one for your mother in Malibu or your sister in Sarasota can leave you feeling that those chestnuts roasting over an open fire really have it easy.

CE Lifestyles, November 2005

Photo Projects For Your Home

Photo Projects For Your Home
A Picture’s Worth A Thousand Words . . . As Long As It Leaves Your Camera

You have a keen eye for taking photographsbut because they rarely leave your camera, computer, or memory card, no one sees them but you. Fortunately, even if you’re short on time, cash, or wall space, there are lots of ways for you to enjoy your special photos someplace other than an LCD. Whether you’re a craft-phobic gadget diva or the queen of do-it-yourself, there is a perfect creative decorating project to get your photos on display.

CE Lifestyles, April 2006

Technology & Kids

Technology & Kids
Parenting The Google Generation


In 1994, an editor at a family computing magazine in Massachusetts came home from work one day and found his towheaded 3-year-old daughter, Minta, sitting at her family’s computer. She was perched on an ergonomic office chair, her little legs kicking the air absentmindedly. Her back was to her father, and when he said, “Hi, Minta! I’m home. What’re you doing?” She slowly spun her chair around to face him and said, quite matter-of-factly, “Building a civilization.”

CE Lifestyles, March 2006

If You're Looking For . . .

If You're Looking For . . .
How To Find The Best Camera For Your Needs


Whether you’re upgrading your clunky old digital camera or taking your first leap into the brave new world of digital photography, you don’t want to step into the fray unarmed. Knowledge, as they say, is power. Before you set foot in a store or surf your way over to your favorite online outlet, think about who you are and what you really want from your digital camera. Remember the times you’ve wished you had one: at a birthday party, on top of a mountain, during a snorkeling trip, or when a girlfriend pulled her sleek and shiny new camera out of her purse? Then, make an honest list of your priorities. Looks, price, ease of use, and features should all come into play. Once you feel you know your needs, take a look at our recommendations to find the camera that’s the perfect fit for your lifestyle.

CE Lifestyles, November 2005

Best Digital Cameras For Women

Best Digital Cameras For Women
We Want Form & Function

by: Naomi Graychase
CE Lifestyles, August 2005

Choosing the right digital camera can feel a lot like choosing the right car--part beauty pageant, part serious quest for the right set of features to fit your budget. Fortunately, when you set out to buy the perfect camera, you don’t have to deal with pushy sales managers or get approved for financing. You do, however, have to wade through a market that’s become flooded with a variety of cameras offering a dizzying array of features and styles. So, what’s a girl to do?

First, you’ll want to decide two important things: How much you can spend, and what you’ll use your camera for. Once you have a general idea of your budget, and a sense of whether you’ll be taking snapshots or looking to adjust your own aperture settings, ask yourself a few lifestyle questions. Do you want to be able to hand your camera to someone on vacation without also handing her the manual? Can your kids, co-workers, or technologically impaired spouse take photos with it? Will your camera feel like a brick or a cell phone in your purse? What if you want to shoot your daughter in action at her soccer game? Are you frequently holding a baby, an umbrella, or other things, which make it important that you be able to navigate menus and shoot photos using only one hand? Are you likely to drop your camera in the pool or shoot lots of photos in the rain? (See the “Underwater Action” sidebar.)

If, like most women, you primarily want to take snapshots, and you want to spend $200 or less, you’ll sacrifice some quality and some features and you may have to make some concessions when it comes to size. Your $150 camera is more likely to remind you of a minivan than a Maserati, but it will still be useful. If you’re willing to spend a little more, Canon, Kodak, Kyocera, and Sony all make excellent cameras that hover in the $250 to $300 range. Among our favorites are the 5MP (megapixel) Canon PowerShot A95 ($299; consumer.usa.canon.com) and the 4MP Kodak EasyShare CX7430 ($279.95; www.kodak.com). (For more on budget cameras, see the “Best Buys” sidebar.)

When it comes to making decisions about resolution, we recommend 3MP or higher. If you want to enlarge your photos--for example, make prints that are 8 inches x 10 inches or larger or blow up details--look for digicams with 4MP resolution or higher. The higher the resolution, the better the quality of your images. (For more on selecting the perfect camera, see the “Fab Four Female-Friendly Features” sidebar.)

If having a slim, highly portable camera is your main objective, we recommend an ultracompact device. Our favorites are the Casio Exilim EX S100 ($299; www.casio.exilim.com) and the Canon PowerShot SD20 ($349). The 3.2MP EX S100 is about the size of a credit card and the thickness of a pack of gum, but still offers a 2-inch LCD. The SD20 is slightly smaller than a pack of cigarettes, comes in flashy colors, such as “garnet,” “Zen gray,” and “midnight blue,” but offers only a 1.5-inch LCD. If you find you rarely have two free hands, you can operate both of these cameras one-handed (although that’ll be more of a challenge for lefties).

Also leading the pack in the ultracompact category are the Panasonic Lumix FX7 ($399; www.panasonic.com/consumer_electronics) and the Canon PowerShot SD300 ($349). The 5MP Lumix FX7 prevents blurry photos by detecting jitter and automatically moving the lens to correct it and it features a 2.5-inch display, the largest LCD in this class. The 4MP PowerShot SD300 features a 2-inch LCD and an impressive 3X optical zoom.

The Miss Congeniality award goes to the 4MP Kodak EasyShare LS743 ($299). This is the camera anyone can use--children, spouses, co-workers, strangers who take your photo on vacation. It’s an excellent starter camera for someone nervous about going digital, and unlike some of the other EasyShare models, it’s also relatively pretty and petite.

If shooting high-quality action images is what you’re after, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 ($399; www.sonystyle.com) is a home run. It has it all: looks, features, and convenient size. It comes in two colors (red and silver), serves up 7.2MP resolution, and 3X optical zoom, and you can capture high-resolution shots at up to at 1.1fps (frames per second), perfect for preserving every motion of that winning goal. It also shoots high-grade MPEG (Moving Picture Experts Group) movies with audio and provides a 2-inch LCD. But like so many superstars, it’s also a little high-maintenance. This camera takes some getting used to, and it’s tough for beginners to fully take advantage of all its perks.

