Worker adjusting the wireless access point outside my window.
Featured Tag: Wireless
Minneapolis Digital Inclusion Fund Advisory Committee seeks new blood!
In the 2006 negotiations with US Internet (USI) to implement a mesh wireless (802.11) network over Minneapolis, the City was able to negotiate a Community Benefits Agreement that included $500,000 in payments to a Digital Inclusion Fund (along with 5% of pre-tax income after the network was up and running). (See page C-1 of the contract.) The money is granted to support non-profit digital inclusion projects in Minneapolis.
So far the Minneapolis Digital Inclusion Fund Advisory Committee (DIFAC) has disbursed $400,000 of that $500,000—$200,000 over 2007 and another $200,000 in 2008. We (I am a member of DIFAC) plan on requesting proposals this year and disbursing at least some of the remaining $100,000.
During 2009, DIFAC finally drafted its rules for governance which includes terms for advisors and a plan to rotate off the current advisors over the next few years. Two advisers will be finishing their terms this year. (I'm one of them.)
We are beginning the application process for new advisors.
If you are interested in forwarding the cause of digital inclusion in Minneapolis, consider applying and download the description and application and send them in by June 1. Details are in the documents.
Update: The application doesn't include contact information. You can send your completed application to Valerie Lee or contact her if you have questions:
Valerie C. Lee
Community Philanthropy Officer
The Minneapolis Foundation
800 IDS Center
80 South Eighth Street
Minneapolis, MN 55402
tel: (612) 672-3849
fax: (612) 672-3846
Minneapolis Unwired: The network is just about as complete as it's going to be
Minneapolis is officially unwired says the Star Tribune:
The $20 million Minneapolis wireless Internet network has been completed after 2 1/2 difficult years of technical and political delays. The city's next step: getting the police and fire departments using it this year.The City's basic requirement was for coverage of 95% of it's 59.5 miles and performance meets the City's expectations, according to Minneapolis Chief Information Officer Lynn Willenbring. There are 16,500 private subscribers, according to Joe Caldwell, marketing vice president of US Internet, which owns and operates the network. The company hopes for 30,000 individual customers. Getting City departments to use the wireless network is another story. So far Sprint cellular services trump US Internet Wi-Fi services with the City using less than half of the $1.25 million a year worth of services it's paying for. Luckily unused money can roll over to future years of the 10-year contract. (What happens if there is still unused money after ten years?) Esme Vos wrote about the network today at MuniWireless, stressing the need to upgrade to 802.11n units sooner rather than later if it's not been done already. (I don't think it has.) US Internet has improved customer service in the last year and now sends out (and charges for) a technician on each install. General satisfaction of users on the system seems to be growing. I'm seeing far fewer complaints via my Google Alerts than in previous years.
Minneapolis Unwired: Test the Wi-Fi System for Free!
You don't have to ask me; you can check it out for yourself. As part of the community benefits in the Minneapolis-USI contract, USI has paid for a "Civic Garden." The Garden consists of community and City of Minneapolis sites. You can access the Wi-Fi network via the Civic Garden for free and browse. If access speeds are satisfactory, they should only get better once you have the USIW Ruckus modem which boosts the signal. Let's go through how you can access and test the system.
- Find the access point. On the Mac, you can pop down a menu that shows all the wireless access points in range (see picture). On the PC, you can open a window that shows you the same. (Sorry, I'm a Mac guy so I don't have a PC picture.) The SSID or identifying name will be "USI Wireless," "City of Minneapolis Public Wi-Fi," or "Welcome to Minneapolis." (That last one is rare but I've seen it.) Once you see it, connect to that network and open your browser.
Wi-Fi Menu on the Mac
- Your browser will open to the USIW terms of service. Read them and accept. (If you don't accept, that will be the end of your testing.)
- Once you have accepted the agreements, you are at the Civic Garden.
- You can browse a variety of community sites or use the "Get City of Minneapolis News" link to access the City's site.
USIW now sends a technician installer person out for every install whether you think they need to come to your house or not. They charge $25 for this. I've heard there is currently a wait period of a week or so.
I'm not a USIW subscriber (yet). I do get a good signal where I live without any special antennas or devices to boost reception.
The Wi-Fi spectrum is subject to all kinds of interference including microwave ovens, cordless phones, and other Wi-Fi access points. Trees with leaves will also cause interference so your reception will usually be better during our Minnesota winters. Sometimes your signal just goes away or gets so weak as to resemble the old days of the dial-up modems.
Good luck. I hope these instructions are clear and if they aren't, please let me know how I can improve them. Also I'd like to know your experiences if you test the system and whether or not you decide to subscribe to USIW.
