Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Think critically about municipal Wifi

You may have read this Enquirer editorial that raises some questions about municipal wifi. It doesn't fully commit to an opinion one way or the other, but importantly it includes this paragraph:

"But the city should seriously consider the warning signs Tuesday's AP story noted regarding municipal Wi-Fi - and at least learn from other cities' mistakes. Critics point to wasted tax dollars, incomplete systems, and lack of usage among residents in other cities. If not done right, municipal Wi-Fi could become a mere toy for tourists and tech-savvy residents, more a bragging point than a practical utility."

I laughed a little bit when I read this because only yesterday I read this article on entitled "AP article critical of muni Wi-Fi is wrong: most cities are not using public funds". Forgive my quoting it at length:

"I have seen pieces like the AP article before making their way around the Internet (recall the fuss last spring about St. Cloud). When news agencies like the AP write something, it tends to spread like a brush fire throughout the US. It's a cheaper, more efficient way to fill the space in your newspaper. Depending on the mood of the editor that morning, a newspaper might put on a more lurid headline like this one (my personal favorite): Wireless Projects Drain City Budgets, which replaces the more sedate Cities Struggle With Wireless Internet. In fairness, most AP reporters I've talked to have been meticulous about their fact-checking.

In the end stories like these, including the ones favorable to citywide Wi-Fi, focus too narrowly on Internet access – or an even narrower subset of that called web surfing -- as if that were the only point of setting up a municipal wireless broadband network and its only use. What regular readers of this website know is that these networks are being deployed for many more uses: public safety (police, wireless camera surveillance and so on), wireless automated meter reading, mobile office use by inspectors, traffic management, parking control, voice over Wi-Fi, vehicle and asset tracking, and about a dozen other things you could think of if you spent five minutes with your eyes shut in a quiet room drowning out the noise from all of these “news” reports. Just read any of the RFPs I've posted on this website. Almost all of them want to use it for public Internet access and municipal applications.

So "failure" or "success" should include an assessment of whether those services are working well. Of course in most cities, they're still rolling out these services so it's difficult to say. But some are already up and running with automated meter reading and public safety applications. Where are the reporters crawling around checking on the wireless meter reading systems at cities like Corpus Christi? Anyone out there concerned about the public safety agencies using not just unlicensed (2.4 Ghz) Wi-Fi but also the dedicated 4.9 Ghz space to “surveille” us with their wireless cameras? Does this type of surveillance work? (In many places, crime has dropped dramatically where they have installed cameras). These are all relevant factors in determining whether or not the network is doing what it's been set up to do. "

Now, I have never believed the Enquirer to be a paragon of journalistic insight. I myself never read it, unless a particular article is specifically pointed out to me. But in this case, since I am somewhat more interested in muni-wifi than many other issues, I felt compelled to point out their shortcomings.

I will be the first to admit that there are good reasons to be for and against municipal wifi. I happen to be in favor of it. But the most important thing is that people don't start throwing around arguments and citations that don't make sense.

Please, don't trust everything you read. Especially in the Enquirer.


Public Web access is crucial need for Cincinnati

City 'Wi-Fi'? Here's Wi, and Wi not

AP article critical of muni Wi-Fi is wrong: most cities are not using public funds

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Muni WiFi in Cincinnati

I am excited to relate to you, dear readers, that the City of Cincinnati is officially requesting the money needed to pay someone to think about the future possibility of municipal wifi.

Enquirer article

Announcement on

As I have said before, I think municipal wireless is a Good Thing for several reasons. Among which are improving city services, encouraging economic development, and decreasing the "digital divide". It's not just about giving everybody free internet. See this excellent Boston Globe article for a good overview of how to approach municipal wifi projects.

Andrew Warner has already taken some sharp action on this and he's asked all of the city council members for their positions on the matter. David Crowley has already responded. Stay tuned to Mr. Warner's blog for updates on that.

Here's hoping that our leaders can put together a smart RFP and get this project rolling. There are plenty of examples to learn from, so this should be easy.

What do you think?

Social Distortion coming to Cincy

@ Bogart's on July 17th

I'm so there.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Open Source Software in Ohio's Libraries

I recently discovered that last month there was a meeting hosted by the State Library of Ohio about the future of ILS software and they're seriously examining the possibility of open source solutions (which I personally think is awesome).

Meeting minutes:
"Librarians share a similar concept of property with open source, that of stewardship and distribution. "

An OPLIN podcast:

Even more about OSS in libraries:

Two articles about libraries that have already taken the plunge:
"The open source movement and libraries have a lot in common, not the least of which is the belief in free and open access to ideas and information. "

Furher discussion on a blog set up for this new initiative:

Friday, May 04, 2007

Great Streets

This recent article on BLDGBLOG is one of the best things I've read in weeks if not months. This is EXACTLY how I feel when I reminisce about OSU. BLDGBLOG has rapidly become one of my favorite blogs.

image stolen from this awesome collection:

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Cinco de Mayo

I just signed up for It seems pretty cool. They have a good number of events listed and apparently the (free) membership card gets you lots of deals. I stumbled across this YouTube account for ZipScene videos and it's actually pretty decent as well. The events they cover actually sound like things I might like to do. The most recent one is a video for Saturday's Cinco de Mayo event in Covington. I think people were talking about going to Arnie's, which is in Newport, so it might be possible to convince people to stop by Clique also / instead.

It's shaping up to be a busy day. :)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Free Comic Book Day

Wow, it just so happens Saturday is also Free Comic Book Day!

What is Free Comic Book Day?
"As the name implies, Free Comic Book Day is a single day when participating comic book shops across North America and around the world are giving away comic books absolutely free to anyone who comes into their stores."
You can use this really handy locator to find stores in Cincinnati that are participating in FCBD. Here are the results that appear if you put in 45202:

(513) 661-ROCK

(513) 661-6300

(513) 231-0484

(513) 351-5674

(513) 521-4900

(859) 371-9562

(859) 647-7568

Check out the official website for more details.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

GalaxyCon: Where Galaxies Collide at Your Library

GalaxyCon starts this weekend! In honor of the 30th anniversary of the release of Star Wars, GalaxyCon, a series of special events and programs will be taking place at the Library throughout May. There will be some notable speakers and activities for Sci-Fi fans of all ages including games, movie viewings, book discussions, costumes, comics and more. Events kick off on Friday with guest speaker Matt Stover (author of notable Star Wars novels including Shatterpoint and Revenge of the Sith) at Sharonville Branch, but they will continue throughout the month at branches all around the city, so be sure to check out the website. I plan on being there! :)

GalaxyCon on Turning the Page Blog
GalaxyCon on