For a more user-friendly, but high-end, digicam experience, Nikon offers the Coolpix 7900 ($399; www.nikonusa.com), which was specifically designed with women in mind. New to the market, the Coolpix 7900 caters to the woman who is willing to spend a little more in order capture beautiful photographs with a sharp-looking, ultra-portable digital camera. While it isn’t the prettiest camera in the bunch--we’d give that honor to the PowerShot SD20--at 7.1MP, it’s a cut above many of its competitors. Lightweight and full-featured, the Coolpix provides cutting-edge technology, such as its built-in “D-Lighting” software, a one-button fix for overly dark photos, and software-based automatic red-eye removal. Its 2-inch LCD is the perfect size, and while it offers an exceptional level of control, you won’t have to wade three menus deep--or take a photography class--to access the best ones.

Last, but not least, for the serious photographer who wants to change lenses, zoom up to 12X, and enjoys the feel of a traditionally sized 35mm camera in her hands, we recommend three options: Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-FZ5 ($499.95), Konica Minolta’s DiMage Z5 ($649.99; konicaminolta.us), and DiMage Z20 ($399).

Fab Four Female-Friendly Features

SIZE MATTERS
Unless you’re looking for professional-level control, the perfect camera should be as easy to slip into a purse or pocket as your cell phone. Just like buying shoes that are too small means you’ll never wear them, buying a camera that’s a little cheaper and a lot more bulky means you’ll wind up leaving it home gathering dust when you could be out capturing keepsake moments.

MAKE IT SNAPPY
Who has time to sift through three menus to find the red-eye-reduction or self-timer? The Kodak EasyShare line won the ease-of-use category hands down. First timers or those who don’t want to waste any precious time getting to know their camera will do well with these picks.

EXPRESS YOURSELF
While looks aren’t everything, you should indulge your sense of style. Sleek looks, slim designs, and enticing colors all enhance the joy of going digital. Liz Lange and Nikon even offer a co-branded camera (Coolpix 3200; $399.95; www.coolpix101.com/main.html?section=real_lifeography&topic=capture_glow) designed by Liz herself. (All proceeds benefit a national children’s charity.)

BIG SCREEN
Squinting isn’t a good look in photos, and it isn’t a good look for the one behind the camera either. Some stylishly small cameras entice you with their pixie-sized good looks, but the trade-off is a screen the size of a postage stamp. Buyer beware, especially if you’re far-sighted.

Underwater Action


The submersible Pentax Optio WP ($400; www.pentaximaging.com) features a rust-resistant metal exterior, rubber sealants, and lens protection that lets you shoot in the rain, in the snow--or even in up to five feet of water. With 5MP, a 3X optical zoom lens and a 2-inch low-reflection monitor, you don’t have to sacrifice quality for durability, which makes it perfect for the adventurous, aquatic, or just plain clumsy shutterbug and her family.


Top Five Cameras For Women

These are not your mother’s cameras. They can shoot video, record audio, go underwater, and “de-light” (which we found delightful). We tested 13 cameras from market leaders Canon, Sony, and Kodak, as well as strong contenders Casio, Nikon, Panasonic, and Konica Minolta. It was tough to choose, but these are our five pic picks for women.

Nikon Coolpix 7900
$399; www.nikon.com
High-tech, high-resolution, ultra-portable, and handsome to boot. This 7.1MP camera will please point-and-shooters and more finicky photographers, too.


Casio Exilim EX S100
$299; www.casio.com
So slim it could almost fit in your wallet, and it won’t break the bank to buy one. The 2-inch LCD is the jewel in this pretty camera’s crown.


Canon PowerShot A95
$299; www.canon.com
An affordable, easy-to-use 5MP camera. Its only downside is its super-size.


Kodak EasyShare LS743
$299; www.kodak.com
For nervous beginners, or those with no time to waste learning the ropes, this 5MP beauty is the best camera you can buy for under $300.


Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX7
$399; www.panasonic.com
Easy on the eyes in more ways than one, this gorgeous ultracompact boasts the largest LCD in its class (2.5 inch), 5MP resolution, and a rapid-fire shutter speed.




BEST BUYS

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but how much are you willing to pay for the camera that takes it? If finding a high-quality camera for less than $300 is your goal, we recommend these five cameras: Canon PowerShot A95 ($299), Casio Exilim EX S100 ($299.99), Kodak EasyShare LS743 ($299), Kodak EasyShare CX7530 ($299), and Kodak EasyShare CX7430 ($279.95). Of these five, the Casio Exilim is the sleekest and slimmest; the Canon PowerShot A95 is the chunkiest, but the most fully featured; and the PowerShot A95 and Kodak EasyShare CX7530 are the only cameras we tested that offer 5MP with a price tag of $300 or less.



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Fab Four: March 2006

Fab Four

In this new column, we get a chance to rave about some of the best CE products that pass through our labs, across our desks, and into our lives. In each issue we’ll select four gadgetsone digital camera, one MP3 player, one cell phone, and one “wild card”and tell you why we think they’re all truly fabulous.

CE Lifestyles, March 2006

Fab Four : April 2006

Fab Four

With so many great new products hitting the market this spring, it was tough to choose just four to single out as “fabulous.” Manufacturers are finally starting to “get it” when it comes to designing products that appeal to both the sense and sensibility of female consumers, and technology is rapidly bringing us better cameras, more multifunction phones, and MP3 players that make the first generation look just a hair less retro than an 8-track.

CE Lifestyles, April 2006

Fab Four: May 2006

Fab Four

This month we’ve singled out four fabulous products that impressed us with their attention to detail and/or technological innovation. We’ll give you a first look at a mobile TV phone so new you can’t even get one yet, as well as the first dual-lens point-and-shoot digital camera to hit the market. We’ll also introduce you to a CE gem that will be a girl-jock’s new best friend, and when it’s all over, we’ll invite you to sit down in front of an LCD TV that really is as smart as it looks.

First Glimpse (CE Lifestyles), May 2006

Back To School: College Kids

Back To School: College Kids
Perfect Gifts For The Grad In Your Life

Back in the day, when students headed off to college, the most high-tech devices they needed were calculators and Hi-Fi stereos. These days, in order to be prepared, students must navigate more complicated CE waters. Whether you’re shopping for your niece, your sister, your daughter, or yourself, we offer some sound advice to help you choose the best equipment for your budget and your needs.

