Photo of worker adjusting a wireless access point.

Worker adjusting the wireless access point outside my window.

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Sunday, July 30, 2006
Opening Government to Open Source
I've started doing some research on the current state of open source software and its integration in state and local goverment. I've found some articles (all by Tom Adelstein) but nothing too current yet. Anyone with other links or info, please drop a comment here or send me an email (pfhyper @ gmail dot com).

The Open Source Dilemma for Governments
Tom Adelstein
Jan. 4, 2004
The original Internet and Open Source standards came out of public monies mostly granted to university research departments by the Department of Defense. Who paid for those efforts? Why must the public have to pay for those technologies once again because companies like Microsoft adopt them and then resell them as proprietary software? If Open Source Software reduces the cost to taxpayers, that should put more money into the economy. Economics 101 will tell you that consumers buying goods and services create more jobs than governments taking money from taxpayers and shoving those dollars through the bureaucracy.

Open Source in Government: Newport News, VA
Tom Adelstein
Jan. 15, 2004
Interview with Andy Stein, CIO of Newport News.
In the private sector, individual accomplishments become "intellectual property" or something called "competitive advantage." After my first interview for a local government position, I saw the potential for "large scale collaboration." That provides quite an incentive. There's only so much one can develop and accomplish working alone. In my case, I find satisfaction in leveraging the knowledge and capability of many while driving toward common goals. In local government, I will accomplish in 2 years more than I could in 25 years in the private sector. That's exciting to me.

Tom also wrote a series of articles (at least eight) for Linux Journal. I cannot find a listing of all of them and they don't link too each other. Phil Windley (Technometria) lists several here and here.

From there do some searches at the Linux Journal site or via Google. I was able to spot a Part VIII for the series. Maybe someone has the links or maybe Mr. Adelstein will chime in here.

Here's a link to the first article in the series.

Linux Access in State and Local Government Part 1
July 10, 2003 tags:

Friday, July 28, 2006
It's Official. Local Media Discovers Blogs
As mentioned last time (previous post), the local press is pushing blogs this week. Pioneer Press does a story on Michael Brodkorb (whose blog is not intensely personal). It's a good profile. tags:

Almanac Covers Blogging
Whoa. This is hot off the presses! Chuck Olsen (Minnesota Stories) and Michael Brodkorb (Minnesota Democrats Exposed) appear on TPT's Almanac for July 28 and discuss political blogging. It is a friendly gathering where all the typical blog questions are asked. ("How are you different from a reporter?" "Where are the checks and balances and filters?) The blog stories starts around the 12:20 mark. (via MNspeak)

This must be Minnesota blog week. Wednesday, the Star Tribune ran this story which began thusly:

Steve Eck bought a TV on his lunch hour. Allison Tripp-Russo is going to a karaoke bar. And Andrew Mogendorff's son found a booger.

We know this because all three felt compelled to describe the events in their blogs. We gave these Minnesotans the Internet -- the most powerful communication tool in the history of civilization -- and this is what they're using it for?

It's entitled "Minnesota's Blogosphere is Intensely Personal." I'm really glad they did this as none of the Minnesota blogs that I read are intensely personal. Go figure. They didn't mention either of the bloggers on Almanac.

And Strib, could you at least provide links to the blogs that you are discussing? tags:

Minneapolis Wireless: Wi-Fi Meeting at Third Precinct
From Council Member Gary Schiff's newsletter:

A community meeting will be held Wednesday, August 2, 2006 to update city residents and business owners on city plans to establish a wireless internet network. The meeting will start at 6:00 p.m. in the Minneapolis Police Third Precinct community room (3000 Minnehaha Avenue South) A tour of the 311 call center, located on the third floor of the Third Precinct building will follow the meeting.

Thursday, July 27, 2006
Minneaplis Wireless: Digital Inclusion Task Force Releases Final Report
The Digital Inclusion Task Force has released it's final report, entitled Wireless Minneapolis Digital Inclusion Task Force FINAL REPORT. Much of it is based on the final report from the Digital Inclusion Coalition (the group I worked with) and we are duly mentioned for our contribution on page 14 of the report.

The Task Force added a few items and increased the vendor's initial contribution from $250,000 to $500,000. We are in agreement with the additions

Download the Task Force report here.

Roundtable Discussion about Community Engagement
Minneapolis Second Ward Council Member Cam Gordon convened a roundtable discussion on Community Engagement on July 12.

There were about twenty in attendance. Cam sought ideas on how the City could make engagement easier for the community. Judging from our responses, the City is not currently doing a good job.

A woman who tried to get an art program going at a local school ran into too much red tape at City Hall. She still struggled but was almost ready to give up due to frustration.

There seems no real teamwork among various government agencies and departments so projects that might benefit knowing of each other are instead completed with silo mentalities.

One man told us that first the City said to pave all dirt driveways. Soon thereafter, the water department began charging based on the hardscape (i.e. paved driveways) on property.