Tree hacks in the Seward hood
Tree trimming in Seward Neighborhood. I wrote a bit about it at my Tumblr blog.
Minneapolis Unwired: Dead zones & IOUs (plus a Wi-Fi in the parks update)
The gist is that it's not done which is also the ongoing mantra. "It's always something" as Gilda would say. Prospect Park is still a "challenge" area and there are others around the metro--a total of three square miles still unwired. The park issue I reported on before seems to be resolved and a contract is in place with a bit of money changing hands from US Internet to the Park Board. (Read details over at the eDemocracy Forum).
The City of Minneapolis is using only $50,000 worth of services but paying $1.25 million per year. The article says the money carries over (an IOU so to speak) so supposedly we will get full value eventually. Some reasons we aren't getting full value now are because the network needs to actually be complete before Police and Fire will mess with it and because some City departments are slow in adopting the service.
Alexander talks about using the network to track video from a police car going 80mph. I would love to know how that is possible. I don't think the current network, in areas where it is fully implemented, allows you to smoothly travel from node to node in a car without losing the connection some of the time. So do we have a "special" high-speed backend network for police and fire? I know there is a "public safety" channel or something but if it's still in the Wi-Fi range, it would be subject to all kinds of interference.
US Internet meanwhile says they now have 14,000 subscribers. Those numbers should eventually translate to cash infusions in the City's Digital Inclusion Fund with a minimum of 5% of net pretax income. The fund has $100,000 left of the initial $500,000 from US Internet. The fund and the money are part of the Community Benefits Agreement in the contract. I'm on the Digital Inclusion Fund Committee and so far we have not heard when we will receive more money and we have postponed this years grant-making cycle.
We are still the muni-wi-fi poster child of the world. It's working here because the City of Minneapolis signed on as anchor tenant and is paying a hefty fee to support a network. However, unless the City starts to get its money's worth of services soon, we may have rethink this poster child status.
Minneapolis Unwired: NY Times Wi-Fi article lists Minneapolis wireless
Cities themselves may be muni Wi-Fi's savior - New York Times
2005 City municipal Wi-Fi rocks.
2006 City municipal Wi-Fi still rocks. Disputes over public vs. private ownership.
2007 Private ownership winning but now city municipal Wi-Fi itself is a bad idea. it. Business model is flawed and Wi-Max will kill it anyway.
Later this same year... NY Times says city municipal Wi-Fi rocks with the right business model (meaning the city itself needs to anchor)
I'm not sure that the Times realizes we have a subscriber network in addition to our "state-of-the-art" public safety network. It is nice for Minneapolis to finally be mentioned in a municipal Wi-Fi article. Sad to say but it's probably related to a catastrophic infrastructure failure (bridge collapse) even as we build out a new infrastructure (muni Wi-Fi).
Technorati Tags: wireless, minneapolis, broadband, municipal, wifi
Minneapolis Unwired: Community meetings 10/18 and 11/1
Upcoming Wireless Minneapolis informational/community meetings.
Oct. 19 at Logan Park, 690 13th Ave. NE.
Nov. 1 at Nokomis Park, 2401 E. Minnehaha Parkway.
Both go from 5:30 p.m. until 7.
Minneapolis Unwired: Digital Inclusion Update
I now have forty-five proposals to go through requesting far more than the $200,000 that's available for grants. I think there will be some interesting projects coming along in the next year to help low income and marginalized folk in Minneapolis get to the Internet. Not much more I can say until an official announcement some time before the end of the year.
I can announce our members though. I was shy about that previously as there was no listing available on the web until recently. I planned to check with my colleagues about listing names here after reading Josh Breitbart's post pointing out that we aren't identified anywhere. That has changed and the official list of reps is up at the Digital Access site. (Thanks, Josh. I have a feeling your blog post helped in getting this information out there.)
Read Josh's post. His ideas around horizontal collaboration vs. hub-and-spoke deserve serious discussion. He likes much of what he sees in Minneapolis compared to Philadelphia. But we are still in the development stage, now creating the reality of the shared vision. What is disheartening for me is the minuscule information about the Wi-Fi project itself and the walled/civic garden portals. (I am supposed to be on a committee that is planning the community portals and it hasn't met in months.) The deployment is a month or more behind schedule and I doubt if the network will be completed before 2008. I think delays are to be expected in new ventures like this but US Internet Wireless (USIW) and the City of Minneapolis have not been forthcoming in updating residents as to status. There is a city-sponsored mailing list but little flows through it and there has never been any type of status report even when new neighborhoods are added to the Wi-Fi mix.