First Glimpse, September 2006

Beaching It

Beaching It
Protect Your CE From Surf, Sand & Sun
Surf, sand, and sunthree good things for our overworked bodies, but not so good for our favorite CE devices. You can protect yourself with sunscreen and swimming lessons, but if you and your iPod are inseparable, how can you be sure it will survive your trips to the beach? With a little planning, you can arm yourself with both the knowledge and the accessories that will keep your camera, your phone, your laptopand anything else you want to throw in your totesafe from summer’s biggest threats.

First Glimpse, August 2006

So You Want... An iPod

So You Want... An iPod
Find The Perfect ’Pod For You

It’s easy to decide that you want an iPodbut how do you know which one? Whether you’re giving a gift or treating yourself to a digital indulgence, choosing an iPod is not a snap decision. Just as you wouldn’t buy a pair of shoes without trying them on, you shouldn’t buy an iPod without first finding out if it fits.

First Glimpse, July 2006

Take That Show On The Road

Take That Show On The Road
Video MP3 Players Give Us TV To Go
First, there were VCRsand if we could figure out how to program them, we would never have to race home or stay up late again to watch our favorite shows. It was a whole new era. Then came TiVo. And we could not only record our favorite programs but also do it without stacks of VHS tapes or a subscription to TV Guide. Now, with the advent of video MP3 players, we can have all the convenience of digitally recorded television right in the palm of our hands.

First Glimpse, August 2006

Today's PDAs & Smartphones


Today's PDAs & Smartphones
New Devices For Our Organizational Arsenal


Eleanor Roosevelt once said of her many accomplishments, “I just did what I had to do as things came along.” While, admittedly, most of us have not been asked to help our spouses run the countryor better yet, to run it ourselvesin our hectic modern lives things do “come along” at a dizzying pace. And although Mrs. Roosevelt had a few advantages we can’t claim to havefull household and secretarial staffs, for instancenew technologies have provided us with ways to organize and prioritize that, for some things, have social secretaries and a typing pool beat. In our constant quest for order, efficiency, and simplicity, smartphones and PDAs (literally) put the power to organize our lives back in our hands.

First Glimpse, June 2006

MP3 Players For Working Out

MP3 Players For Working Out
The Best Players That Get You Movin’ & Groovin’

Now that winter has released its grip, the April showers have passed, and the May flowers have bloomed, it’s finally time to get outdoors and enjoy the early days of summer. The gym is great, of course, but sometimes a treadmill just can’t compare to a nice, long run (or brisk walk) in the fresh air.

First Glimpse, June 1, 2006

Fab Four, June 2006


Fab Four

This month we were on the lookout for the best new devices coming over the technology horizon. While the spring saw many budding CE releases bloom like so many long-awaited tulips and daffodils, we were captivated by these special few.

First Glimpse, June 1, 2006

Friday, September 08, 2006

Fab Four Column: August, 2006

Fab Four: August, 2006

Our August line-up is impressive, and our theme for this month is: carpe diem. If you’ve been biding your time, waiting for the right video MP3 player, it’s time to seize the day. Toshiba’s Gigabeat S’s compact design, full feature set, and multimedia flexibility may give iPod a run for its money. Ready to upgrade your old point-and-shoot camera? Sony’s newest Cyber-shot is the perfect incentive. If you’ve been thinking about dipping your toe into the smartphone waters, one look at the new Moto Q from Motorola and we expect you’ll want to dive in. And, last but not least, if you’re tempted by the PC/TV phenomenon, Sony’s enticing new MFM-HT205 display practically screams, “Go for it!”

RedZone Brings Wi-Fi to Mid-coast Maine

RedZone Brings Wi-Fi to Mid-coast Maine

According to a recent report by the Maine Center for Economic Policy, only 15% of Maine residents subscribe to high-speed Internet service, a number significantly lower than the national average of 21%. The study cites geographical and financial barriers to access as the major reasons for Maine’s low penetration.

September 8, 2006

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Turnkey Hotspot for Entrepreneurs

Turnkey Hotspot for Entrepreneurs
For businesses looking for a simple, affordable way to add pay-per-use Wi-Fi to their menu of offerings, Whotspot (pronounced "wot-spot") provides secure wireless Internet access along with a prepaid card system designed to make selling online minutes a cinch.

June 6, 2005

Muni-Mesh Fights Crime

Muni-Mesh Fights Crime
Next week, the city of Ripon, Calif. will begin the first phase of installation for its new, half-million dollar citywide wireless broadband system, the first of its kind in California. The Motorola Mesh Network system (established when it acquired the former MeshNetworks) will be deployed throughout June and July by Lockheed Martin.

June 10, 2005

Sunday in the Park with Wi-Fi

Sunday in the Park with Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi Salon, a New York City start-up, is taking an aggressive, grassroots approach to the substantial—and as yet mostly unclaimed—NYC wireless market. With a strategy that mirrors nonprofit endeavors in all but one regard—the generation of revenue streams as a method of sustainability and scalability—Wi-Fi Salon intends to make New York the “Wi-Fi Capital of the World” while also maintaining community-based content and services.

June 17, 2005

Line-busting Wi-Fi Solution for Restaurants

Line-busting Wi-Fi Solution for Restaurants
Just when you thought Americans couldn't serve food any faster, a wireless POS (Point of Service) technology imported from Asia is poised to speed things up. The good news for waitstaff is that Reach POS from Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based Wireless Logix Group will (in theory) reduce the amount of walking they do in any given shift while allowing them to give more attention to more tables, thereby increasing tips and turnover.

June 24, 2005

The Wi-Fi Tornado Trackers

The Wi-Fi Tornado Trackers
Even the weather is big in Texas. From lightning strikes to hurricanes, Texans are subject to life-threatening weather all year round. While the Gulf Coast is prone to flooding from hurricanes in the fall, the Panhandle is subject to dramatic snowfalls during the winter, and the north central part of the state spawns large numbers of tornadoes in the spring. In fact, Texas has recorded more tornadoes than any other state in the union. Between 1959 and 2000, 6,417 funnel clouds reached the ground there. In 1967, Texas set its all-time records for most tornadoes in a year (232); most in a single month (124); and the most in a single day (67). Death tolls for a tornado can be devastating—the deadliest tornado in American history killed 695 people in three states (none of which was Texas) in 1925.