The library issue came up. The City's libraries are not open enough and the forecast for the future looks bleak. Yet everywhere, people want the libraries open longer and for more days. Somehow the City is not hearing this or just ignoring the pleas. I tried to talk to Mayor Rybak about this at the Central Library's grand opening. He said it was an issue with more police and more fire fighters. Like we should choose between literacy and city services? No. We should have them both. It's up to these elected officials to find a way to do it. (We have a very large immigrant population who benefit from our Library system.)

My own frustration was with the work I did with the Digital Inclusion Coalition. As we progressed through the process of providing recommendations for the Community Benefits Agreement that will become part of the contract with the City's wireless vendor, there was a sudden tectonic shift and a Digital Inclusion Task Force, basically charged with the same mission as we thought we were charged with, appeared on the map. The creation of the Task Force was via the City's Business Information Systems and did not have any type of Council mandate.

The Coalition was a wide open bottom-up construct. Show up at the meeting and be part of the process. Everyone's opinion was respected. We sought consensus on all of our recommendations. In the end, even after we were somewhat shunted to the side by the Task Force (which was information only with closed meetings), we completed our recommendations and presented copies to the City Council and to the Task Force. The Task Force used our work as the foundation of their own recommendations.*

There were complaints of the Park Board scheduling public hearings at their convenience and outside of affected areas. There is not a feeling of "we want to work with you" but "we've made the decision but will pretend to listen to you if you inconvenience yourself to get to our meeting."

Complaints too of public hearings with little notice.

There is no easy way to navigate hallways and deal with red tape of city hall.

It seems sometimes that the mission of the City — to provide a healthy and efficient environment for us all to live in together reasonably happy — has been lost.

A man spoke very eloquently about how the city should be offering us inspiration and examples of creativity. I like that. Think of government as inspiring us! He sees it as failing in this mission.

Someone brought in the idea of some kind of representative or ombudsman to help residents in navigating red tape when they are attempting a project or to gather information. I think this an excellent idea. This person should also report back to the Council on ways to streamline and coordinate processes.

Adding to this ombudsman idea... have a staff of student interns learning the systems, drawing up charts of what's going on, studying other systems in other cities, and feeding all this out back to the Council and over the Internet, both honest criticism and honest praise. It could be an a reporting system (blogs, wikis, discussion forums) that would serve to aid citizens in getting things done and in staying involved. Public policy experts from the U of M could help in looking at the systems and making recommendations.

Dissemination of information is really the critical piece here. I think that if this system were established, it would result in more and more data being pushed out to residents. Some of us with geek pedigrees will try to grab the data and make sense of it and share our revelations with those less comfortable with technology. (This is also a prime mandate for the local press, whether major or minor.) I believe that the inefficiencies of the system will begin to change as residents seek to know more and provide their ideas about how their City should be run.

Write your Council Member. Let's get this going.

* I want to make sure and thank the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability for hosting the Coalition meetings and printing our final recommendations. tags:

Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Citizens League on the Future of the Web
On August 22, the Citizen's League Summer Policy series will host a panel discussion entitled The Future of the Web and Civic Engagement: What Happens When MySpace Meets Our Space?. You can register here. Here's the blurb:

Technology is rapidly moving civic engagement from place-based to every place as users develop virtual communities on issues around the world. What is the connection between the new online social interaction applications and the broader civic space they will inhabit? Are we creating virtual communities to impact global issues at the expense of our local communities? How will these technologies transform civic engagement as we know it – and new generations of civic leaders? How should they transform the Citizens League!?

Here's the panel: Tom Swain and Jean LeVander King (long-standing civic leaders), Jen Alstad (president, b-swing), Steve Borsch (CEO, Marketing Directions, Inc.), and Garrick Van Burren (president, Working Pathways, Inc.).

Garrick blogs some thoughts for the panel here. It's good stuff and should seed some good discussion. I hope they 'unconference' this thing and get the audience involved.

Jen Alstad owns B-Swing and I know her from way back when we took an entrepreneur class together at St. Thomas. This was before the dotcom bubble burst that her company subsequently survived while continuuing to prosper. Jen, why aren't you blogging? I know you have good things to say.

The whole thing takes place at MPR's building in St. Paul under the heading UBS Forum. It's not clear from the site whether they broadcast it or make a podcast. tags:

Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Still a Chance for a Secret File
My buddy B. told me that he was at Wounded Knee in 1973 and I told him he should petition to see if the FBI has a file on him. Seems likely as they were real busybodies under J. Edgar.

Well, folks, now you can have your very own file. Just go out the your local airport and photograph a plane. If there's an under-quota air marshall watching, you'll get in the secret terrorist database.

Read about it here. tags:

Art Car Minneapolis: The Video
Minnesota Stor has video coverage of post-art-car-parade festivities including an exclusive interview with Jesus.

