Photo of worker adjusting a wireless access point.

Worker adjusting the wireless access point outside my window.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Minneapolis Wireless: TC Daily Planet Reports
TC Daily Planet has a good report on the Ways & Means meeting Monday. Much more detail and clarity than the Star Tribune article. (Plus, Star Tribune articles tend to eventually drift behind their paywall.)

One detail TC missed was Who is John Stanoch of Qwest? Is he a lawyer? A support guy? Why should I listen to what he has to say? I had to go back to the Star Tribune article to find out he's president of Qwest in MN.

Another miss is the missing Full Disclosure. At every community meeting in Minneapolis about wireless that I attended, TC Daily Planet was mentioned as a potential resident of the "walled garden" entry portal for the wireless system. (They actually do appear on the US Internet wireless sign-in page in the South Minneapolis pilot project and they may have been on Earthlink's north pilot sign-in page too.)

Getting in the walled garden will be tremendous exposure for the Daily Planet. The idea behind the portal page is that it will be open to anyone who can access the wireless network whether they have any kind of paid Internet account or not. It will have some basic services, like local news and neighborhood information. Probably a weather report too.

All of this, of course, is still to be determined as we move towards Wi-Fi network deployment. Personally, I'd like to see a mix of news feeds including with TC Daily Planet , the Star Tribune and Twin Cities Indymedia. But that's another post.

Minneapolis Wireless: Qwest not happy, Council rushes to approve
Minneapolis Star Tribune stirs up some controversy between Qwest and City here. This resulted in this post at MuniWireless. Make sure to read Becca Vargo Daggett's comment which clarifies the situation and mentions the the rush job that is pushing this contract through without adequate details. Here's a quote:

One councilor, Sandy Colvin Roy, expressed concerns that council is being asked to sign off on a terms sheet that was released just hours before the meeting, and that doesn't include some very important provisions, such as ownership of the fiber backbone, contract enforcement, and remedies for failures to comply with the SLAs. A second councilor shared these concerns, and both thought the council should get specifics for these things before approving the terms. But the majority chose speed over sensibility.

It sounds like Minnapolis Council Members should be practicing a bit more due diligence before jumping into a 10-year contract or they should come forth and explain why there is such a rush to approve this without enough information or they should tell residents if they have more information than they are revealing.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Minneapolis Wireless: US Internet Chosen for Wi-Fi Deployment
[Update Link: Glenn Fleishman, Wi-Fi Networking News, on the Minneapolis Wi-Fi choice.]

The wait is over and Minneapolis announced Monday that US Internet will be THE vendor and pro Wi-Fi service to Minneapolis.

Here are the gory details from the Ways & Means agenda -- check Item 29.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune provides a few details here although it's shockingly incomplete.

MuniWireless has more details than the Star Trib plus comments from Becca Vargo Daggett who's a Wi-Fi watchdog.

There are still a lot of questions about service (like what's the upgrade path) that I hope will be answered soon.

Meanwhile, M & I are enjoying the Wi-Fi at a B&B in Reedsburg, WI (population: 8,100) where they have fiber to the home.

Sunday, August 27, 2006
Citizens League Gives Us Web & Civic Engagement
On August 22. the Citizens League presented a forum covering the Web & Civic Engagement. You can see it here or listen to it here or just see some photos here including yours truly.

The panel included non-techies and techies. The talk was thought-provoking and statements and audience questions embodied fears and hopes for the evolving networked world. Jen Alstad, Garrick Van Buren, and Steve Borscht represented the Net's unlimited possibilities while Tom Swain and Jean King kept us grounded with the way things were done in the distant past (last year or thereabouts).

PF Hyper highlights...

Jean (Levander) King (daughter of Minnesota Governor Harold Levander) told a story about Minnesota Governor Al Quie's administration, where she had a job. Gov. Quie would  breakfast with Democrats once a week and discuss issues. After the breakfast, the Senator Roger Moe, DFL majority leader, would issue a statement to the press criticizing Quie. Quie was not happy with this scenario so he had Jean call Senator Moe to see if Quie could at least know what he was going to say. Senator Moe agreed. This helped in enhancing their relationship and deepening the level of trust.

I talked to Jean afterwards and mentioned that this sounded a bit like backroom politics. In the context of what we were discussing at the forum, I said, what if Gov. Quie and Senator Moe had taken turns in blogging the breakfast event and then commenting on each other's posts. This could bring some real transparency (a term that surfaced at the forum) to the workings of the political process.