July 8, 2005

Wi-Fi for Rural Michigan Towns

Wi-Fi for Rural Michigan Towns
Thanks to a $2.2 million federal Community Development Block Grant and the efforts of the Michigan Broadband Development Authority (MDBA), Arialink, a Lansing, Michigan-based broadband service provider, will be bringing Wi-Fi to all of Muskegon County. Muskegon officials believe this to be the first full, county-wide deployment in the country.

August 4, 2005

Boulder Gets Solar-Powered Wi-Fi

Boulder Gets Solar-Powered Wi-Fi

Things have suddenly gotten very busy at Lumin Innovative Products in Boulder, Colorado. On July 15th, 18 months after the company formed around co-founder Ben Adams’s concept for solar-powered Wi-Fi networks, Lumin deployed its first access points at the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder. Since that successful launch, the four-person staff has been deluged with inquiries from press, people looking for work, potential investors, and prospective clients.

August 8, 2005

Coeur d'Alene Building Reservation-wide Wi-Fi

Coeur d'Alene Building Reservation-wide Wi-Fi
Last month, in a special ceremony attended by HUD (Housing and Urban Development) officials, state senators and other local elected officials, members of the Coeur d'Alene tribe in Idaho celebrated the grand opening of the tribe’s new community technology center (CTC). The CTC, which makes broadband access and 40 computers available to members of the tribe for free, is the first phase of a multifaceted plan to bring broadband wireless to every corner of the reservation. Before doors opened at the CTC in mid-July, there was no broadband available anywhere on the reservation.

August 12, 2005

Motorola Mesh Helps Drivers

Motorola Mesh Helps Drivers
In professional racing circles, a few seconds can mean the difference between first—and everyone else. Among the new weapons in the arsenals of pit crews and drivers are wireless mesh technologies, including Motorola’s wireless digital voice two-way radio gear and Motodrive architecture, which helped the GM Corvette Racing Team place both first and second in the GT1 class at the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race earlier this summer.

August 29, 2005

Marine Laboratory Unwires Researchers

Marine Laboratory Unwires Researchers
Woods Hole, Massachusetts is no ordinary Cape Cod town. In addition to the typical influx of tourists during the summer months, many of whom come to visit the National Marine Fisheries aquarium (said to be the oldest in the country), to check out the first Buckminster Fuller Geodesic dome, or to board the ferry to Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard, Woods Hole also experiences a major influx of scientists. Every summer, the population of the seaside village, home to two of the world’s most significant marine research facilities—The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) and The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), which discovered the Titanic in 1986—swells with researchers from all over the world. This unique summer population has for years presented a complicated telecommunications problem to these institutions. Dozens of researchers in multiple buildings spread out over several miles in isolated areas resulted in a challenge for IT managers, as well as for the visiting researchers and their families. The solution turned out to be a little old-fashioned cooperation, and some new-fangled technology—fiber optics coupled with Wi-Fi.

September 19, 2005

Diamond I Rolls the Dice

Diamond I Rolls the Dice
If Wi-Fi hotspot provider Diamond I has its way, soon visitors to the country's hottest gaming spots will be able to take their money and run—straight to the pool, restaurant or hotel room—without missing a minute of the action. The Baton Rouge-based company (formerly AirRover WiFi Corp.) has developed a handheld device, which enables users to play almost any casino-based game that can be digitized.

February 23, 2005

Western Mass. Initiates Wireless Learning

Western Mass. Initiates Wireless Learning

There's a saying in politics: "As Maine goes, so goes the nation." It began in the thirties, when Maine's general election took place in September instead of in November. Nowadays, Maine votes with everyone else on the first Tuesday in November, but the state still leads the way in some areas, including putting technology into classrooms.

April 8, 2005



Vanderbilt Wi-Fi: Blocked When Needed

Vanderbilt Wi-Fi: Blocked When Needed
Last year, administrators at Vanderbilt University's highly ranked Law School in Nashville, Tenn., found themselves with a problem. They wanted to make Wi-Fi available to students in classrooms, but they didn't want students to use that access for unrelated tasks like instant messaging or watching streaming video, which would distract them or their classmates from the task at hand.

June 1, 2005

Noment Takes 802.11 to School

Noment Takes 802.11 to School
It was only a matter of time before doing research in your dorm room or library became as passé as using a card catalog to find a book. It seems that time is nearly upon us. Thanks to technologies created by public-access gateway and software designer Nomadix of Westlake Village, Calif., and deployed by communications service provider Noment Networks of Marietta, Ga., college students will be arriving on some campuses this fall where they can surf the Web while sitting by the pool, hanging out in a student lounge, or while waiting for friends in the foyer of their dormitory.

September 11, 2003

The Power Behind Wholesale Hotspots

The Power Behind Wholesale Hotspots

If Wi-Fi upstart Cometa Networks has its way, in the very near future you'll never be more than five minutes from a hotspot. For suburban dwellers, that would be a five-minute car-ride; for the urban pedestrian, a five-minute walk.

October 17, 2003

Where Travels the Wi-Fi Guy?

Where Travels the Wi-Fi Guy?
While he may not be faster than a speeding bullet, or able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, The Wi-Fi Guy does have two of the most essential elements required of a modern day superhero: a secret identity and the ability to access the Internet anytime, anywhere. Or at least that's what he's hoping to prove.

April 2, 2004

The Wireless Artist

The Wireless Artist

Every entrepreneur or technophile prides herself or himself on thinking outside the box. Very few however, actually succeed in escaping all the confines which shape our ideas about what technology is and how we can apply it. Julian Bleecker -- inventor, grad student and software developer -- has not only found a way to truly think outside the box, he's found a way to take the box with him.

May 6, 2004

Behind the Advertising Model for Hotspots

Behind the Advertising Model for Hotspots

As wireless hotspots continue to crop up everywhere from fast-food joints to museum lobbies, the quest to penetrate new markets and find ways to actually turn a profit has brought some entrepreneurs to the conclusion that there's only one way to make money from today's Wi-Fi users -- the old-fashioned way -- advertising.