While you're over there, don't forget to check out the the birthday video for Mooki the Cat.

Sunday, July 23, 2006
Minneapolis Mayor Podcasts with St. Paul Mayor
They call it Chris and R. T. - The Mayor's Show. Chris Coleman is the mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota and R. T. Rybak is the mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota. These are the Twin Cities, right across the river from each other. These guys want to collaborate more on various projects like light rail through the central corridor and linking the two downtowns.

First show was July 14. It's every other week.

They banter back and forth well. Chris seems a bit funnier than R. T. but R. T. does a good straight man. They are broadcasting from Keys Restaurant, a breakfast institution located in St. Paul but almost on the line dividing the cities. They are talking about the amendment (for the ballot this fall) to use vehicle taxes for transportation.

The podcast is 12 minutes long. The show is an hour. It's billed as call-in but we're missing the call-in part. Hello... that's the interesting part, guys. That's like the meat, ya know.

Feed for the show is here.

WCCO podcast page is here. The mayors are relegated to Specialty Programming (scroll down, look right) under some home improvement shows.

Minneapolis Wireless: Problems Connecting But Tech Support Comes Through
Friday my connection to the South pilot project Wi-Fi system stopped working. I assumed some sort of testing and didn't worry about it. But I couldn't connect in the evening or on Saturday.

I emailed the US Internet tech support and told them that there seemed to be a problem. Matt at USI responded within an hour and we went back and forth a couple of times to diagnose where exactly the problem was. Remember, this is Saturday. Finally, he determined that they should check things on their end.

Last night, at 10 p.m., I get a call from USI where they asked me to try the network again. It worked. Remember, still Saturday and I'm getting excellent tech support. Oh, and I'm not a paying customer; I'm freeloading on this free pilot system.

Art Car Parade In Minneapolis
Photo of detail of cork car in the Art Car Parade.Yesterday was the 12th annual Art Car Parade in Minneapolis. I think Houston conceived of the first Art Car parade.

We arrived right at the end of the parade and spent our time touring the cars. Lots of people, lots of cameras, lots of dogs.

My last art car parade was several years ago and much smaller. Of course, some of the extra cars this year were linked to some kind of advertising rather than being pure 'art'. (Geez, Wally McCarthy Chevrolet had an unadorned vehicle out there. Wally, next year, fund some artists to take some of your cars and create some art, OK?)

Some great vehicles this year. The Reptile car was one of my favorites. But for a full-blown conceptual style art car, the blasphemous Jesus-Monkey was hard to beat. It would be nice if the Art Car people would identify cars and artistst at their web site.

Check my flickr art car set here.

Photo of reptile car in the Art Car Parade.

Reptile Car

Photo of detail of the Jesus-Monkey car in the Art Car Parade.

Detail from the Jesus-Monkey Car

Thursday, July 20, 2006
Bridge Burns on Mississippi
A railroad bridge between Franklin and Lake Street bridges burned last weekend. WCCO has a report and some video. I believe the misidentify the location as between the Ford and Lake St. bridges.

This bridge is not far from my home and I often pass it on my runs. It is also the bridge that could span the Greenway over the Mississippi. I took some photos of it recently (after illegally walking a short ways out on it).

The bridge was still used by trains. The fire caused enough damage that trains no longer can safely cross. I would bet they may not repair it.

via MnSpeaks .

Scooped by the MetBlogger
Damn. I got scooped by Erica at Metroblogging on announcing the opening of the South Minneapolis public access to the Wi-Fi network. Actually it was someone named Matt who provided the details and it's possible he got it from me as I posted to a couple of mailing lists earlier. (Hmm. There is a 'Matt' on the MplsBroadband list, where I posted early this morning.)

Good description there though and some extra details are provided.

Southside Wi-Fi Open to the Public
Minneapolis, MN

I got word from a contact at US Internet that the south pilot Wi-Fi area opened for testing yesterday. SSID is USI Wireless. Once connected, open your browser and you should be at the sign-in page. Way down the left side, in small text, it says 'Online Registration.' Click there and fill in the info and it should let you on the network. Hopefully you only have to do this once.

Could someone please confirm that this works now? Email or comment. Thanks.

My information (following) is coming from the pilot demos and from some US Internet techies who've been working on my block over the last couple of weeks.

Pilot Area

As I said before (am I ranting yet?) the City's South map is not accurate. In fact, it's not even close. They shifted the map east and pulled back the north boundary. You should be able to get a signal along Riverside Avenue, Franklin Ave. from Riverside to Hiawatha, and 24th Street from 27th Ave. to Hiawatha and into Phillips (on 24th Street). So the park at Cedar and 24th St. should have a pretty good signal. The signal at Little Earth might be good also. Coyle Center should have a good signal too.

Twenty-second Street in Seward from 23rd to 28th Avenues should light up also. Matthews Park may have a decent signal.

