Photo of worker adjusting a wireless access point.

Worker adjusting the wireless access point outside my window.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Blogging Beer in Minnesota
MNBeer, "dedicated to all of the good beer that comes out of Minnesota." I'll drink to that.

new blood at minvolved
I'm afraid I only just discovered recently and now the old 'administration' is retiring but has found some new voices (five new voices to be exact) to keep the blog going. The new political guy, Jeff Fecke, posts today and I will stay tuned, at least for the short term.

The reason Mr. Sponge, the previous author, is retiring is because of hate email and specifically a threat to his wife. But this post explains that they're not intimidated. Quoting:
...we didn’t quit writing because we were intimidated by anyone. We quit because this was supposed to be a hobby and thanks to an email or two, it was a hobby that quickly became no fun at all. If we did this for a living…well, that’s what we get paid for and we’d write a column challenging these sick sons of bitches to meet Wifeypoo and Mr. Sponge on the radio or some nonsense like that.
Good luck to all the new voices.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Ruby in Minneapolis
There is a Ruby user group in town: Ruby Users of Minnesota (RUM?).

Their next meeting is April 25 at Loring Park Dunn Bros.

via Dan Grigsby. tags:

Monday, March 27, 2006
Strictly Fun
Time for some fun. Safe for work though there is music.


via Tim Bray's Ongoing tags:

Presentation: Wireless Broadband Technologies
Presentations sans the presenter can lack enough information to be useful unless you were at the presentation. But if you're lucky, you can get glean enough knowledge to start some good research into the issue and to learn a few things.

Bill Hagestad II from ipHouse*, a Minneapolis ISP, presented at the FiberFirst Minnesota Fiber to the Home Conference in Minneapolis this month. The title of his presentation is Wireless Broadband Technologies. It's aimed at cities that are considering municipal wireless deployment. It's a great overview of what technologies are currently available and the questions a city should ask when planning for wireless. He wraps up a lot of information in a small package.

Download the presentation (1.8MB).

*ipHouse is my ISP.

Sunday, March 26, 2006
Minneapolis, MN: Our Mayor Has a Blog
As Mayor, there are many issues I work on every day and many topics I love to discuss. The purpose of this blog is to share specific ideas for reweaving our city with great spaces and visionary, sustainable connections between the different areas of Minneapolis. To participate in this blog, please focus your comments on this topic.

Google's Wi-Fi Privacy Ploy by Jeff Chester at The Nation.

The article discusses private data collection on muni Wi-Fi networks that are being constructed via the RFP process. It looks specifically at San Francisco where Google and Earthlink have teamed together on an RFP response for that city. Chester writes:
Unless municipal leaders object, citizens and visitors will be subjected to intensive data-mining of their web searches, e-mail messages and other online activities are tracked, profiled and targeted. The inevitable consequences are an erosion of online privacy, potential new threats of surveillance by law enforcement agencies and private parties, and the growing commercialization of culture.
According to the artilce, Earthlink works with DoubleClick, a company that "collects and analyzes enormous amounts of information online to engage in individual interactive ad targeting." Earthlink is one of two finalists for creating the Wi-Fi network here in Minneapolis.

So are our municipal leaders making sure that I'm not subjected to intensive data-mining?

From the standpoint of a public service, I don't think we want to create a network (free or otherwise) that is an "ecommerce stomping ground," feeding us constant and annoying advertising and harvesting as much of our private data as it can? The City Council should make sure there are limits and should push for an 'opt-in' system that lets the consumer make the choice.

via MuniWireless.

Saturday, March 25, 2006
The Minnebar Cometh

Barcamp Minnesota (aka MinneBar) is organizing thanks to Ben Edwards. Mark your calendar for May 6.

What is a Barcamp?
  1. A camp where participants learn bartending.
  2. A camp where participants drink much alcohol.
  3. An unconference for anyone interested in learning about cool Web and Internet stuff. (Not just for geeks!)
If you guessed #3, you're right! (Actually, if we're lucky, there may be some alcolhol too. Ben registered here.)

But really, what the heck is a barcamp?