May 27, 2004

High Noon for High Range Wireless

High Noon for High Range Wireless

This week, somewhere deep in the deserts of Las Vegas, a gang of wireless hackers will test their mettle in geekdom's version of extreme sports -- the second Annual DefCon Wi-Fi Shootout. The contest will take place as part of DefCon, a conference in its twelfth year that bills itself as "the largest underground hacking event in the world."

July 27, 2004

Corridor Brings Wi-Fi to the 'Burbs

Corridor Brings Wi-Fi to the 'Burbs

Thanks to Arizona-based Corridor Communications Marcia Mills, a student and mother of two in the small town of Stayton, Oregon can now do her homework online while watching her kids at the park.

October 7, 2004



Linksys, AT&T Team for Consumer VoIP

Linksys, AT&T Team for Consumer VoIP

Starting in mid-October AT&T, in partnership with industry-leader Linksys (a division of Cisco Systems (Quote, Chart), will begin offering Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to home users across the country. The service, available to AT&T's CallVantage customers, will utilize custom-designed hardware to provide broadband Internet access, along with affordable domestic and international long-distance calling.

October 11, 2004

Air Force Adds Wi-Fi to Arsenal

Air Force Adds Wi-Fi to Arsenal


The U.S. Air Force is adding a new weapon at more than 50 bases nationwide. Currently, 65 bases have replaced their old pen-and-paper flight-line maintenance systems with Wi-Fi, and another 20-25 bases are scheduled for WLAN deployments in the next 18 months.

September 29, 2005

WavMax Expands Aggressively in the West

WavMax Expands Aggressively in the West


WavMax Broadband, a wireless broadband service provider headquartered in Littleton, Colorado, has begun work on what it calls “one of the largest high capacity wireless backhaul projects in the United States.” As part of its plan to bring high-speed wireless to businesses (and some homes) in the western U.S., the company has deployed DragonWave's AirPair 200 in a low latency ring configuration around Denver. The company has dubbed the network “SkyFiber.”

November 3, 2005

Home Holiday Wi-Fi Wish List

Home Holiday Wi-Fi Wish List

This year, Santa’s sack could be full of wireless gifts that’ll make life on the home front simpler, safer, and best of all, lots more fun. To save you precious December shopping hours, we’ve made a list—and checked it twice—of the best home-use Wi-Fi gifts for giving (or receiving) this holiday season.

December 6, 2005

A Wi-Fi-ed Traveler's Holiday Wish List

A Wi-Fi-ed Traveler's Holiday Wish List

Shopping for road warriors is a cinch, just so long as each gift passes three simple tests: will it make life on the road easier? Will it make life on the road more fun? And will it save time or money — or both — when traveling? To make sure the traveler in your life is smiling on their next flight out of town, we’ve pulled together this list of our favorite gifts for serious business travelers.

December 12, 2005

Roku SoundBridge M1000

Roku SoundBridge M1000
In the wireless network music player market, Roku’s SoundBridge M1000 ($199.99) stands out for its features and its affordability—and its good looks certainly don’t hurt, either.

February 22, 2006

Wibiki Strives for Wi-Fi Ubiquity

Wibiki Strives for Wi-Fi Ubiquity

Earlier this year, New York City-based Speedus Corp. began the public beta testing of its free Wi-Fi access service, Wibiki. Launched as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Speedus, Wibiki (pronounced “why-BIH-kee”) aims to make it easier, safer, and more affordable to share Wi-Fi access.



February 28, 2006

Can Muni Wi-Fi be Free?

Can Muni Wi-Fi be Free?


Much as cities and towns around the country loathe to hear it, when it comes to municipal Wi-Fi, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. At least that’s how Craig Settles sees it.



March 22, 2006

3G & Wi-Fi Help Rebuild

3G & Wi-Fi Help Rebuild

At the exact moment when Hurricane Katrina was hurtling toward the Gulf Coast, nearly 40,000 artists and adventurers were converging on an ancient lakebed in the Black Rock Desert. On August 29, 2005, as the Class 3 storm began its course of destruction, the celebrants at Burning Man began their week of creation.

May 19, 2006

SoCal FreeNet Brings Free Wi-Fi to San Diego

SoCal FreeNet Brings Free Wi-Fi to San Diego

Three years ago, Matt Fanady, a twenty-something technology enthusiast living in Southern California, plugged in his first wireless Linksys router, shared it with his neighbors, and SoCal FreeNet was born.

July 25, 2006

Yellow Chair Makes American Debut

Yellow Chair Makes American Debut
In early August (7th-13th), what began as a week-long social experiment by a design student in Great Britain will make its American debut as Yellow Chair San Jose, during ZeroOne San Jose: A Global Festival of Art on the Edge & the Thirteenth International Symposium of Electronic Art (ISEA 2006).

July 28, 2006

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Funk Supports WPA2 in Upgrade

Funk Supports WPA2 in Upgrade

Cambridge, Mass.-based Funk Software, one of the top players in the world of wired and wireless network access security solutions, yesterday announced Odyssey Client v3.1, an upgrade to their secure 802.1X access client. The upgrade offers support for Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2), the next generation of Wi-Fi security, based on the final 802.11i standard.


November 2, 2004

Lompoc: Eager to Be Best Connected

Lompoc: Eager to Be Best Connected

As more and more cities jump into the emerging Wi-Fi as residential broadband market, a wide variety of business models are being tested. Starting early next year, the city of Lompoc, Calif., a city of 40,000 located just north of Santa Barbara on the state's central coast, plans to join the growing number of American cities offering wireless access. In its case, wireless access will be offered as a city-run utility.
November 3, 2004

Low Power Wi-Fi: The New Nursing Tool

Low Power Wi-Fi: The New Nursing Tool


While most of us imagine cell phones saving lives after an accident or during a storm, thanks to the work of a determined mother-daughter team and specialized wireless phone provider, SpectraLink, wireless phones are now saving lives in hospitals, too.

November 11, 2004

Putting Hotspots on the Map

Putting Hotspots on the Map

As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. In the world of Wi-Fi, hotspot providers are having trouble even getting their horses to water—if users can't find hotspots, they can't log on. San Francisco-based ISP system software developer Aramova (formerly Rockstar Software) has developed a new technology, which it believes is going to revolutionize the Wi-Fi directory world and make hotspots easier to find and safely log on to.