That's the general area. Look on the power poles for antennas.

I'm getting from 6 to 9 Mbps up and 4 to 6 down. It really makes a difference in the Web experience. It's (very) doubtful that this bandwidth will survive to final deployment with 1 Mbps, up and down, the likely speed that Minneapolis will end up with no matter which vendor is chosen. So enjoy it while you can. The price point I hear (from both vendors) is $20 to $25 a month. This would include all internet connectivity charges. If your signal is weak either up or down, both vendors demo'ed hardware booster devices. Both vendors have tentatively stated that the device could/would be free with a subscription, which I will guess means a year's service.

Consider the pilot networks 'unstable' (both the north and south pilot) as they're in a testing phase and could even be switched off (for public consumption) from time to time. (In other words, don't assume it's the vendor if you can't log-in. It might be testing.)

If you have trouble connecting, there is a tech support button on the log-in page, right by the registration link, and it's supposed to work.

Redefining the Broad in Broadband
Jason and Dustin, the techies from US Internet (USI), showed up again today and replaced the antenna unit outside my window. The signal is coming in stronger than my Actiontec wireless router in the basement now.

Lots stronger. Tests at Speakeasy indicate download speeds of 10+ Mbps with uploading at almost 10 Mbps. In other words, it's really, really fast.

I don't know how this compares to life after the 60-day pilot project. If US Internet gets the contract, will my speeds still be in the 10 meg range or will they throttle it closer to 1 meg? (Jason, if you're reading this, you should comment.)

I also met Matthew today who is with Belair, the company that makes the antenna units that USI is hanging on the poles (poles which belong to Excel).

Full Disclosure

As pointed out in my comments, I did get a USI password. Some sort of password or account should be available to the public in a day or so. At that point, I think the WEP password requirement will be removed.

USI has also lent me one of their Ruckus units. This is likely one of the CPEs that they will use. (CPE: customer premise equipment or hardware you may need to connect.) So far, my connection has been directly through my Macs wireless card and not the CPE. I'll post some test results with the CPE soon.

Pilot Project Maps

I've put a request in with Jason to get me a true map of the pilot project. The City's maps no longer reflect the area where USI has hung antennas. I'll post it as soon as I get it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Minneapolis Wireless: Negotiation Diagrams
The City of Minneapolis is providing some diagrams of how the contract negotiations will look.

Southside Wi-Fi Details
Becca Vargo Daggett commented here to my South Pilot post and brought up some good issues which I'm going to cover in this post.

Peter, I think you've been given some passwords, but others weren't allowed to access the network via their own computer at the open house.

I do have a password for access. There was access at the open house but many people (including me) had trouble getting connected. One of the USI guys finally helped me.

I was given a card with a log-in password that did not work. Turns out none of them will work until this week (the week of the 17th). I was also told that the vendors are still negotiating with the city over whether or not the public will be allowed to access the network during the pilot stage. My understanding was that residential use during the pilot will be limited to approved testers - mainly or entirely city employees.

Lots of the passwords didn't work. I know they were one-time only. I don't know if they will work this week or not.

According to my source at USI, the Wi-Fi network will be open to the public late Wednesday or Thursday. I'll post instructions on how to connect when I get them. It may be pretty open except for some registration. The City had already announced public access although they were never very clear about it and sometimes it sounded like only at the pilot demos.

I could, however, access the "walled garden" content from the portal page (a boon for TC Daily Planet, whose articles, and advertisements, are featured). The signal I got in the gym, where the presentations were, was weak. Same thing when I was sitting on the sofa just outside the door of the demo room.

Yes, the signal in the gym was weak. Not unusual as the nearest access point was outside and the gym has concrete walls. USI was pleased that the signal was visible and it was very strong in the room with the computers. I got a very fast signal - something like 3 or 4 Mbps there with no hardware device.

Connection seemed to work well with the Ruckus bridge. What remains to be seen is how much they'll charge for connection and hardware.

I think the price point will be in the $20/month range with CPE (customer hardware) free if you subscribe, likely for a year. Earthlink is using the same model. No limit on how many computers connect if you subscribe. The CPE is not a wireless device - it's wired. You would need another device to provide your own wireless access in the home. Of course, this is all subject to change as the contracts are negotiated. Oh. The CPE provides encryption of your data. (Earthlink has similar equipment and details.) There is also a client available for encryption when logging in away from home. I'm not sure if it's Mac compatible.

My own access point, the one I can see from my window, has a blown radio. Hopefully, they'll have it fixed tomorrow.

Sunday, July 16, 2006
Add a Picture to Your Blog
When you read most "How to make your blog better" articles, they suggest adding some pictures. So today, I added a picture at the top of the blog. My plan is to change it regularly. tags:

Wireless Scene On My Block
US Internet's (USI) municipal wireless pilot project (Belair equipment) is on my block with three access points -- one in front of my house and one on each corner. This is the south pilot; Earthlink is running the north pilot (check my posts here and here).

