Chapel Hill, NC – Wireless Internet Locations Update

Working from a home office there are often times when a change of scenery is required,
and nothing beats a coffee shop with wireless internet. Here’s an updated list of
some of my local favorites.

Free Wireless Internet locations:

Bean Traders
Homestead Market on W. Hwy 54
app. 1/4 mile North of I-40 (exit 276) & app. 1/4 mile West of Fayetteville (Durham,
NC)

Bean Traders
Meadowmont Village
(next to Harris Teeter) on HWY 54 between I-40 (Exit 273) & Glen Lennox (Chapel
Hill, NC)

Panera Bread
213 West Franklin Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27514

Town of Carrboro Wireless
(Now covers Weaver St. Market and Armadillo Grill)

Bear Rock Cafe
201 S Estes Drive
University Mall
Chapel Hill NC 27514

Not so free Wireless Internet locations:

Fedex Kinko’s Chapel Hill
114 W Franklin St
Chapel Hill NC 27516

 

Starbucks
103 East Franklin Street
Chapel Hill NC 27516

 

Borders Chapel Hill
1807 Chapel Hill Blvd.
Chapel Hill NC 27514

 

Barnes and Noble
The Streets at Southpoint
8030 Renaissance Parkway, Suite 835
Durham, NC 27713


 

 

Nextel Wireless Broadband Part II: Speed

After a full week of having my Nextel Wireless Broadband service and card, I must
say that so far I’m currently a very happy customer. The coverage within the coverage
area that I have traveled is excellent. I have found that in some large buildings
the signal is unavailable, but so far this has been rare. In an unplanned experiment
on Friday I used the service to listen to the live .Net Rocks broadcast while traveling
about 20 miles. The coverage during the trip was solid and I never a missed a minute
of Rory and Carl’s interview of the Channel9 team.

 

[It should be noted, that Nextel and Flarion do a great job
and make very clear that this device, as with other mobile devices such as cell phones
is not designed for user while driving and should only be used when it is safe to
do so. In my case, my Tablet PC sitting on the seat next to me acted like a radio
without any need for direct attention. Be safe with your mobile devices!]

 

I have been very impressed with the speed of the device. I seem to typically see speeds
of around 900kbps with bursts higher. In areas with very low signal the speed has
dropped down into the 400-500 range, which is still faster than many other wireless
services. Top speeds have been in excess of 1mbs, and for much of the week has actually
been better than the performance of my cable modem, which despite marketing claims
of now being twice as fast, has been performing pretty poorly the lately.

 

Overall I think this product is a great solution. I understand that Nextel is still
investigating other wireless technologies before committing to building a national
network, but if this is the minimum we have to look forward to, the future of wireless
broadband is extremely exciting.

 

If there are any other software developers out there looking at targeting this type
of mobile platform, drop me a note. I think this is a great area of opportunity for
field service, real estate, other industries on the go.

 

Nextel Wireless Broadband: Have Network, Will Travel

Today I received and installed my cT-1000 Nextel
Wireless Broadband
PC Card. The hardware is manufactured by Flarion.
Nextel and Flarion launched a trial in the Raleigh-Durham area back in February and
have been expanding the coverage in the triangle area as the trial has continued.
The trial appears to have been called
a success
as Nextel is now offering the product to the public.

 

Nextel is currently offering plans ranging
from $34.99 to $74.99 depending on usage and speed requirements. Download speeds range
from 750kbps to 1.5mbps with bursts up to 3mbps possible. Packages also provide private
or dynamic-public IP addresses with static IP addresses available for a small fee
($10.00). The hardware is currently being offered for $50 (Regular $199) until June
30th.

 

I think there is great potential in this product for mobile users that move within
the RTP area. While being marketed as “Cable-speed without cables”, the result of
bandwidth and mobility greatly increases the possibilities for mobile applications.
This modem in a TabletPC creates and extremely versatile and well connected platform
for software developers.

 

The setup in my Toshiba M200 went extremely well. In fact, compared to devices I have
installed from other manufacturers, this was amazing simply. The process was to insert
an auto-starting CD, click next 3 or 4 times, agree to run unsigned code (Which is
something in this day and age I think they should correct and instructions should
not tell you to ignore those warnings. Get your drivers signed!) and then insert the
PCMCIA card. I was connected. Plain and simple.