USIW and Minneapolis need the community to rally round the Wi-Fi system. Frequent and honest communication is the best way to ensure that engagement.
Technorati Tags: wireless, broadband, municipal, minneapolis, wifi, digital_inclusion
Seward Neighborhood will hold its King's Fair in Matthew's Park on Saturday, Sept. 22 at Matthews Park (24th St. and 28th Ave.). It runs from noon to 5 p.m. Food, fun, and games, and five bands: Andrew "Cadillac" Kolstad, Whistlepigs String Band, Machinery Hill, Rass Kwame and Anase, and Jive Deluxe. Information at 612-338-6205 x102.
10,000 Things Theater is starting up its 2007-08 season on October 18 with Richard III. Trust me when I say that this is some of the best theater in the Twin Cities and all the local theater critics agree. Most performances are for audiences with little access to theater. They perform at prisons, homeless shelters, nursing homes, etc. They do a few public performances to raise some money. You can see Richard III At Open Book and the MN Opera Center. Tickets are about $20.
Open Book, 8pm: November 2-4, November 9-11, November 16
MN Opera Center, 8pm: November 17-18
But if you really want to experience what they are about, check the Web site closer to October and there should be a listing of public (and free) performances at shelters of various types around the Twin Cities. It's worth it.
In February they will perform Eurydice and in April, Once on this Island. Check the site for details and watch for my reviews.
Technorati Tags: community, minneapolis, theater, tenthousandthings, art
Minneapolis Unwired: ZDNet article covers USIW response to bridge collapse
Citywide Wi-Fi network put to test in Minneapolis
Part of the USIW response was the opening of the subscription-based Wi-Fi network to allow use by anyone. This was announced via local broadcast media. With the cellular network flooded, USIW hoped people with Wi-Fi enabled smart phones could use Wi-Fi for placing calls. Most articles then give usage statistics provided by Joe Caldwell, CEO of USIW: network use jumped from 1,000 registered users to 6,000 users. The inference is that lots of phone calls were placed over Wi-Fi (Voice over IP or VOIP).
Reardon is the only writer who took the figures to task:
Exactly how many of those 6,000 users were actually using the Wi-Fi network in lieu of the cell phone network isn't known. It's unlikely that many people were able to use the network for voice communications, given that most cell phones don't have Wi-Fi capability and those that do may not be able use voice over IP clients.
Additionally, a large number of VOIP calls would have degraded services on the Wi-Fi network as surely as it did on the cellular network. I assume USIW could share usage data with us showing how many VOIP calls were placed and what other types of activities were going on.
Also interesting to note is that text and instant messages were still moving over the cell network. (Jon Gordon mentioned this to me via Twitter.) I see this as an education issue with cell phone users needing to know how to send text messages and that this is an alternative when you are unable to place a voice call. Most of my (older) friends—even those who have had cell phones a long time—don't know how to text message or IM on their cell.
Technorati Tags: minneapolis, wi-fi, municipal, 35W, broadband, USIW
Minneapolis Unwired: Five things we gotta do for success
It would be in the best interest of us all in Minneapolis to take Gigi Tagliapietra's five qualities for success of muni wi-fi to heart. They show an understanding for just how important the Internet is becoming in all of our lives.
Minneapolis Unwired: Having City as an anchor tenant is the way to go
BusinessWeek sees problems with muni-wi-fi deployments with companies requiring cities to become the anchor tenant with guaranteed revenues. That sounds very familiar. Maybe it should be called the Minneapolis Option.
BusinessWeek: Why Wi-Fi Networks Are Floundering
Minneapolis Unwired: Muni Wi-Fi Meeting Tomorrow Night
City Wi-Fi Community meeting for Southwest Neighborhoods tomorrow night at Lyndale Farmstead Park, 3900 Bryant Ave. S., 5:30 p.m. to 7.
Whether you live in Southwest or not, you can attend for more information on what's happening with the wireless system.
For more information on this and future meetings, check the City site.
Minneapolis Unwired: Tell us how to digitally include everybody
With little fanfare, the Minneapolis Digital Inclusion Fund Advisory Committee has released it's RFP with responses due by September 14. (Background info on the fund is here and the application form is here.)
I sit on the committee. It is a donor-advised fund of the Minneapolis Foundation. There is about $200,000 available in this round and grant awards will run from $5,000 to $30,000. US Internet will be paying another $300,000 after the City signs off on the network plus a percent of their revenues in upcoming years. Barring unforeseen circumstances, there will be another round coming in 2008.