The closest access point, which I can almost see through the foliage from the second-floor window on my left) seems to be down. It doesn't show up on my Mac and even when I wandered outside and stood below it, I got only a weak signal which I think was coming from one of the corner nodes.

I walked over to the corner node, sat on the curb under the antenna, and jacked into the USI network. Smokin'! Using Speakeasy, I tested download speeds up to 4Mbps and upload speeds even faster.

I walked down to the other corner and my connection switched seamlessly to another node. Coverage (line of sight) seems pretty good on my block.

In the course of wandering my block, I came across at least twenty-five Wi-Fi access points. Most were secure but not all of them.

Watch the Wireless Minneapolis site for information on accessing the network during the pilot.

Saturday, July 15, 2006
Southside Wi-Fi Goes Live!
[Last week, Earthlink opened the Northside Pilot Project. I blogged it here.]

Brian Coyle Center, July 14, 2006. South Minneapolis, West Bank.

The City of Minneapolis is presenting the south wireless pilot project. US Internet (USI) is the vendor on this one. Right now, sitting in the gym at the Coyle Cener for the presentation, I can't see their nodes at all on my Mac. Looks like the system went down or at least a node? Or did my computer just lose touch? This damn 15-inch Mac (aluminum) does that.

Jim Farstad is warming the crowd. He is the City's consultant on this wireless project. He just told us that there has been 100% conviction rate for crime that's been video-taped here and the idea is with wireless all those cameras will transmit over the Internet and adding cameras will be more cost-effective.

He's talking Internet advertising and bringing up hyper-local adverts. 'Log on in this neighborhood and get local content.' A more cost effective way of advertising. He says now only alternatives are Yellow Pages (now Qwest Dex) and Star Tribune for small business. My question: Who gets to feed hyper-local access? Can I set up a business selling hyper-local ads? Or will Earthlink/USI sit on that and wait until Google wants access to the market.

There's a good turnout here. Becca (Vargo Daggett) is sitting behind me. She is our most active community wireless activist. She quit activating around the Minneapolis project when the City decided on the public/private model. She believes in public and that cities can afford to bring in broadband (wireless or fiber or something) and she has some very convincing arguments. She got me involved when I read an article where she was quoted and I started going to the Digital Inclusion Coalition meetings. I helped with the writing and editing of the recommendations for the Community Benefits Agreement to be negotiated with the chosen vendor.

Talking up the CBA and also talking to the vendors at this demo and last weeks in North Minneapolis, I fear that the contract might go to who can provide more money for community benefits rather than who can manage the best network. Earthlink likely has much deeper pockets than USI. But who has the better technology? The US Internet group make the Belair wireless system that they are using sound much better than Earthlink's Tropos. It can send and receive signals at the same time and sustain higher bandwidth whereas the Tropos hardware that Earthlink uses can only send or receive. Yes, OK, I'm partial to US Internet. They're local. I like local.

Jim F. is talking security. Equal to wired, he says. If you implement the security. If you just plug&play, there is no security. City wants very strong security. We want VPN as part of this. Vendors are using high level of security. Users must take responsibility. Must have security practices.

Not a bad explanation. I can live with it.

Catherine Settanni takes the stage and is talking up Digital Inclusion, the new name for Digital Divide. I've reported on this in previous posts. This is where the community benefit money will go. Many people are not on the Internet due to economics.

The network finally showed up again. It's weak but I did get to a couple of sites. I guess it's the card and configuration of this stupid Powerbook. My 12-inch Mac has much better connectivity.

Kurt Lange from US Internet is now talking to us. Kurt is having trouble with the remote for his Powerpoint presentation.

Kurt: Who is US Internet? 11 years in business here. It's a national ISP. Locally owned and operated. 24x365 support services. 7000+ access points around the country. They have experience with Wi-Fi. List of local customers... Why Wi-Fi is good. Low-cost alternative access. Lowers cost of government. New and exciting applications like friend locators. [PF: What about economic development from useful applications?]

Kurt: Technical details. Multiple nodes on the network that provide high-speed, fault-tolerant solution. Very dense network. Averages about 30 per sq. mile rather than norm of 15. Should be greater bandwidth available.

Kurt: Diagramming how wireless networks can degrade. USI system has dedicated radio, communicating with users and other radios on the network. [PF: This doesn't mean shit unless we know that the Earthlink network doesn't have the dedicated radios and aren't as robust. So these explanations aren't useful without knowing why he's giving us the info.]

Kurt: Today. Want to show you a few things. Branded hotspot, that's hyper-local so you can serve different content. Users in a coffee shop could see a branded coffee shop node. Pay as you go for visitors. Pre-paid services, businesses could sell them and buy access. Hotels can offer to guests. Users could get access anywhere in the city. CTCs (community technology centers) could give out prepaid services. VOIP: Wi-Fi phone service.