November 16, 2004

Billings Gets Wireless Backbone

Billings Gets Wireless Backbone

Billings, Montana is where Routes 90 and 94 intersect just north of the Wyoming border and the Crow Indian reservation—and now it is also where Canadian wireless products meet municipal high-bandwidth needs.

November 18, 2004

Netgear Ships Affordable PoE

Netgear Ships Affordable PoE

Wireless LAN deployment just got a whole lot easier for small-to-midsize businesses (SMB). Industry leader Netgear —a perennial top seller in consumer wireless equipment—announced yesterday the launch of a new set of products designed specifically with the SMB wireless market in mind.

November 30, 2004

Yamaha Strikes a Wi-Fi Chord

Yamaha Strikes a Wi-Fi Chord

When most Americans think of a player piano, they imagine an old upright version spinning its rolls and tinkling away in a dusty Western bar. But those pianos have about as much in common with today's version as the Pony Express does with Federal Express.

December 2, 2004

Monday, September 04, 2006

Chicago Public Libraries Go Wireless

Chicago Public Libraries Go Wireless


After carefully rolling it out over the course of two months, the City of Chicago officially unveiled its free wireless network in the city's libraries today. Now any Chicago resident with a valid Public Library card can access all of the city's digital library resources wirelessly while on-site at any of the 79 branches.

December 7, 2004

Corriente Debuts 802.1X Tool

Corriente Debuts 802.1X Tool


Just a few weeks ago, Corriente Networks, a small, privately-held software developer in Berkeley, California, announced the release of its first product, Elektron, which was promptly named "Best of Show," at MacWorld Expo in San Francisco. An auspicious debut for a company that employs only three people.

February 2, 2005

Digital Middletown Project Underway

Digital Middletown Project Underway

In an attempt to determine the impact of high-definition content delivery on education and home life in America, wireless networking equipment manufacturer Proxim (Quote, Chart) is providing the wireless backbone for a research project being conducted by Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.

Muncie—dubbed "Middletown, U.S.A." in a groundbreaking sociological study...

March 25, 2005

New Homes Come Standard with Wi-Fi

New Homes Come Standard with Wi-Fi

Wish you had a digital home of the future, complete with wireless networking and home controls? Playa Vista, Calif., may be the place to be.

March 22, 2005

Wi-Fi in Stitches

Wi-Fi in Stitches

Earlier this month, Osaka, Japan-based Silex Technology, which is best known for its network solutions for printers and biometric devices, debuted a new wireless networking device designed specifically for a market which has been dramatically underserved in recent years—sewing machines.

March 9, 2005

Syracuse City Schools Get Expansive WLAN

by Naomi Graychase
April 11, 2005
Wi-Fi Planet

The city of Syracuse, N.Y. is in the second of a three-phase plan to roll out a wired and wireless broadband network serving all 41 of the public school buildings within its city limits. The $80 million project, which will include 18,000 network drops and up to 300 Cisco Access Points, will bring high-speed Internet access to approximately 23,000 students and 2,000 faculty members.

Syracuse, which is home to roughly 700,000 residents, has contracted with Bluesocket to handle security, including access control, authentication, encryption and bandwidth management, and with IBM Global Services and Cisco to create the infrastructure.

"We were able to wholeheartedly embrace wireless because of the authentication abilities with Bluesocket," says Don Spaulding, director of Information Services and Technology for the City of Syracuse school system. "We tried to create a defense layer on the outside of the network. We have those measures in place as well."

The involvement of IBM and Bluesocket is the result of a new alliance between the two companies, which announced today that they will be working together to introduce an approach to large-scale, heterogeneous, wireless LAN environments which integrate multiple equipment providers and where centralized configuration, radio-frequency management and intrusion detection are vital.

Bluesocket also provides secure Internet access at two other school districts, the San Juan Unified School District in Carmichael, Calif., and the Coppell School District of Coppell, Texas.

The Syracuse network is currently active in 20 instructional buildings, with another six expected to be online by May 1. It will serve both administrative and instructional purposes. Grading systems, purchasing, payroll, and even the cafeterias have been connected. Enough bandwidth has been incorporated to allow for videoconferencing and video streaming, as well as other educational applications. Wi-Fi-enabled laptops have been deployed in classrooms to give students hands-on access to the broadband wireless network, including access to digital video programs offered direct-to-the-classroom by a local public TV station. Voice over IP (VoIP) is also being deployed.

Syracuse is not the first municipality to unveil a large, public Wi-Fi system in schools or otherwise, but Spaulding says planners there did not look to any one specific city for guidance as they mapped out their plan.

"I think in a lot of ways we've taken from instances where we felt things worked well," says Spaulding. "We knew what we wanted to do in our classrooms and what we wanted our kids and teachers to be doing. There are many ideas that we do borrow, but also many things we went and did on our own. We didn't want to meet where people were at, we wanted to look ahead and get out there a little further."

The project required a lot of new construction. Because of the outdated electrical and structural aspects of the buildings involved, much of the $80 million budget was spent on building modifications. Everything from creating space for the servers and other equipment to providing adequate air conditioning and ventilation had to be done.

Funding for the project comes from an assortment of state and federal grants, including No Child Left Behind (NCLB) grants, reading and curricular-related grants, and a $3.6 million grant which will be spent on teacher training and development to help faculty and staff get the most out of their new equipment.

"We competitively secured money," says Spaulding. "For teacher access, for equipment, for everything. We are terming it here as 'a convergence of events.' A lot of different things have gone on that we've been able to coordinate and facilitate in a way that makes sense."

The city is also working closely with local collegiate powerhouse Syracuse University and with other local partners including hospitals, PBS stations and other entities that can be beneficial to the educational mission of the network.

The project leaders see it as expansive in its scope and thorough in its execution. The result will be a major change for students and educators in the Syracuse school district.

"I don't think anyone expected it would get off the ground," admits Spaulding. "A lot of people are surprised. We were a district that didn't really have anything, now all of a sudden you can get to a WAN with a significant amount of bandwidth. And we've implemented a lot of applications with this project: portable distance learning carts, a new e-mail system, active directory, all types of remote maintenance devices, many different types of VLANS to support the applications. We went from a limited network with limited connectivity to a state-of-the-art sophisticated network."

The entire project is expected to be completed sometime in January of 2007.