"bar" comes from "foobar" which signifies two common placeholder variables in computer programming, "foo" and "bar." (Check the link for some other Foo- and Fubar derivatives.) In 2003, O'Reilly hosted the first Foo Camp, which was an invite-only event gathering smart people together to discuss technology issues. It's now a once-a-year event.

Bar Camp was a reaction to the closed nature of Foo Camp. It's a wide-open conference that anyone can attend and where anyone can present. In fact, the one thing you have to do is participate. The first Bar Camp was hosted by Ross Mayfield at Socialtext and is still held annually. Some people actually camp out.

Today Bar Camps (or barcamps) are being organized around the world. From the looks of the schedule, it wouldn't be hard to be a 'barhead' and attend one or several camps every week. (Hmmm... maybe someone would pay you to blog the camps and if there were free food and beer or wine at the camps...)

Sign Up!

So head on over to the Minnebar site and signup. (It's a wiki. You need to log-in. I think the public password is c4mp.) Check the list of sessions and add some more if what you're interested in isn't there. Ben says "All participants must either give a demo, host a discussion, actively participate in a session, or help with one." That's it. You just have to ask some questions in a session to be a true barcamper.

I will predict that this has the potential to be the Minneapolis tech event of the year. What's cool is that it's success depends on all of the participants and not on any one individual or company. (Sponsors, in fact, are only allowed to contribute $500.) The democracy and inclusiveness of this concept makes it even more likely to succeed.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Wi-Fi Primer at Wired
Wired did a special report on the wireless Internet in May of 2003 in a special issue called Unwired. Good explanation of the potential of the wireless revolution and some of their predictions are coming true today (like wireless detectors).

It doesn't go technically deep and is a good primer on Wi-Fi. Various 802.stuff is explained.

Link. tags:

Tuesday, March 21, 2006
The Local Loop Podcast: applying technology for community benefit
Via MuniWireless, Greg Richardson of Civitium and Jim Baller of Baller Herbst Group are podcasting bi-weekly a show called The Local Loop. Subscription info here or just scroll to the bottom of that page for a link to the audio file. (Baller Herbst has an office in the Minneapolis Grain Exchange building.)

The first show is an interview with Esme Vos, the founder of the MuniWireless blog. In the spirit of true podcasting, the hosts fumble around at the beginning, telling us that the rehearsals aren't going well and they are just going to do the broadcast.

Esme is hopeful about the state of muni wireless in the world and even the US although she gives the US a pretty poor grade so far especially when compared to Europe and Asia. (The US is something like fifteenth in the world in broadband coverage and coverage in much of Europe and Asia is cheaper and faster.) She looks into her crystal ball and discusses the future shape of wireless in the US. She considers symetrical broadband (fast uploads and downloads) will encourage entrepreneurial activity.

Esme: "I think Wireless Philadelphia is a great idea and a great initiative." Given that we (Minneapolis) are copying Philadelphia's initiative, I'll consider that an endorsement for what we're doing too.

It's a good earful.

Local Loop's second podcast, the week of March 20, will feature Diana Neff, CIO of Philadelphia and Don Berryman, President of Municipal Broadband for Earthlink.

St. Cloud, Florida Wi-Fi Report
Excellent report over at MuniWireless on citywide Wi-Fi (free!) in St. Cloud, Florida. They call it 'Cyber Spot.' Link here.

"Overall, the deployment has been an amazing success."

New users currently total about 1,763 with 95 new registrations per day. There is free 24/7 tech support with an average time-on-phone of 11 minutes. (Not bad!)

Many of the calls are related to connectivity which can be affected by a number of issues. Of interest is a problem of good reception but poor broadcast meaning the client computer can't push out a strong enough signal but can connect with no problem. The City sells a device called PepLink which boosts both the incoming and the outgoing signal. Prices at the PePLink site start at $169 for a 200mW version.

If the problem is system related, access points might be relocated or new ones added for better coverage.

A final quote:
When we study the numbers and see over 1,700 users with over 11,000
sessions representing close to 23,000 hours of use and only 390 help
center calls we are gratified that the system is performing well.