Jean fielded this question well. The issue she brought up is political fear of how constituents would take it if they could see the frank discussion between the two political persuasions and the potential trade-offs that were discussed. She said voters would have to be educated in this type of political maneuvering. This is something I hadn't considered. It relates to a Dave Winer podcast I'm listening to about citizen media.(Along with Dave is Dan Gillmor who wrote We the Media which is a recommended study source for this forum). One of the conclusions of both Dan and Dave is that in this networked world we will all have more responsibility to become more informed and for filtering and choosing a balance of opinion and views to keep us informed. This goes directly to civic engagement and learning how to discriminate valid information sources and listening to a range of opinion and  is something we should be teaching in our schools. It's really teaching participatory politics and, well, democracy.

The new meeting place...
Another issue that surfaced in the forum Q&A: Is the Web a substitute for getting together, for real human interactions? Steve Borscht said "No" to this but I'll refute that with a qualified "Yes." Meaning that our culture has fragmented families with children leaving the nest and finding jobs far away, sometimes overseas. Or sometimes fighting in a foreign country. The Web allows for us to talk to our daughter and sons, parents, grandparents, who live thousands of miles away. This is a good thing.

The Web also allows returns us to a commons where we can discuss issues. Blogs and wikis are two tools for working with the commons. Social software sites like MySpace are another way. We are still trying to figure out what works best.

Try to remember that no matter what you think about something like Wikipedia as a source for information, it is a thing of beauty in that all of these individuals contributed their time to write encyclopedia articles. Take some time and search Wikipedia on non-controversial topics and you'll quickly see its value.

Low barriers to publishing
Both Garrick and Steve mentioned how easy it is to blog and how little it costs. Really the cost is simply the Internet connection itself. -- and many other sites -- provide free blogging space that's easy to use even for those not totally immersed in technology.

As I blog this post, I'm listening to the forum replay via the Net in order to check some of the stuff I'm blogging about. I've linked you, dear reader, to my original sources so you can fact check the hell out of this and add to it via the comments. My comments are open, no moderation, and as long as you fit my definition of respectful, your comment will remain attached to this blog hopefully for many years into the future.

There is no publishing scenario like this in the print world. Yes, I can send a letter to the editor but that letter will be judged worthy or not worthy for publication. Paper and printing carries an inches limit, right? They don't have infinite space. The space they do have needs to be paid for with advertising. A blog has infinite space with little cost except the personal time it takes to publish.  There is little reason to limit the comments.

Thanks to the Citizens League for organizing this forum and thanks to Minnesota Public Radio for hosting it. This is a critical issue that needs coverage in forums and the press as we are moving quickly to the networked world. Unless we really try to understand it and its potential, we could end up with a future Internet that is little more than a glorified cable tv system.

Bonus Links
Garrick Van Buren, one of the panelists, blogs the event here .
Cluetrain Manifesto (a manual for living in the Web 2.0 world)

Sunday, August 20, 2006
Lee Looks at New Orleans and Katrina Blues
HBO will air a four-hour documentary by Spike Lee on New Orleans and the Hurricane Katrina disaster called When the Levees Broke. Salon writer Cynthia Joyce has a review here.

It looks like much of this is about the aftermath of the storm and how we as a government handled it. I say "we" because we elected and we did not indict the major players of the tragedy when it was done. They are still in office or off to better jobs. This is good timing for the fall elections.

Air times are Monday and Tuesday nights (8/21 and 8/22) plus all four hours will be shown on the Aug. 29 Katrina anniversary.

my katrina posts.

thanks Dave. tags:

Saturday, August 19, 2006
In Mountain View, Wi-Fi is free
In Mountain View, Wi-Fi is free, at least if you're outside. Plus, no pesky ads!

Google launched free Wi-Fi in their home town Wednesday, August 16. Advertised service is 1 mbps and Wired's tests show that although not quite achieving that speed, it's a decent connection with download and upload speeds in the 900 kbps range.

Wired News: Putting Google-Fi to the Test

Inside connectivity will likely need a Wi-Fi modem (Google's terminology). This is one of those booster devices similar to the Ruckus that I was testing for US Internet. The one exception is the Mountain View Public Library, where they've installed indoor access points.

There are 380 antennas to cover an 11.5 square-mile area. Mountain View has a population of 72,000.

By default, the signal is not encrypted. However, they suggest using VPN software (Virtual Private Network) and offer a free client for download. (Of course, it's only available for Windows but they are working on a Mac client.)

Google is not tracking user browsing when not on a Google site. Are they tracking Google searching? Looks that way from the support docs.

They are tracking your access node so they can provide "information relevant to that location."

Google Wi-Fi Help

There is no advertising outside of what you'd normally see in Googleland.