 

I haven’t had much of a chance yet to test the speed and coverage in
the area, but I’ll report back when I do.

 

Free Wifi Hotspot – Good advertising?

Now that nearly every portable computing device is being made with some for of wireless
connectivity device inside we see more and more locations offering their services
as an access point. Some companies like T-Mobile are partnering with destinations
like Starbucks and Borders. I personally still have a tough time accepting their rate
plans, but they’re getting closer.

And then there are the locations that offer free network access to their customers.
I’ve been amazed at how my destinations of choice have changed because of free
wireless access availability. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I wouldn’t be
willing to pay for some level of service at an appropriate price point. After all,
I definitely spend more going to site that has network access. I often end
up having that extra cup of coffee or eventually give into the fresh baking just added
to the display I’m sure it helps them increase their sales at the end of the day and
I go away happier with a better perceived value for my money. More customers and increased
sales per customer, how can you go wrong?

My current locations of choice include:

Bear Rock Cafe

Bean Traders

and I hope to check out the Jump’ N Java Cafe’ and the Gateway
Cafe
in the near future.

 

TechEngage – Essential Tools for the unemployed.

Tech Engage is a non-profit organization 
in North Carolina with the goal of providing technology training to those that are
unemployed or under-employed in the IT industry including courses on ASP.NET and SQL
SERVER. A lot of hard work goes into this by some great people. Check it out…

TechEngage
– Essential Tools for the unemployed.

With a continued sluggish economy and technology jobs being
shipped overseas every day, having market-relevant technical skills is more important
than ever.  TechEngage is a non-profit organization created specifically to provide
Essential Tools that unemployed technology workers can use to improve their chances
of gaining employment in today’s rapidly changing economy.

 

 

 

Tablet PC Wireless Connection Problems

I thought this was worthy of placing here in hopes that it might be of use. A
while ago we deployed an Acer TabletPC with built in wireless and had nothing
but problems connecting to the network. We seemed to browse fine, but when it came
to sending any data (such as printing) it would fail. The soultion turned out to
be creating an MTU entry for the wireless interface with a value of 1472. Info
on adding this entry can be found at microsoft.com

Hopefully this helps somebody solve the problem more quickly than we did.

UPDATE: Originally I had thought this problem we encountered seemed
to be limited to the Acer product but it would seem that others have it as well. My
Toshiba M200 just wasn’t right when running wireless. Even some web pages, especially
Microsoft.com had real problems trying to load. The above fix of the MTU setting has
made a huge difference. I hope to do some more testing, but if you have problems,
create and MTU entry for the interface as described equalling 1472.

 

Upgrade to Microsoft Pocket PC 2003

Upgrades are now available for Viewsonic
V35 and V37 Pocket PC devices here
. Orders can be placed online or printed and
sent in. There appears to be a free upgrade available for a limited time for devices
recently purchased.

On the note of Viewsonic and the PPC devices, I need to use the opportunity to say
how happy I am
with the 802.11
SDIO wireless network card
 that I recnetly purchased. The card is amazingly
small, easy to install, and works remarkably well. It performs way better that a similar
compact flash card that I have for another device. If you’re looking to network a
V37 or similar device, this card is highly recommended.

 

Free Wi-Fi!

Well, at least for the day. Being the geek I am I could not resist working this afternoon
from the Cafe at our local Borders Book Store.
Today Intel and T-Mobile are
having a special free wireless access day to promote their products. I’ve been curious
for a while now about thei service so here I am. Besides it’s a good test as my hotel
for PDC apparently has a T-Mobile hotspot.

I’m personally a big fan of wireless access. Working from a home office just wouldn’t
be the same without it. Being able to wirelessly roam the head office when I am there
as well just adds to the benefit. Bring on the wi-fi coverage!

 

 

Wireless Voice Over IP

For some time now I have been making use of a NEC Voice over IP telephone to keep in touch from my home office. I’ve also been enjoying the freedom of a wireless network card in my laptop to be able to work at different places, but still needing to run back to my desk to get the phone. Well now, thanks to a little network configuration and a USB network adapter, I am able to connect my IP set directly to my laptop which routes it through it’s wireless adapter on to my VPN connection to the head office. The result is an (almost) wireless voice over IP phone. I’m hoping soon that NEC comes out with an 802.11 wireless IP set of their own, but for now this will do nicely!