Here is a list of a few examples of "eligible activities" for funding that the committee put together:
- Supporting technical literacy programs and initiatives
- Developing economic opportunities through digital access
- Using digital access for civic engagement and supporting accessible government
- Using digital access to aid in community and neighborhood collaboration efforts
- Distributing assistive technology to people with disabilities and the elderly to ensure equal access to digital content
- Distributing hardware to low-income households
- Providing relevant and engaging content in multiple languages
- Finding new and innovative methods to spur digital inclusion
- Implementing web-based English language training
- Closing the educational achievement gap between white students and students of color
Many current projects within nonprofits that may not seem digital could actually benefit from a shot of Internet and could easily become an inclusion activity. Look closely at what you're doing. Talk to some Internet geeks. (Most of us love talking about this stuff, especially if you buy the beer or coffee.)
How about a single mom project? Devise a program to provide at-home telecommuting jobs to young single moms. Provide hardware, training and the job itself. Find a corporation to work with and get some matching funds for the digital inclusion money.
How about a community economic development project where you set up an ecommerce server to sell over the Net? Free entry to the server for any qualifying business and then they pay a small percentage of sales. Again, make sure you train everyone in how to use those computers! This would have the potential of funding itself as more businesses became involved.
English as a second language... I have heard that classes are full and there is a waiting list. So use the Internet for some distance learning on demand. Team up with grad students at the U for a research project to provide curriculum and metrics. And budget training funds!
Those are just a few ideas and they are pulled out of my brain. I'm on a committee so you would have to convince us all (or at least most of us) to get anything funded. But the Internet space really lends itself to brainstorming like this because the potential is almost limitless.
I would love to see you add ideas in the comments. Maybe some of my sisters and brothers on the committee will also drop by and and add to the conversation.
Minneapolis Unwired: New Wi-Fi helps in aftermath of bridge disaster
ComputerWorld has a nice article about how the City of Minneapolis was able to utilize the new wireless network in the aftermath of the bridge collapse.
US Internet Wireless also opened the network for free service after the disaster. With the cell network maxed out for voice calls, some people were able to use voice over the Wi-FI system.
Minneapolis Unwired: Status and a report at W2i
Has USI Wireless (USIW), builders of the Minneapolis Wi-Fi mesh network, officially finished Phase 1 (the downtown area and near downtown and where I happen to live). Local media hasn't reported and the two official mailing lists--one from City of Minneapolis and one from USIW--have been silent.
Today, via Google Alerts, I found a current report of sorts dates July 25. It's by James Farstad, the City's wireless consultant. It's remarkably frank and gives some insight into the building out process and some of the problems USIW is facing.
Here's a copy of the phase map with the current schedule.
- Although it doesn't say that Phase 1 is done, it says Phase 2 has started.
- The network does cover 12 miles and it worked on a T-Mobile Wi-Fi device.
- Electrification is a big problem. Crushed conduit is a big problem as it has to be replaced. There are also permits to consider.
- Phase 2 should go faster because of the standard street grid but there is some road construction and missing poles to hang the nodes.
- Phase 3 is parks and lakes and potential headaches. Farstad: "I've asked the team to locate solar powered artificial pine trees that we can plant." Wow.
- Customer experience is important (sign-up, sales, support, etc.). Farstad: "Some early test interactions indicate there is work to do here and it has become an important focal point this week." Statements of poor customer service have been reported at the community wireless meetings.
And USIW, it's still not too late to implement some of my community wireless related recommendations. (They got a bit of airplay via MuniWireless.)
Minneapolis Unwired: Kari tests Phase 1 Wi-Fi
Kari VanDerVeen at the Downtown Journal tests the network in the downtown area. Works well where it works, she says, but there are still holes (which USI Wireless acknowledges.
Seems she could keep a connection while riding in a car. I wonder how fast she was going.
Little Shop of Horrors: Three performances left!
Mary and I caught Ten Thousand Things Little Shop of Horrors tonight and it was way beyond our expectations which were already very high. A wonderfully dark musical that really offers no hope for the fate of mankind but does it in a really entertaining way.
This is a musical with some good doowop ditties and Peter Vitale (drums and keyboard) and Jennifer Rubin (bass) created a layer of music that grooved beautifully. Yeah. Two people. White Stripes has nothing on them.
If you haven't seen a 10,000 Things show, this is a wonderful introduction to their work. This group can hold its own against any of the major venues in town and for our tastes, surpasses them all.
Three shows left on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings. Reserve tickets here.
Read my last 10000 post here.
Unwired in Philadelphia Part 2
Miriam Hill at the Philadelphia Daily News has a good piece on the trials and tribulations large municipal wireless deployments. Of course her focus is Philadelphia but it's really an overview as to what is going on in this space nationally. She provides a good description of how a wireless mesh network works and why it might be difficult to keep up and running and providing ubiquitous access.