Sunday, March 19, 2006
Digital Inclusion Coalition Meeting
March 19, 2006 9:06:06 PM

The group is the Digital Inclusion Coalition and its goal is to draft a community benefits agreement (CBA) that will become part of the contract between the City of Minneapolis and the broadband wireless vendor that's eventually chosen. (Right now, the two finalists for wireless vendor are Earthlink and US Internet.) This group is focused on digital divide issues (the gap between those with access to computers and the Internet and those who don't have access because of low income and/or lack of training).

Current draft of the CBA is here.

Steve Newcom, Director of the Headwaters Foundation, was the featured speaker. As potential money is gathered to address digital divide issues, somebody needs to manage the money and find an equitable way to give it out to nonprofit groups. Headwaters is a possiblility as a management group that could pass out the funds as grants. They are doing some excellent work relating to social justice, native communities, and democracy initiatives. They look more at creating systems that have the power to create change rather than identifying and servicing issues.
I think they would be a good choice.

After Steve spoke, we had a general discussion about digital divide issues. Topics included:
  • Need for a clear definition of "Digital Divide."
  • Difficulty in funding people to train and be computer lab monitors.
  • Money should not be used to replace current city funds for libraries, schools, and parks.
  • Need for network neutrality and potential for this new system to economically harm current ISPs.
  • Need for a mailing list or some way to communicate between meetings.
Many of the people at the table work with low income, elderly, and immigrants and see the 'divide' first hand.

The next meeting is scheduled for March 28.

Bruce Sterling at SXSW
Bruce Sterling's keynote at South-by-Southwest. Link.

Only in the United States do dying phone companies lobby the government as if they were Indian casinos.
Bruce is also doing some writing at the Walker Art Center's Off Center blog. tags:

Saturday, March 18, 2006
Nougat (and Cupcake)
The nutroll-type bar at Cupcake (3338 University Ave. Minneapolis) has a marshmallowy filling. I said this is not nougat. M. thought it was, maybe even true nougat as opposed to the stuff in popular American candy bars.

She's wrong. Read about nougat here and here.

No matter that it ain't real nougat in the bars at Cupcake as it has some of the best baked stuff around the Twin Cities in addition to award-winning cupcakes. Their Danish for sure should win the blue ribbon for best of this century. And, the coffee rocks too. Plus free Wi-Fi. tags:

Friday, March 17, 2006
Earthlink Blog
Earthling ("a weblog by a human, for humans") is Earthlink's blog. Welcome entries here and here. Searched for Minneapolis at the blog and didn't find anything.

Earthlink is also advertising on some podcasts. Steve Gillmor's comes to mind.

Speed Violation Cameras: Less Safe, More Money
Dailywireless has a post about speed violation cameras. These are cameras placed at intersections that can record your license plate number as you run a red light and then send a ticket to you.


A study of red-light cameras in Washington, D.C., by The Washington Post found that despite producing more than 500,000 tickets (and generating over $32 million in revenues), red-light cameras didn't reduce injuries or collisions. In fact, the number of accidents increased at the camera-equipped intersections.
The problem is that drivers are slamming on their brakes to avoid a ticket. Rear-end collisions result. There is also an issue with yellow light timing. Longer yellow light times are safer. However, if a city wants to maximize profit, they can shorten the yellow light time and add the cameras.

I think we have some of these cameras in Minneapolis. If we do, I think we should get rid of them in the interest of safety and increase yellow light times.

I'm guessing one of the original goals of the cameras was to decrease accidents at particular intersections. Too many people were running the red lights. The drivers waiting on the red were hot to move as soon as they got the green. Perfect ingredients for one or the other driver to get broadsided. The 'runner' is legally at fault but 'waiter' should have checked before driving into the intersection.

So put up cameras and send tickets to the runners. That will teach them a lesson. But it won't slow them down on approaching the intersection, requiring them to now slam on their brakes to avoid a ticket and potentially creating a rear-end collision situation.

So here's the pfhyper solution.
  1. Get rid of the cameras.
  2. Lengthen the yellow times.
  3. After a yellow time, have all intersection lights display red. This allows the intersection to clear.
  4. Go to green on the appropriate lights.
A second solution would be to use mass transit, ride bikes, and walk. Rear-end collisions while walking are usually harmless. tags:

Thursday, March 16, 2006
Muni Wifi in Minneapolis! Will it benefit the community?
To answer the question above, a resounding YES if the people at the meeting tonight have anything to say about it.