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Watching Video at Hotspots

May 10, 2005, Wi-Fi Planet.com
by Naomi Graychase

OnAir Entertainment, a new provider of proprietary media services to Wi-Fi hotspots, hotel IP networks and MDUs, has teamed up with Norfolk, Va.-based TotalVid to offer TotalVid's entire 1,000-title library of special-interest movies to customers at OnAir's hotspots.

OnAir, which is based in Sunnyvale, Calif., has developed a proprietary network appliance (the DVS0-100) that caches downloadable movies, music and games locally at hotels, restaurants and airports, speeding up download times significantly. The service has already been deployed at the Austin-Bergstrom Airport in Austin, Texas and at Jerry's Deli in Los Angeles.

Company CEO Rand Bleimeister says, "The benefit is that movie downloads are slow—up to two hours to download a movie over typical DSL. By caching movies locally, the download time is reduced to less than 15 minutes for a full-length feature film."

TotalVid's library appeals to certain types of entertainment enthusiasts whose needs and interests are not being met by more mainstream outlets.

"We launched with action sports and travel," says Karl Quist, general manager of TotalVid, whose passion for windsurfing inspired him to launch the company.

"I had a strong belief that for any content business to be successful, it had to have unique, compelling content not available elsewhere," Quist says. "I had two windsurfing videos at my house and, much to my wife's chagrin, I watched these same videos over and over. I had my TiVo programmed to record anything that had windsurfing in the description, and it never found anything. Even with 100-some-odd channels, there was nothing dedicated to those sports. So I understood that there were all of these other categories where the need was unmet. The customers who try us, try us because we give them a way to watch things they can't find anywhere else."

TotalVid says it is currently the leading video download store for action sports, travel-related content, and anime. Its library includes roughly 1,000 films in 22 categories, including Travel, Extreme Life, and Motorsports. The newest categories are Home Improvement, Music Instructional, Martial Arts, and Anime.

"Anime is an enormous, $4 billion market in the U.S.," says Quist of the Japanese cartoons. "You can't go to Blockbuster and get a deep selection of anime, yet there are fans out there who will stand in line for hours to get into a convention to purchase new anime. These people are also typically very early adopters of technology, which makes them a perfect fit for us."

Each video can be downloaded for a few dollars, and viewed an unlimited number of times for up to a week. If a user decides to purchase the video after viewing, the cost of the rental is automatically deducted from the purchase price.

TotalVid acquires its content by working directly with producers.

"We find producers who are selling on DVD, and we license it from them," says Quist. "We work with about 200 producers that provide content for our site."

To prevent piracy or theft, TotalVid protects filmmakers' rights by using the same software that Hollywood studios are using.

"We leverage the best technology out there," says Quist. "We use Microsoft's Windows Rights Management and infrastructure to do that. When someone gets a video from us, it's encrypted. We give them a key, and Windows uses it to determine if they have the rights. They can play it for an unlimited number of times over a particular period of time, but they can't burn it and can't screen capture it. It's very reliable; it hasn't been broken."

The company chose to partner with OnAir in order to extend the distribution of its content.

"OnAir is bringing us an audience that fits very well with our content," says Quist. "People who are connected consume a great deal of online content. OnAir reaches people in an environment where our content and videos make a lot of sense to them. With OnAir, users can dramatically reduce the download time, which hopefully increases the amount they purchase."

OnAir, which also offers a server that enables travelers to watch live television on their laptops using a local Wi-Fi network in airports or on commuter trains, is pleased with the partnership.

"Karl Quist is a visionary," says Bleimeister. "TotalVid's content is perfect for our target demographic."

When looking to the future, Quist says, "We're definitely very early in the consumer adoption of paid full-length video downloads. These are not people who are downloading content from other services. We are the first place they've paid for video content on the Web. Consumers are waiting for a really compelling video application before they'll open up their wallets and pay for it."

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Boston Convenes Wi-Fi Summit

Boston Convenes Wi-Fi Summit

May 17, 2005, Naomi Graychase for Wi-Fi Planet.com

On May 19th, citizens and leaders in the City of Boston will gather in a public forum at the Museum of Science to discuss ways to bring free, public Wi-Fi to Boston. The Wi-Fi Summit, which is free and open to the public, was the outgrowth of an order Boston City Councilor John Tobin filed late last summer. Tobin is leading an effort to find ways to bring more widespread, public wireless access to America's fifth largest city.

On May 19th, citizens and leaders in the City of Boston will gather in a public forum at the Museum of Science to discuss ways to bring free, public Wi-Fi to Boston. The Wi-Fi Summit, which is free and open to the public, was the outgrowth of an order Boston City Councilor John Tobin filed late last summer. Tobin is leading an effort to find ways to bring more widespread, public wireless access to America's fifth largest city.

"In January, my office convened the Wi-Fi Task Force to plan the Summit," says Tobin. "We reached out to a diverse cross-section of creative and talented wireless technology experts, neighborhood leaders, educators, government officials, businesspeople and non-profit representatives, and asked them to help us put the event together."

BTS Partners, a privately held Boston-based consulting firm which focuses on deployment of large network solutions, was issued a $25,000 Boston Foundation grant to study and analyze the current state of wireless technology in Boston. The primary focus of the Wi-Fi Summit will be the presentation of the results of that survey.

"We believe that we can build on the momentum created by the Summit and keep the conversation going," Tobin says. "We hope that some of the participants in the Summit will volunteer to help us plan the next steps. The information gathered by the [BTS study] will give the city a great place to begin."

Among the central players in the effort to bring more Wi-Fi to Boston are the three founding members of the Boston Wireless Advocacy Group (WAG): Michael Oh, Susan Kaup, and Pat McCormick. The group, whose mission is to "advocate, educate, and inspire," was invited to join the Wi-Fi Task force and assist in planning the summit and helping to guide future plans for public Wi-Fi.

"We're hoping to build some consensus around what the next steps would be. We don't have a definite goal," says McCormick. "As we put on the table the results of [the BTS study], we'll start looking at what the best solutions are for Boston. They are looking at the existing infrastructure in terms of fiber, buildings, street lamps—things the city owns—and institutional networks, universities, hospitals. We're hoping to see where we have some overlap."

The most powerful motivation for Tobin, McCormick and others on the task force seems to be concern for working class and lower income residents who have been lost on the other side of what is commonly referred to as "the digital divide."