Philadelphia is a whole lot bigger than Minneapolis both in population—1.4M compared to some 300,000—and area—135 square miles compared to 60 square miles. The stakes are definitely higher. How Earthlink fares with it's Philadelphia network will set a tone for large deployments around the country and world.
I want to commend Ms. Hill for her article and entreat our local press (Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, TC Daily Planet) to start providing this type of coverage. More than anything, we need more information about what is happening locally and nationally. We want US Internet Wireless (USIW) (our muni wireless network builder) to prosper and give us another choice for broadband Internet services in Minneapolis. But we also need to be weighing the problems with a large deployment and nurturing a conversation on how we can make this work together.
Unwired in Philadelphia
Glenn Fleishman has a good post on the Philadelphia wireless effort. Philadelphia will be the first major city deployment and he (and others) think that the success or failure of that deployment could be a bellwether for other big city deployments.
One issue he points to is nodes. Originally, Tropos believed a city network could provide adequate service with twenty to twenty-five nodes per square mile. That number has since risen to 30+ and Novarum (a muni-scale independent testing service) puts the number even higher.
I don't know what the node density is in Minneapolis but I'll try to get that information. I do know that US Internet is increasing density in the pilot area and they told current pilot customers that the reason was "to accommodate the additional leaf coverage since installing the original
Read Glenn's post.
*from an email that US Internet sent to current customers.
Please ignore. Technorati claim in progress. Technorati Profile
Minneapolis Unwired: Technology Day in Minneapolis featuring Wi-FI
Minneapolis Wireless Update
Minnesota Stories guy Chuck Olsen captured the Technology Day festivities on video. Included is information on the community portal system. This blogger will talk about that soon too.
Minneapolis Unwired: Only one can roam
Minneapolis Wireless Update
In my rush to the presses last night with details of USIW charges, I forgot to cover roaming accounts on the US Internet-Minneapolis Wi-Fi system. This is the ability to pick up your laptop and go nomadic since theoretically you should be able to connect to the system anywhere in the city limits where you can get a strong enough signal.
Monthly fees allow you a single roaming account. In two-laptop families (like mine), you would have to purchase a second account if you both want to sit in the back yard and surf the Web.
Now if you rent or purchase the USIW/Ruckus modem, you get an extra login somehow tied to the modem. Now Mary can be logged in the modem and I can roam or vice-versa.
You can rebroadcast the modem signal via a hub, switch, or an internal wireless radio (like an airport).
Minneapolis Unwired: The Nitty Gritty Details
[Update: I forgot to mention nomadic roaming accounts and logging in anywhere in the City where you can get a signal. You get one roaming account. More details here.]
Minneapolis Wireless Update
Technology Day, Minneapolis, and finally details of how much Wi-Fi is going to cost on the US Internet Wireless (USIW) network.
That's a quick view (click the image for enlargement). For the official prices, go to http://www.usiwireless.com/Promo03, "Click Here," agree to whatever they ask, and you will see the official offer.
You need the Ruckus device (USIW modem) to have a guarantee on the speeds. That will cost you $5/month rental or $80 to purchase. Joe Caldwell, US Internet CEO, says rental is better for the consumer as USIW will replace it if you break it. From conversations with USIW sales, I also know that firmware upgrades will also come from USIW if you rent. Rental looks like the best deal.
Uploads Throttled! My hope was for symmetrical upload/download but USIW has decided to hold all uploads at 1 Mbps. Ironic that our local vlog guy, Chuck Olsen, was recording tonight. Sorry Chuck. If you get high-speed USIW, your vid to the Net will still be in the slow lane.
If you can't get a decent signal with the Ruckus, USIW can try mounting an external directional antenna on your house or apartment building. Didn't catch the brand but I will guess Belair, same company that is making the main radios.
High Rises. After the network is in place, they are going to tackle the high rises. I think the first plan will be to turn a radio sideways which will "paint" the side of the building with a signal. Another possible plan is to use IP over electric in the building. (What's the bandwidth on that?)
Completion of the first segment (Phase 1) covering downtown, Cedar-Riverside, and part of Seward, is June 19.
That's all for now, folks. Post your questions and I'll try to answer plus the USIW folk read this blog so maybe they will chime in. What do you think of the rates?
Minneapolis Unwired: Community Benefits
Ed has a good summary of the community benefits included in the City's contract with US Internet. Also check my home page for links to various documents like the full contract and the original community benefit recommendations.
Happy Technology Day, Minneapolis! Everyone should wear one of those little hats with a propeller on top. The Wi-Fi Wireless Rollout is at 4 p.m. in the Doty Room at the DT library accessible by train, bike, bus or automobile. Bring your ideas about what equals community content.