I attended the meeting of the Digital Community Advisors Roundtable tonight. This group, composed of folks from several different non-profits (large and small) plus average citizens like me, is drafting a community benefits agreement that will likely (in some form) become part of the Wireless Minneapolis vendor contract.

I outed my blog there and welcome any of you from the meeting who are dropping by for the first time. I will be filing some notes on the meeting. So you should come back. For now, I'll provide some links to some interesting blogs that deal with muni wifi.

First I'll highlight posts here. This link will get you to a list of stuff that I've posted around wireless and most of it related to Minneapolis. In particular, I've got two letters to the Council, the last one in the post previous to this one.

Please comment or if you are shy, shoot me an email - pfhyper at

So here's a brief wifi blog list. I encourage you to subscribe to them via rss/atom feeds and the easiest way to do that is at and I will even send you a personal invite to Bloglines with subscriptions to these blogs if you send me an email request.
  1. MuniWireless founded by Esme Vos. I don't know if it's the oldest but I think it's one of the best.
  2. Public Ponderings by Sascha Meinrath (who also posts at MuniWireless). They are doing some cool thinkg in Urbana-Champain, Illinois area. Check out their Independent Media Center. Sascha also has an excellent list of blogs that he reads.
  3. Next Generation Communications by Ken Dipietro. I just started reading this one after seeing that Sascha reads it plus he posts at MuniWireless from time to time.
That should keep you busy. If anyone would like help in starting a blog or talking about blogging, I'm there for you. It's about the easiest way to publish to the Internet. I use (free).

Minneapolis Muni WiFi: My (second) Council Letter
My second email to the Minneapolis City Council concerning the wireless initiative. I sent it off yesterday. (First letter is here.)


I contacted the Council previously, right before the vote (Feb. 24) on the wireless initiative. Thanks to those who responded.

Since then, I've been active in researching the issue. I have some concerns and suggestions.

My main concern is that so far, very little has been done to gather feedback from the community-at-large for the benefits agreement. I am aware of C-CAN and the Digital Access Project and I will be attending a meeting this coming Thursday where a group is drafting the benefits agreement. But I had to do a lot of work to find out how to get involved.

The "Municipal Broadband Initiative Business Case" (Feb. 16, 2006; p. 28, Opportunity #2) calls for public meetings prior to the pilot project launch which I understand is fast approaching. I can't find a listing of any meetings on the City's Web pages including the Minneapolis Wireless section. In fact, the City's home page doesn't mention the wireless initiative and doesn't link the Minneapolis Wireless section.

Cam Gordon did hold a public forum on March 6 (I reported on it here) but there wasn't a lot of publicity beforehand. I would expect meetings like this to be listed on the Wireless Minneapolis Web pages and to be announced via the City's wireless announcements. (Maybe it was announced there? I only recently subscribed.)

A second concern is with the pilot itself. My understanding is that there won't be public access to the system. I encourage you to include public and residential access to the system during the pilot or tell us the rationale as to why not. I don't see any problem with either making it wide open or providing a single generic user/password or supplying, upon request, user/passwords.

A third concern is the minimum speed of connection on the wireless network. The need for bandwidth is only going to increase as services such as video-on-demand become popular. I would recommend that minimum up and down speeds for the network be set to at least 3mbps rather than the 1.5mbps that is mentioned in the Business Case. And keep upload and download speeds at the same level. This would also be of benefit to small businesses and entrepreneurs who wish to run their own servers. (Here's a good article that discusses speeds and broadband penetration in the US.)

My fourth concern is the $12 wholesale price for ISPs. Has the Council checked with local ISPs to see if this is low enough for them to make a profit on the resale? I fear that the wireless initiative could put local ISPs out of business. I would like to see a very competitive marketplace for these services.

Finally, I urge caution and all due diligence even to the point of starting over. There is talk that this is our "window of opportunity" and that we could fall to the bottom of the vendor's lists if we don't act now. That sort of talk makes me nervous and sounds more like a salesperson trying to close the big deal. You might check out this cartoon.