You have to login using a Google account.
Web surfers using the Google service will have to log on, but once they're connected they will be able to sign off without losing access....
Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Google offering free Wi-Fi in its home town

Bonus Links: Wi-Fi Net News, Official Google Blog.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Internet Device Lust
I can't tell you how much I would like to buy either Sony's new Mylo ('My Life Online) or a Nokia 770. Mylo's got a little QWERTY keyboard and it's smaller plus it has a Skype client so you can make phone calls over the Internet. The Nokia has better screen resolution plus Bluetooth. Bluetooth lets you connect to the Internet via your cell phone but I don't have a cell phone that does that. They both have Linux under the hood.

I'm late getting on this Mylo bandwagon. August 8 was blog posting date and I suppose the Mylo premier. Techmeme's got good coverage from various angles.

Price of either of the devices is around $300. Too much for me to justify. Maybe after we've got the wireless mesh over our heads in Minneapolis... it would make more sense then. tags:

Monday, August 14, 2006
Broadband in Rural Washington
The Seattle Times has a great story on how broadband is changing life in Washington state's Methow Valley.

The Methow Valley, along with the rest of rural Washington, is now wired. The same technology that makes it possible to outsource to India and the Philippines is changing the labor landscape closer to home. Thanks to broadband, specks on the map now have the potential to be cyber kingdoms and server farms, data portals and telecommuting perches.

There is so much potential in wiring the rural US. Tech companies can relocate, bringing jobs to areas that may be struggling to survive. All they need is the office space. No heavy equipment or underground tanks or massive plots of real estate. Or let them stay in The City and simply hire people in the rural areas who are able to commute via broadband. This should be on every state's agenda and should be on the platforms of candidates in the fall elections. (I won't hold my breath, at least not here in Minnesota.)

Thanks to Om Malik's pointer to this story. Check out his new GigaOM site. tags:

Thursday, August 10, 2006
Technical Innovations of the Twentieth Century: Newspapers on CDs
Via TechDirt this morning, two large newspaper groups will begin bundling CDs with their Sunday papers. The CDs will be "chock-full of movie previews, music samples, video games, comics, celebrity interviews and [oh yeah] advertisements." They will be helped in this initiative by a Santa Monica company called IMedia International. The newspaper groups are the Dallas Morning News and the New York Daily News.

IMedia Chief Executive David MacEachern said:

This is a medium that no one has really capitalized on....

Wow. Wait until they discover the Internet! Oh, they have. The CD will allow you to navigate to the Internet.

They did research and stuff. They think they can sustain around 285,000 views of each CD.

"It was a gamble for us to do this," said Bernie Heller, vice president of advertising for the Morning News. "I'm not ready to say it will definitely pay off in the long run or that my advertisers will embrace it. But so far it looks really good."

No mention of AOL and it's CD distribution projects of the past.

Read the LA Times story which reports on this like it really is news, even describing the opening segment:

An introductory segment on the CDs is meant to give viewers the impression they are flying into Los Angeles, before walking down the red carpet for a Hollywood premiere. A menu then opens — offering the variety of choices from games to a link for the newspaper's website.

Oh come on. I think I saw that on the Internet.

In a related story, my friend K. says that if you hang a CD from a stick near the tulips in your garden, it will keep rabbits away. tags:

Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Minneapolis Wireless: Video Cameras in Police Cars
The Star Tribune writes about Monday's wireless demonstration by US Internet, one of two vendors competing for the Minneapolis contract. Earthlink is the other vendor.

As police rush to the scene of the crime, a laptop video screen in their squad car shows the robbery still in progress, as viewed from a gas station video camera.

Besides tapping into existing security cameras at businesses, squad cars could also have cameras and relay images to other squad cars on the way to help and back to precinct headquarters.

To date, the city has touted the low-cost Internet access the network would offer -- about $20 a month for consumers -- but this was the first display of the network's potential public safety benefits.

Well, I'm not sure if this was the first display but if you went to any of the community meetings on wireless, City reps always discussed public service uses as the main reason for the Wi-Fi network.

The article does raise the question as to whether we really want to increase video surveillance of City residents and how this affects privacy rights.

Equipping the cars would cost $6,000 each and cameras are $1,000. Whether the City's budget can handle the costs is under debate.

Saturday, August 05, 2006
Guaranteeing a Neutral Network
Tom Evslin has a long history in the telco and Networked arena so when he writes about net neutrality, he's worth listening to. He does not think legislation is the answer. Neither do I. What we want is minimal legislation to create a competitive marketplace and some would argue that it's in place already.

Evslin thinks the Internet should be monitored for neutrality violations and the monitors would be us. No tools yet but the folks that can write them are out there. He pegs this as a form of citizen journalism and connects it to Dan Gillmor, Jeff Jarvis (who connects back to Evslin here), and Jay Rosen (who just announced, a project that could take this assignment under its wing). This networked or distributed journalism as Jarvis calls it, is slowly gaining prominence and has incredible possibilities in accomplishing extreme data gathering that would otherwise be impossible to do by a single journalist or even a small team.