What are your upload/download speeds? 3-12 Mbps expected on the network but you might have to pay more for higher speeds.

Can a unintelligent box (router) talk to the network? Yes. Standards apply.

Do you need other hardware to connect for security? There will be a customer device and it will be secure. You will be able to authenticate securely with various other methods. [PF: There are Mac compatibility issues here, I think, according to what Earthlink said last week.]

Can mobile user jump from one node to another transparently? Yes.

Vendor technology for the nodes? Belair.

CPE equipment choices? (customer devices) Peplink and Ruckus are the leading contendors.

Do you need customer device? No. You can use built-in Wi-Fi card but will depend on coverage in your location. Plus the type of home you live in. [PF: Stucco homes will block radio signals.]

Will this system span St. Paul? What happens with you get to the border? [PF: Jim Farstad jumps in.] Lists different cities that met about this topic. Then discusses U of Minnesota and bridging to the U of M. Whether St. Paul does exactly what we do, there are ways to expand the system. [PF: USI has a U of MN option on their sign-in page and say it will be working soon.]

I have a home network cable modem. What's going to happen? You can replace your cable modem and use ours.

I showed up, got a card, thought it was my SSID, I was confused, how do you think it will be easier from a customer perspective? In full deployment, number of options for connecting, user name and password, or alternate authentication which would allow auto connecting. Different options to connect.
Response: I'm an IT professional. I was intimidated. What's going to be easier.
Kurt: bad design of our web site didn't help. Too small where you had to log-in. Part of it is making it easier on the site. "We'll get better at it."

If I have multiple computers will I need separate accounts? Maybe. Might be extra fees for connectivity. Maybe family packages. Jason (my USI guy) chimes in that it will be single sign-on for subscription services.

We are done. I have a very weak signal here. Drat.

Other posts about Minneapolis municipal wireless.

Thursday, July 13, 2006
Who is this Ze Frank Guy?
I started hearing a buzz about Ze Frank as Amanda Congdon parted ways with Rocketboom. Doc Searls had a link to a favorite Ze Frank, so I followed and was treated to a fascinating explanation of 'redicktricking'. I had never heard of it before.

Here's the link, kids.

And as Doc would say, here's a bonus link: The Joanne Colan debut at Rocketboom (at least I think it's the debut). (Amanda left Rocketboom and Joanne is replacing her and this is, like, a really big disruption of the Web, analyzed endlessly in the blogosphere.) tags:

Sunday, July 09, 2006
John Edwards courts tech crowd in Seattle or is there a bozo on the bus?
John Edwards courts tech crowd in Seattle

Steve Rubel says the Edwards should put Dave Winer on his campaign bus with no restrictions. Whoa. tags:

Mac Geekery - Optimizing AirPort Connectivity
Mac Geekery has some basic advice on optimizing airport wireless reception. I don't really think it's Mac specific either. Basically, you want to survey the wireless access points in your vicinity and make sure you are using a unique channel.

It seems to have worked here. I was on channel 9, which is the default for the Qwest Actiontec, and there is another Actiontec around which is sharing the channel. When I moved to channel 3 (via advanced configuration in the Actiontec web configurator), I got much better download times - 800-1000Kbps compared to 300-500Kbps. And it looks like it's sustaining that.

Mac Geekery - Optimizing AirPort Connectivity

via TUAW and my buddy Roy tags:

The Stormhoek Guide to (Wine) Blogging
Hugh Macleod (gaping void) and the folks at Stormhoek have produced

The Stormhoek Guide to Wine Blogging

It will appear as an insert in the "well-known international wine & spirits trade magazine, The Drinks Business." Buy you can have it today as a pdf, downloadable from Hugh's Gaping Void site.

Even if you don't market wine, this is very useful information for using blogs as a marketing tool. Stormhoek is finding success in the space. (Of course, they also have Hugh drawing cartoons for them.)

Rock on.

via Tim Elliott's Winecast Blog/Podcast tags:

Speak Softly Or Be Overheard

A new and local blog called Overheard in Minneapolis.

How many times have you sat down with friends at the end of your day and said, "You won't believe what I heard in the elevator/grocery store/bank/etc today...?" Those jewels need a place to come together and brighten our lives.

So far, I'm not convinced of the value of our local overheard jewels. (I do like this one.) The site is based on one in NY called (can you guess?) Overheard in New York. (From that site, you can link to Overheard at the Beach and Overheard at the Office but no link to our local Overheard. I wonder if there will be any trademark issues?)

No names named as to who is responsible for the site. There is a contact email.

via MnSpeak tags:

Municipal Wireless Links
Couple of recent NY Times articles cover municipal broadband deployment relating to Anaheim and New York City. The Anaheim one is very relevant to Minneapolis as it describes the recent Earthlink wireless network deployment. This is Earthlink's first real deployment, at least in a city of any size. (Anaheim has a population of 340,000.) Earthlink is competing for a wireless contract in Minneapolis with local company US Internet.