I've been posting on my blog about Wireless Minneapolis and also muni wireless in general. I will likely post this message there as I did my last one.

You can check here for my wireless related posts.

Thank you for your time.

Sunday, March 12, 2006
Questions for Minneapolis Wireless
Why aren't Minneapolis and St. Paul partnering on a wireless initiative?

Will I have to buy an account for each computer I want connected to Minneapolis Wireless or will I have a household account and be able to connect all the computers I own? That's what I can currently do with Qwest DSL.

Can I share my signal?

How fast will it be? I'm reading that 1 to 1.5mbps is now minimal. It would be better to have 3mbps as the lowest rate.

What type of security for the residential network?

Why won't there be residential testing during the pilot projects?
I don't have answers.

Saturday, March 11, 2006
Leveraging Tech Sans Email
The Minneapolis Business Information Services contact page lists no email addresses and doesn't link to any type of online form. (These folks developed the business case for the City's wireless initiative.)

Their info page says they help "City of Minneapolis departments leverage technology to meet the City’s business needs...."


Wireless Philadelphia in Holding Pattern Until Council Reads Contracts
Although Mayor John F. Street's administration would have liked to see a committee vote yesterday on Philadelphia's wireless Internet initiative, legislators said they needed more time.
from the Philadelphia Inquirer:
The administration had hoped Council members would approve the effort in a committee vote yesterday, which would have cleared the way for a final vote as early as March 23. But the meeting adjourned without a vote after legislators said they needed more time to read the convoluted series of agreements involving the city, the quasi-independent Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development, the city-created nonprofit known as Wireless Philadelphia, and the Atlanta-based Internet firm EarthLink, which is to build and operate the network.

Next hearing is March 30. The earliest final vote would then be April 13. Earthlink or Wireless Philadelphia can walk away from the deal if the Council does not approve before summer recess.

pfhyper says: Reading contracts is a good thing.

Thursday, March 09, 2006
NY Times Editorial: The Death of the Intelligence Panel
March 9, 2006
The wrenching debate in the 1970's over the abuse of presidential power produced two groundbreaking reforms aimed at preventing a president from using war or broader claims of national security to trample Americans' rights.

One was the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which struck the proper balance between national security and bedrock civil liberties, and the other was the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, a symbol of bipartisan leadership. They endured for a quarter of a century — until George W. Bush and Dick Cheney left FISA in tatters and the Senate Select Committee on its deathbed in just five years.
Read the rest... (free registration required) tags:

Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Public Ponderings by Sascha Meinrath
For a more radical take on community wireless and municipal broadband, check out Sascha Meinrath's Public Ponderings blog.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Freeloaders Welcome: Sharing the Wireless
Wireless freeloading has memed its way around the Net this week after a NY Times article detailing the practice. In general, they do a poor job of explaining the problems or concerns. Eric at Educated Guesswork does a much better job. Times story is here.

My network is open and I don't have a problem with freeloaders, especially after reading Eric's piece. I also doubt I have many freeloaders. I don't think the signal can penetrate any of the neighbors' homes and I don't seem to have people camping outside with open laptops. (Kind of cold here for that sort of thing.) tags:


Originally uploaded by HOGBARD.
Flickr Blog posted a Hogbard's photo so I went exploring his stuff. His work is very eerie, very strange, and sometimes wonderful. I love this crane. Click the image to explore on your own. tags:

Monday, March 06, 2006
Report on the Public Forum on Wireless in Minneapolis
Tonight I attended a public forum on Minneapolis' wireless initiative. Here are some notes before bedtime.

Pilot Projects
The forum took place in the Brian Coyle Center in the Cedar-Riverside area. This area will be part of the wireless pilot project scheduled for April. US Internet, one of two finalists, will build this network. Earthlink, the other finalist, will build a wireless pilot in what's known as 'near north.' Both of the pilot areas have a high percentage of low-income residents and people of color.