Minneapolis Unwired: 2.0 style marketing
Early Wi-Fi adopters in the pilot area (Seward Neighborhood mainly) have not been well-served. Service has been very intermittent since around Mother's Day. At least one person I know has not been able to use Wi-Fi for at least a month. I believe users were warned of outages by US Internet but not that they would be without service for days or weeks.
To their credit, US Internet Wireless (USIW) is trying to rectify the situation and has refunded monthly fees.
Back in October, when USIW started selling accounts, I had some suggestions as to how a company might market Wi-Fi as they build out the network. Reading them over again, I realize I was trying to help them to transform sterile municipal wireless into something akin to community wireless.
I think the suggestions—listed below—are still viable and would result in more long-term profit than the current course USIW is following.
- Don't charge anything for now. In fact, give us free accounts for a year and we'll help you troubleshoot problems. [Plus, subscribers could keep their other Internet accounts until the network was official.]
- Start blogging about the deployment. In fact, start blogging about your company. Be as transparent as you can. Make sure the CEO is blogging. [Information about the deployment from both the City and USIW has been sparse at best.]
- Lend out your Ruckus Metroflex Wireless Access Gateway units. We'll pay a deposit and return it in good working condition or buy it if we like the Wi-Fi
- Help us optimize service and set up networks in our homes. You will learn as much as we do and foster good will.
- Hold events at Wi-Fi hotspots in the pilot area.
- Give away some of the Ruckus units at the events. (Winners must prove they live in the pilot area!)
- Give away some of the 3-6Mbps accounts.
- Meet with the community to educate them about the Internet and wireless. Talk to PTAs, senior centers, trade groups, and neighborhood groups. Engage the people with how cool the Internet is. Don't sell anything! In fact, answer questions honestly about the competition, and discuss the pros and cons of Wi-Fi.
- Start working on digital inclusion initiatives.
- Engage the open source and software development community in the Twin Cities. Attend Minnebar and Minnedemo and read the blogs.
- Give us cool lawn signs advertising our USI Wi-Fi connection.
- As you build out, give away some accounts in each neighborhood. Hold a street party with a raffle.
If you live in Minneapolis, Wi-Fi antennas will soon be marching across pole tops to your neighborhood. By the end of the year (current projection is November), we should be an unwired city.
There is a Community Technology Celebration in conjunction with the Downtown-Cedar-Riverside wireless rollout. This will be on Thursday, June 14, at the Downtown Central Library from 4 p.m. to 6:30.
One of the items under discussion will be creating neighborhood and community portals. I want to urge those of you already working with citizen media (bloggers, podcasters, vloggers) to come and discuss the potentials of actively participating in the larger conversation that we are already enjoying online. We need to begin the process of converting the municipal wireless system into a true community wireless system.
Historically Minneapolis has always had a strong community journalism system. In recent years, the number of community and neighborhood papers has shrunk. Many that remain are often published by a single group that can share staff and publishing costs to cover many neighborhoods. It's just too expensive for every neighborhood to try and afford a newspaper staff.
The Web has reduced publishing to almost zero once you have hardware and a connection to the Internet. The plan is for the community portal system to provide free tools for getting messages out via blogs, news feeds, audio, or video. This will be an integrated system and location specific with your community page displayed when you are in your neighborhood.
Of course hardware and connectivity costs are still an issue for many which is why Minneapolis has established a Digital Inclusion Fund Advisory Board with money contributed by US Internet as part of their agreement with the City. There is $200,000 in the fund now with another $300,000 coming when the network is finished. (I am a member of this Board.)
This Board will entertain proposals to provide Internet access and hardware to all. Potential solutions for the digital divide problem might include computer refurbishing programs, free accounts, or more funding for community technology centers. The Board will also look at training and education for new users and providing relevant multilingual content.
More meetings have been scheduled to coincide with the USIW construction schedule.
- Midtown and South; June 28, 5:30-7, Midtown Global Market
- Southwest, July 19 & August 19, 5:30-7, Lyndale-Farmstead Park
- North, September 13, 5:30-7, Shingle Creek Commons
- Northeast, Oct. 18, 5:30-7, Logan Park
- South & Southeast, November 1, 5:30-7, Nokomis Community Center
Wi-Fi Antenna MIA
Please note the picture at the top of the page which is a Belair Wi-Fi antenna outside my window, part of the Minneapolis muni wireless. Those of you who follow the blog know that I once linked to the Internet via that antenna during the pilot project.
Well the antenna has disappeared. So has the one on the corner. My block is without antenna.