The article mentions that Anaheim has few tall buildings but that there could be deployment problems in cities like San Francisco (and Minneapolis) where there are tall buildings. Wireless signals are expected to get to the third or fourth floor and then either internal wiring takes over or some kind of wireless booster system will have to be put in place. The article makes this sound like Earthlink will be doing this in Anaheim.

At the Pilot Demo in Minneapolis yesterday, it sounded like getting a signal to the top of a high-rise building would be the building's problem, not the City's. Problem is that residents of many high-rises are low- or fixed-income (lots of elderly). Hopefully the City and The Vendor (Earthlink or US Internet) will help in those situations. (I am completely speculating here. The contract for wireless service is yet to be negotiated and there is still another major player in competition.)

As for free service in Anaheim, Earthlink president and CEO, Gary Betty, has this to say:

Free doesn't work. I mean, what's for free? People are in business to make money. We need to get return on capital."

San Francisco, according to the article, is a rare exception due to population density requiring less investment per wireless user.

Anaheim's first taste of EarthLink muni Wi-Fi

And here's the second article about NYC.

New York to Examine Creating Citywide Broadband Network

Even as a contractor moves ahead with plans to install wireless networks in 10 parks, New York City intends to study whether to establish a citywide broadband network similar to those planned by cities like Philadelphia and San Francisco.

Read them soon. I suppose they will be locked behind the paywall in the near future.

Saturday, July 08, 2006
Kismac Stole my Extreme Card
I wanted to load a wireless detection app on my Powerbook today (for the Pilot Project wireless demo). I got the old standby, MacStumbler, and also grabbed iStumbler (both work well). Then I found Kismac.

Kismac gives you way more information than MacStumber or iStumbler plus it has some cracking features. I was tempted to try getting on the pilot muni network in my neighborhood but it will be free and open in a week so I will just wait - rather than risk someone seeing my crack attempt.

Kismac is a bit scary as it takes over you wireless card and you lose basic Internet connectivity. But it worked fine on my Powerbook 12-inch and it released my Extreme card when it quit. I chose the 'configure manually' option when installing.

So then I tried to install on my Powerbook 15-inch (that's my company owned model). I could not get it to work with my Extreme card even after several installs and removals. I get an error on scanning and it hijacks my Extreme card and won't give it back until I reboot.

The Extreme cards in both units are the same. Must be something in my network config, I suppose. This link has some troubleshooting help so I will attempt to get Kismac working on the 15-inch. But how weird that it works on one and not the other. tags:

Minneapolis North is Wireless Today!
I'm blogging from the Phyllis Wheatley Community Center in Mineapolis North. It's the Community Sponsored Pilot Demonstration and Earthlink (one of two potential vendors) has turned on the Wi-Fi and I'm logged to the network. Bandwidth is excellent with bursts to 3 Mbps. I want this at home.

But my home is in South Minneapolis and US Internet, the other potential vendor is in charge of the south pilot with a kickoff next Friday (Brian Coyle Center, 4-8 p.m.). I have an access point right outside my window but I won't have any logging info until next Friday. Damn.

Basic city service will be 1 Mbps but it will be symmetrical. The Earthlink system will have encryption built in. That's great to hear. (Remember, Earthlink is competing for management of the network; they have not been chosen yet.)

Good attendance at this event. At the moment, Bill Beck with City of M BIS is talking about how the network will serve the City. Stuff like Animal Control getting ready access to info via Wi-Fi. Police can have video feeds. "Lower cost, higher reliability."

Jim Farstad, City Wi-Fi consultant takes the stage. He's not wearing his suit jacket today. He's discussing benefits to the City. Estimates 300 to 400 hot spots currently in the City. Municipal wireless goes city-wide with that idea. "Ubiquitous" ah, I love that word. "Spur new developments of applications."

Jim Farstad: "Increase digital inclusion. Many residents do not have access to the technology. Hard to apply for jobs if not online. This program will be a strong enabler."

Farstad: Vendor will be chosen in August. City-wide deployment fully available in the fall of 2007. City owns Fiber backbone. System owned and operated by selected vendor. City will be anchor tenant. Farstad: "We see tremendous community benefits. Provide more cost effective access [for digital inclusion].

Catherine Settanni, C-CAN Director takes the stage to discuss Digital Inclusion. (I'm part of a coalition providing digital inclusion recommendations to the City.) Catherine is telling us why we should be online-- jobs, e-government, education, banking, health care. She had another point - social inclusion - which she did not talk about.

Settanni: Community Benefits Agreement. Vendors has to work this out with the City. One major point is a Digital Inclusion Fund. Philadelphia has this and we will too.

Final CBA Recommendation from the Digital Inclusion Coalition is here.