According to Bill Beck, Director of Business Development for the City of Minneapolis and one of the key non-elected players in the process, there may be no public access and there probably won't be any testing from resident's homes. It sounds like there will also be testing from Community Technology Centers. There will also be some kind of bridging to the U of M wireless network (part of the campus is in the Cedar-Riverside area). Hard to tell what that means. Will I have access since I work for the U.

The pilot project will run for sixty days.

Of course security came up and concerns weren't answered very well. I'm still not clear as to the level of security that the company will provide. I think network traffic can be encrypted without much hassle over a wireless network but do you need an user name and password? I should know this stuff.

The Contract
A contract could be in place as early as June (of this year). That seem unlikely.

Community Benefits Agreement
This will be an agreement negotiated with the company to provide the City with wonderful benefits. Philadelphia is getting stuff like free hotspots around the city, a money deal to purchase computers and training for kids and low-income, low-cost subscription fees for low-income families, and 1,250 free wireless accounts.

Some other ideas for negotiation that came up at the forum were free wireless service for libraries, schools, parks, and public squares; profit sharing; and a home page on the system featuring the city.

The Alliance for Metropolitan Stability is preparing a draft agreement. As part of this process, they are meeting with community groups. I think they meet with the Longfellow group this Thursday.

The Alliance itself will hold its next meeting on March 16 at 5:30 at 2525 East Franklin Ave. (RSVP if you want pizza.) This is right down the block from me so I will try to make it.

In scouting around the Net with a URL gleaned from the meeting, I found this site for the Digital Access Project which is meeting at the Alliance's offices and which has drafted a preliminary Community Benefit Agreement. Download it here (pdf). Plus there is a lot of other info on the Minneapolis initiative at their site.

As in lawsuits. There are some indications that Qwest is looking for a way to stop the wireless project here. Someone from the city and at the meeting said: "Qwest has got us in their crosshairs."

About thirty people attended. There were about ten women. There were no people of color, as far as I can remember which was weird because outside the doors of the meeting, that's about all there was.

Final Thoughts
There is hope for a good Community Benefit Agreement and there is some hard work being put towards it. However, gaining access to the process to provide feedback is not easy to do. I mentioned that there needs to be a centralized place on the Net to find this information. Like a feed!

At the moment, the City Council does not seem to be soliciting any feedback from the citizens. Let's hope that changes. The digi-techy stuff is too new to entrust to a small group that maybe knows best. There's just too much to read and keep up with. It takes multiple minds to follow the isssues, then think about them and then discuss them.

My Minneapolis Wi-Fi posts

Sunday, March 05, 2006
Community Forum on the Minneapolis Wireless Initiative
Ward 2 City Council Member Cam Gordon is moderating a public forum on the Wireless Broadband Internet Initiative entitled "Who Owns and Who Benefits?" on Monday evening, March 6, 6-8, at the Brian Coyle Community Center, 420 15th Ave. S. in Minneapolis.

This may be part of the info gathering for the Community Benefits Agreement that is required in the wireless contract. I don't think we need to debate public/private as that's been decided and will be a partnership.

My Minneapolis Wi-Fi posts

Wireless Minneapolis
Following in the footsteps of Philadelphia, Minneaplis now has a Wireless Minneapolis Web presence for updating citizens on the initiative.

It has a short FAQ which includes a "network neutrality" commitment:
Can customers choose their own service provider if they want wireless broadband?

The Wireless Minneapolis business model calls for "network neutrality." That means that the vendor selected will be required to also offer wholesale access to the Wireless Minneapolis network to new and existing Internet Service Providers and existing Hot Spots, allowing folks to get broadband connections at more competitive rates.
My Minneapolis Wi-Fi posts

Minneapolis Wi-Fi Background
Netstumbler has a good background article (from May, 2005) on the beginnings of the Minneapolis Municipal Wireless effort. As you may know, the Minneapolis City Council voted in a wi-fi plan on February 24 and has two finalists in the RFP process: Earthlink and US Internet.

I discovered here that Time Warner, the Minneapolis cable provider, "had threatened a legal suit against Minneapolis if it proceeds with its network plan." Time Warner "declined to comment" for the article.

Mpls. Wi-Fi Plan To Face Static |

My Minneapolis Wi-Fi posts

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