- There are upgrades going on so maybe they are coming back with a new and better antenna.
- No one on my block is subscribing so they moved the antennas to a block with subscribers.
- St. Paul (our twin city) is stealing the antennas to start their own municipal Wi-Fi deployment.
See this play. Seriously.
Little Shop of Horrors as done by 10,000 Things.
Here's what The Rake says:
A few months back, it was asserted in the pages of this magazine that Ten Thousand Things has great taste in literature. We stand by that assessment -- even now, as the company readies a production of an American musical that to some would appear gauche. The Little Shop story line is about as absurd as it gets. (It is, after all, a spoof of a '60s B-movie.) But the cult musical boasts an irresistible bebop score as well as a lovable cast of characters. In the hands of Ten Thousand Things artistic director Michelle Hensley, these elements get stripped down to expose their underlying darkness. What's more, a fine group of local character actors inject nuance into what is normally a big-voiced Broadway-style production. Writer, actor, improviser and all-around funny-man Jim Lichtscheidl plays geeky Seymour. Kate Eifrig, fresh off her run as Janis Joplin in Love, Janis, plays Audrey. One of the Twin Towns' preeminent physical comics, Luverne Seifert, appears as the evil Orin Scrivello, DDS. Hensley has a surprise in store for the character of Audrey II, the blood-feeding plant; she isn't giving any specifics, but teases: "It'll be VERY different; it won't be the traditional Audrey" (i.e., no giant, molded-foam puppet growling "Feed me, Seymour.").
Here's what PF Hyper says .
Here's where you make a reservation.
Wireless: College Connection in Philadelphia. What are we doing?
Drexel University to Offer Students, Faculty and Staff Access to EarthLink’s Wi-Fi Networks
PHILADELPHIA--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Drexel University and EarthLink (NASDAQ:ELNK) reached a first-of-its-kind agreement between a major university and wireless network service provider to extend the boundaries of Drexel’s Dragonfly wireless network for students, faculty and staff to access university resources and services or browse the Internet over EarthLink’s Wi-Fi networks, Drexel President Constantine Papadakis announced today.
As I read the story, students, staff, and faculty will be able to extend their college wireless access to the new Philadelphia wireless network. I would guess that Drexel paid something for this service. I wish they had clarified this.
The access is "for a limited time each month." It also extends to Earthlink's wireless networks in other cities.
Are we pursuing anything like this in Minneapolis? I know that the University of Minnesota is preparing to upgrade the entire campus wireless network. I believe either an RFI or RFP has been issued. This sort of arrangement for students, staff, and faculty would be excellent. (Disclosure: I am a U of MN employee.)
While I'm talking about the U of MN and wireless, I recently found that the U is selling wireless access on campus. I would like to see them provide free access. It would be a great community service and I don't think they will see droves of urban digerati flocking to campus especially since most of the nearby coffee shops have free wireless.
Must See! 10,000 Things Little Shop of Horrors
Those of you following along saw me rave about Ten Thousand Things theater last fall when they opened their season with The Merchant of Venice. They followed that up with Lorca's Blood Wedding in March and they've just opened the musical Little Shop of Horrors. Yes. A musical. They do them well.
The actors on the stage at a TTT production are the same ones you see at the Guthrie, Jeune Lune, and the other hot venues in the Twin Cities. The difference is the sets (virtually none), the script—pared down to the basics because they often perform for groups that haven't seen much theater, and the lighting—whatever the room lighting happens to be. The groups they perform for are prison inmates, the homeless, and the disabled.
They do a bunch of free performances at the social venues that they serve so there really is no excuse to miss them. You do need reservations. Check the schedule. (Sorry, they won't let you check out the prison shows but you can see them free at places like St. Stephen's Community Center and the Dorothy Day Center.)
They also have paid performances in Minneapolis on June 15-17 and 22-24. Tickets are $20.
Check the 10,000 Things site.
Bonus Link. American Theater article on 10,000 Things.
Dark Side of Municipal Wireless
AP (via Yahoo) gives us the dark side of municipal wireless looking at potential failures throughout the US.
Cities struggle with wireless Internet
This is laced with hooie. Most of it is very circumstantial evidence that municipal wireless probably won't work. It's really too early to tell.
They focus most of their analysis on Lompoc, CA which is building a publicly-owned system. Lompoc only recently discovered that the wireless signal can't penetrate stucco with it's embedded wire mesh. They should have called US Internet here in Minneapolis-- they knew and that's why their bandwidth is only guaranteed with a repeater to strengthen the signal both ways. The device will cost $80 and can be rented for $5/month. Lots cheaper than the $150 for such a device mentioned in the article.