Catherine talks about TC Daily Planet as loaded with community information. What about the Star Tribune? I'm amazed that they aren't more involved to become part of a portal system and provide a news feed. Are they just short-sighted?

Ben Kimmel takes the stage. He worked with some kids gathering survey information.

Kids discussing survey questions: Knew how to use the Internet? YES. How much did they want to pay? $10.

Tiffany is the CTEP/Americorps volunteer. She entered in the data from the surveys. Found out that they were using the internet at a school or community center. Access was the biggest need. Used Survey-Monkey to collate results. That's an online service, a web app.

A woman in audience asks why are we here today? To support this? What can we do now? Talk to our Council Members? Her problem is she doesn't have the equipment. We need the computers. Hardware is the issue.

Next up: Cole Reinwand, VP Product Strategy and Marketing, Earthlink. He's selling Earthlink. They had the first pop-up blocker! I didn't know that. Earthlink is in Philly, Anaheim, New Orleans, Honolulu, BART (SF).

Why does Earthlink want to do this? They need to have a way to push broadband and only Time Warner Cable allows this or resell DSL which doesn't have a good price point. So wireless will let them build out broadband.

Describing the Earthlink Mesh System... lots of pictures. We can go outside and see the tower. Radio transmissions are very low power, less 'danger' than cell phone emissions. Earthlink uses 36 Wi-Fi nodes per sare mile, needs about 2000 radios to cover the City. Need more powerful CPE (Customer Premise Equipment) to get the signal. We will provide the devices (cost?). 1Mbps up and down. Occasional use buy-in. T1 alternative from 1.5 to 3 Mbps. Less than 50% of land line rate (still $200/month).

Hmm. No chance for questions with the Earthlink guy. I wanted to know more about the CPE and if they plan to charge. Plus wireless networking from there.

If you are an Earthlink or partner customer (for ISP) you can roam to any Earthlink city and get online. That's cool.

(Crowd has thinned out dramatically.)

Curt (from Digital Inclusion Coalition) asks about connecting to upper floors of a high-rise. Jim Farstad answers: need interior wiring. This sounds like cost has to be borne by the building, not Earthlink. Stucco construction will be a problem. Coles says sometimes they are seeing access to 6th or 7th floor and that they will try to address this after initial rollout.

Barbara, Phyllis Wheatley director, wants to know about access for community-at-large that don't have computers. Jim F. discusses redeploying computer technology. Computer technology centers will help. They need to be upgraded. There are not enough volunteers.

Someone asks if any suburban communities want to be part of a wireless program. Yes, says Jim. Other communities might be joining our network. Bill Beck says it will probably be necessary for police and fire.

Catherine shows us a CPE.

Guy asks about whether he needs an ISP in addition to Earthlink. And wireless throughout the house? Cole says Earthlink bundles ISP with access. Jim says there will be business opportunities for working with interior spaces for wiring.

Cole: $21.95/month, sign up for a year to get a free CPE. Can link in a wireless router to the CPE. Can go without CPE if signal is strong enough. But sometimes the laptop card doesn't have enough signal to push back to the Internet.

Barbara Milon, Executive Director of Phyllis Wheatley Community Center, thanks us all for coming today. Thanks for hosting, Barbara.

Thursday, July 06, 2006
Freedbacking Bloglines
Chris Pirillo led the 'Users in Charge' (mp3 here) group June 23 at Bloggercon and then added a blog post about providing developers with 'freeback' by tagging your blog posts with 'freedbacking'. Bloglines, my main aggregator/blog reader thingie, picked up on it and said 'We will listen' if you include the terms 'freedbacking' and 'bloglines' in a post. It's nice that Bloglines will seek out freedback even if it's not tagged as some bloggers don't tag yet or are at tag dumb blogging tools like (where you can hack for the tags but it's a geeky solution).

Forthwith my freedback, Bloglines. I love ya, man. I tried the Google RSS reader and I liked some things - like how it kind of gave me a randomized feed of posts from aggregated from all my feeds - but it was slow and they kept changing things and it was difficult to organize.

But Bloglines, old friend, we need some tagging here. I'd like to be able to aggregate under a tag of my choosing.

Let's see. It would also be nice to have alternate views of my subscriptions. I use folders a lot but how about a list in alpha order or options to view in other orders like least read. That would be nice. Searching through my subscriptions would also be nice.

Trailer for Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth
A Terrifying Message from Al Gore

My first attempt at blogging something from Youtube.

Greenway Graffiti

Greenway Graffiti X
Originally uploaded by pfhyper.
I've uploaded a series of images that I took along the new Greenway section (Hiawatha Ave. to the Mississippi, still under construction). There is a row of buildings with some serious graffiti that I decided to document along with general photos of the Greenway itself.

It's easy to get to and makes for a nice running path in the Seward Neighborhood. I think it will be completed this summer. I know that at one time there were plans to continue across the railroad bridge, over the Mississippi to St. Paul. That would be awesome.

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