McCormick, who is the former CIO of Somerville, Mass. (just north of Boston), says "Wireless won't solve the 'digital divide' problem, but it will help. These days, computers are mostly about being online. Most people don't see them as being very useful if they can't be online, high speed, all the time. The cost of that access is prohibitive for a lot of individuals."

"The way I framed it is, if we can solve the access problem, then we can gladly take on the hardware problem," McCormick says. "It's like building a bike path or jogging path in an area with really dangerous streets. Whether people will go out and buy roller blades or bicycles, it's an issue, but it shouldn't prevent us from talking about the connectivity issue. I'm not saying the hardware issue doesn't exist, but we're moving into a world where the connectivity issue is maybe not primary, but it's up there with hardware."

Among the speakers and presenters at the summit will be Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who has been supportive of the work of the task force.

Tobin and McCormick both say that Boston is not planning to follow perfectly in any other city's footsteps as it moves toward expanding public Wi-Fi.

"At the Summit, we plan to discuss several different models outlined in the BTS analysis," Tobin says. "We will look at other cities' successes and talk about what didn't work out as well."

"Certainly, at this point, it's not as though Boston is looking to go down the path of a Philadelphia, or even a Cleveland," says McCormick.

At a pre-summit community meeting organized by Tobin's office, citizens were generally supportive of the idea of pursuing widespread public Wi-Fi.

"I was pleased that there was a lot of interest in the digital divide as being a primary goal of the wireless Internet at that meeting," says McCormick. "There was also some interest in the aspects of economic development, but more interest in getting Internet out to people who can't afford it."

Of course, altruistic motivations aren't the only driving force.

"Wi-Fi could help us to educate our children, enhance local business districts, and bolster tourism," says Tobin. "We need to examine how Wi-Fi could be used to make Boston a better place to live, work or visit. If Boston wants to stay competitive, we need to make sure the latest technology is easily available."

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Michigan Tries Wi-Fi for Travelers

Michigan Tries Wi-Fi for Travelers
May 23, 2005, Naomi Graychase, Wi-Fi Planet.com

SBC Communications has teamed up with the state government of Michigan to offer Wi-Fi access at rest areas, state parks, marinas, and welcome centers throughout the state. The pilot project, dubbed MiWiFi, was rolled out last September and includes ten locations throughout the state.

SBC Communications has teamed up with the state government of Michigan to offer Wi-Fi access at rest areas, state parks, marinas, and welcome centers throughout the state. The pilot project, dubbed MiWiFi, was rolled out last September and includes ten locations throughout the state.

Visitors to the Ludington State Park, New Buffalo Welcome Center, Coldwater Welcome Center, Clarkston Rest Area, Grand Haven State Park, Holland State Park, Mackinak Island State Dock, Charles Mears State Park, Sterling State Park, and East Tawas State Dock can purchase wireless access to SBC FreedomLink hotspots in 24-hour blocks for $7.95. Existing SBC customers pay significantly less.

During the month of April, SBC offered free access to everyone at the MiWiFi locations, in the hopes of raising awareness and generating interest as the state moves into the busy summer travel season. The free trial month saw a dramatic spike in usage, but it remains to be seen whether those numbers will remain high this summer, when travelers will have to open their wallets to get access to the service.

The pilot program is intended to run for three years, but at the end of this summer, planners will conduct their first serious assessment of the success of MiWiFi and determine whether to go forward.

As cities and communities around the country struggle to find a successful model for incorporating public Wi-Fi, Michigan has opted for the pay-as-you-go method that requires that virtually no burden be placed on taxpayers.

"The start of this thing was the national craze for wireless," says Kurt Weiss, Communications Director for the Michigan Department of Information Technology. "The Michigan Department of Natural Resources asked their campers, 'What would you like to see in the campgrounds that we don't offer you?' Wireless and cable television were what they wanted. That's what prompted our early negotiations with SBC. We said, 'Here's a service we'd like to try. The state is broke. We don't have taxpayer dollars to go around.' And they said, 'We'll pay for the pilot. We'll pay for the installation of the Wi-Fi.' They get paid every time someone logs on, and we didn't have to pay for the installation. There's something in it for them and for us."

Nationwide, SBC is currently operating roughly 6,700 hotspots within its FreedomLink network, mostly at airports, restaurants and other public locations. 300 of those hotspots are in Michigan. The hope is that truckers, boaters, and recreational and business travelers will put the ten major MiWiFi hotspots to use in large numbers.

Two state marinas, both in the northeastern quadrant of the state, will be offering MiWiFi hotspots when they open this summer.

"Even on their boats, people are doing business," says Weiss. "Our thought process was that there's two kinds of vacationer—the ones who want to get away from work completely, and the ones who feel they can't do that. But if wireless were there, they could go and enjoy it. They could still log on and get a little work done. That segment of the population is who we're targeting: the ones who need to be in touch all the time."

With the initial rollout of MiWiFi last fall, Michigan became the first state in the nation to offer Wi-Fi at state parks. Because of what Weiss calls the state's "bare-bones budget," promoting the new service has been difficult.

"Originally, we were going to do road signs, but at this point, the signage is only at the rest areas, docks, and campgrounds," Weiss says. "You have to be there to know there's Wi-Fi available. There are no billboards. There's just not money to promote this project. SBC and Intel partnered with us and they purchased a bunch of brochures. But the signage before you get there is missing."

While it's too early in the pilot to know if SBC and Michigan are reaching their target demographic, Weiss says at least one young person was delighted to discover she could complete an assignment while sitting on the beach.

"We were at Holland [State Park], a great, gorgeous sand beach," says Weiss. "We've got the antennas up, and the news showed up, and we launch the thing, and this old guy, about 75 or 80 years old, drives by on his bike and says, 'Can't you keep these damn computers out of anywhere?' And then a student from college, a young girl, says 'Oh, awesome! I have to turn in a paper. Can I log on?' And she mailed a paper to her professor, sitting right there in the sand."

The MiWiFi pilot will be monitored by SBC and overseen by the Michigan Department of Information Technology, in conjunction with the state's Department of Natural Resources, which runs the campgrounds, and the Department of Transportation, which maintains the rest areas. A nonprofit organization called Travel Michigan is also involved.

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