Here's a quote:
Because systems are just coming online, it's premature to say how many or which ones will fail under current operating plans, but the early signs are troubling.
It's premature but let's look at every single problem we can find with these deployments to make it sound bad. They focus on publicly-owned systems.
Minneapolis doesn't get mentioned (as usual). Maybe it's because our deployment seems to be going smoothly.
Minneapolis Wireless: City plans for portal rollout
Last week at the City of Minneapolis Committee of the Whole: Wireless, Portal, and Community Engagement.
Download the presentation (pdf, 850K).
Michael Maranda discusses community portal ideas and ownership.
Wireless Minneapolis: Seward & DT to go wireless
Article at Star Tribune site posted May 4:
The new Minneapolis Wi-Fi Internet access service begins May 11 in 2 square miles including the Seward neighborhood. Service begins downtown the week of May 21.
Check my last post for a look at the current wireless purchase/log-in page. The article says the cost will be $19.95 but the portal log-in says $14.95. So will the $19.95 be for new customers or are they going to raise everyone's rate?
10,000 Things Season Opener: The Merchant of Venice
Ten Thousand Things is a local theater company that performs at homeless shelters, senior centers, prisons and basically anywhere where you wouldn't expect a talented theater group to perform. Most of their shows are at non-theater venues and most of their shows are free.
They explain it better than I in their mission:
Ten Thousand Things brings lively, intelligent theater to people with little access to the wealth of the arts -- who in turn help us to reimagine theater.Minneapolis is blessed with an awesome theater community and many excellent companies. You can rank TTT right at the top. There is a rumor (which I believe) that actors have turned down higher-paying Guthrie work to be part of a TTT production.
Performing at homeless shelters, prisons and other low-income centers, using the region's finest actors, this bare bones, high quality theater company invigorates ancient tales, classic stories and contemporary plays through its search for raw, open interactions between actors and audiences.
Mary and I discovered them in 2001 when they performed The Most Happy Fella by Frank Loesser, a musical that we'd never heard of but sounded interesting. Plus they were getting excellent reviews.
Since then, we haven't missed a performance.
According to their history page, the company has been around since 1991. They started out in Los Angeles and it looks like they moved to the Twin Cities around 1995. (The production history only goes thru 2002 but TTT has performed regularly in all subsequent years with a full schedule this year.)
The Merchant of Venice runs from Oct. 19 until Nov. 19 with paid public performances the weekends of Nov. 3, 10, and 17. Tickets are $20. There are free public performances starting Oct. 23. The paid performances are showcases for the theater public, held at a comfortable location like the Open Book on Washington Ave. The free performances are at shelters and community centers. Check their schedule here.
Besides Merchant, TTT will perform Lorca's Blood Wedding in March and The Little Shop of Horrors by Harold Ashman, in May.
If you do go to a performance, let me know or tell them that pfhyper.com sent you when you reserve. And remember, they are supported by our funds so if you go and you like it, donate!
Theater: Ten Thousand Things
We went to see the Ten Thousand Things Theater Company perform Antigone recently. The script was a new version written for the group by Emily Mann. I found it a bit strained in relating the ancient Greek times to our current President and his war but overall, the acting was excellent. It always is.
Ten Thousand Things (TTT) staged the play for the general public over two weekends (six performances) at two different venues and charged $20 for each ticket. Value-wise, the money is well-spent if you like excellent drama. No one else can out-perform this group overall.
But these few public performances are for fundraising. The company's mission is to bring theater to those who rarely see it. From their mission statement:
We perform at homeless shelters, prisons and other low-income centers, using the region's finest actors, to bring to life plays by Brecht, Shakespeare, Beckett and Fornes.Their latest tour included six correctional facilities, a couple of homeless shelters, and work centers for disabled. Because their tours rarely include a real performing stage, sets are minimal, often consisting of common objects like a step ladder where they hang things to create the scene.
The actors and actresses that work with TTT are top-notch. Rumor has it that some have chosen parts in TTT over Guthrie work (and more money).
I'd give you some links to recent cast listings but their Web site doesn't list them. In fact, the site is seriously out of date. Best I can do is a production history page that hasn't been updated since 2002. It does go back to the very beginning though; Michelle Hensley started the troupe in Los Angeles in 1991. (We are so lucky that she migrated to our city.)
M. and I give some money to the group. I realized at this last performance that TTT is a very low overhead operation so our money likely goes a lot farther than it would if we made contributions to the Guthrie or some of the other MSTs (main-stream theaters) in our area. Plus they are bringing their art to prisoners and the poor.
Go to a show. Next up is Gertrude Stein's In a Garden. It's scheduled for March of next year.
Then consider a donation.