Disney-ABC Primetime Broadcasts Are a Success
From Reuters:

The Walt Disney Co. is making ad-supported Webcasts of its ABC prime-time TV shows permanently available this fall, following a successful two-month test that drew a younger, more educated audience, a Disney official said on Friday.

ABC offered five shows during the test: "Desperate Housewives," "Commander in Chief," "Lost" and "Alias." If they keep the same ad model, you only have to watch 30-seconds of an ad and then you can click out and back to the show. Ad breaks were within the first twenty or so minutes so you could watch over half the show with no interruption. There were no Mac compatibility problems. They archived the shows online but you were not able to download them. They did a very good job on this. (You can check my previous posts here and here.)

(I believe the shows were removed from the site in June. Right now, I can't find any mention of any free episodes there.)

According to Reuters, the shows were viewed 16 million times and 87 percent of the viewers remembered the sponsor. (Each show had a single sponsor.) Typical ad recall on commercial TV is 40 percent.

Hell, I almost remember some of the advertisers even after a couple of months. (I think Oil of Olay was one. I know there were a bunch of movie trailers on another including "Cars" and "Pirates of the Caribbean." Another episode was sponsored by a major cell company. Cingular?)

So the major disruption of the legacy advertising model continues. I'd love to know the money numbers of the online ads compared to sponsoring a prime time episode of Lost. Gotta be cheaper. But you get more data on the viewers.

I'm a Lost addict but I don't think I've ever watched an episode via network broadcast. I started in the second season and caught the first season and the start of the second via Netflix and ad-free iTunes purchases (this was prior to the ABC webcasts). Then my daughter started recording episodes for me on VHS. Then ABC started the webcasts.

The economic disruption of webcasting is hard to predict. As true broadband is rolled out and we really can view TV via the Web, will Tivos fade away? The only thing I see for certain is that the current stone-age advertising practices are going the way of the dinosaur.

Via IP Democracy tags:

Thursday, August 03, 2006
CBA goes to Ways & Means: Let the Negotiations Begin
On Monday, July 31, the Minneapolis City Council's Ways & Means Committee received and filed and approved the Digital Inclusion Task Force CBA Recommendations. (Download it here.)

This report is based on the report from the Digital Inclusion Coalition that I was on.

There was some discussion. The report advocates (we only suggested) a free and ad-supported low bandwidth system for full participation. In discussion, Council Member Betsy Hodges wanted to know more about that and how strongly the Task Force was pushing for it. Catherine Settanni, Task Force convener and presenter to the Committee, backed away from the idea quickly. I don't think we'll get it. Ms. Settanni mentioned it was really too slow anyway (maybe 300Mbps). I don't agree. A stable 300Mbps signal is fine for basic browsing. I'd like to see a free wireless network. Ads don't bother me that much.

The report also advocates for an intermediary group but it seems the shape and form of that are yet to be determined. There are legal issues in play here. You have the vendor, the City, and possibly this intermediary group. The City feels it should enforce the contract as it has more teeth. (Uh, what about the cable public access fiasco?) The Task Force didn't really push for any specific model so it will be left to negotiations.

The contract negotiation schedule was discussed and it is very aggressive. Forget about a 60-day evaluation of the pilot networks. I'm not sure they'll even get 30 days. The negotiations begin on August 14 and they hope to have a Council vote on the contract by the last cycle in August. (I assume that means a meeting near the end of the month.)

The pilot of the winning vendor is likely to stay up for a while. That has me cheering for US Internet as I've had an excellent connection via the Belair antenna outside my window. Speeds were very fast initially (like 14Mbps) but settled down to around 3M. Still faster than my Qwest DSL connection and it is very stable.

Hmmm. Maybe the losing vendor will decide to build out their current pilot network and offer competitive services. That would give Minneapolis a fourth broadband choice (cable, Qwest, City wireless, other wireless). Hell, they could hire me to do some serious Web 2.0 marketing and evangelism.

Word of the Day: Intrapreneur
Intrapreneur is a person who focuses on innovation and creativity and who transforms a dream or an idea into a profitable venture, by operating within the organizational environment. Thus, Intrapreneurs are Inside entrepreneurs... (Wikipedia via Scott Gatz)
Wikipedia entries here and here. According to 'pedia, the term dates to 1985 and a book by Gifford Pinchot called Intrapreneuring. (A revised edition, Intrapreneurship in Action, copyright 1999, is still in print.)

Ross Mayfield comments here. tags:

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