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Live blogging from the Mayor’s WiFi pitch

7 January 2008

Here are my notes from today’s gathering about city-wide WiFi in Birmingham, from the middle of the council chambers:

  • A crowd as large as any City Council meeting – several dozen standing ’round the perimeter too.  Appeal to the audience of pastors and clergy from across the city.
  • “Not a single school in the district is wifi ready”… it is up to the churches to fill the gap
  • 8.”5×11″ color window sticker handed out with ‘green spot’ graphic features the words “Psalms 23 / The Right Spot”, with the XO-man just off center from the bottom of a big green dot
  • taking XO out into bright sunshineXO Computers to first go out on or about March 10th when the OLPC will be in town for training at 2 schools, with the full ‘rollout’ April 15, 2008
  • The first group from Birmingham to be trained will be sent up to MIT mid-January
  • Claimed that the XO had a slot on it that would allow it to run Windows… ugh! 
  • About 40% of the room raised hands when asked if their churches currently had Internet access (used, not provided)
  • Asked everyone to buy a “$39” router and add an “open port” with a filter to prevent access to inappropriate content
  • “Church is the only way that this can happen almost overnight”
  • “A phone call came from China this morning” to indicate that they might even donate the routers
  • The Mayor offered to provide (pay for?) the routers if the churches don’t have them
  • Incorrectly claimed that a WiFi hotspot will not affect the church system — Said it “won’t slow down the network,” that it “won’t have any effect” whatsoever
  • Wants to put “repeaters up” on the high points to make the cloud seamless – say what?
  • Lawson State University has offered to provide training to the clergy, which is very appropriate with their Alabama Center for Advanced Technology and Training (ACATT)
  • Asked for everyone in the room to get this done in 30 days.  “It could be done in 24 hours” if we wanted to…
  • “You in the room have been called to ‘feed the sheep'” — a wifi router in the smallest church is as good as in the largest church

It is a great idea to leverage community based locations for WiFi hotspots.  There is, however, MORE to a hotspot than just the router and broadband.  Where in the church will users sit?  Will anyone supervise?  Will any users be allowed “after hours”?  Will non-XO’s be allowed in these hotspots?  There are other questions that come to mind, but I’ll leave those to you readers.  It will be interesting to see how the news media covers this story.  Look for me in the middle of the back of the room on any of the TV coverage… I should be easy to spot in my green shirt.  :^)

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. 7 January 2008 12:51 pm

    I want to say so much, but all I can do is shake my head. The XO has a Windows “slot” eh? Can’t wait to see that!

  2. 10 January 2008 11:57 pm

    Just found the following quote that backs up the Mayor’s reference to a Windows “slot” (aka SD card slot):

    “The main barrier is that the XO has only 1 GB of built-in memory and no hard drive, Utzschneider reportedly said. Accordingly, Microsoft has been exploring the idea of building Windows and Office on a 2 GB add-in card, but this would require writing new BIOS software for booting directly from the SD card.”

    from http://www.betanews.com/article/No_dualboot_OLPC_is_in_the_works_says_Microsoft/1199985722

  3. Robert permalink
    14 January 2008 11:14 pm

    I just ran across this blog, I’m so very very glad there are more of us in Birmingham that realize that this “Right Spot” campaign is a waste of time and resources, and mostly – a BAD IDEA for the churches involved.

    The “39 dollar” routers he is referring to do not have the capabilities for mass wifi usage. Much less do they allow specific packet filtering/ content filtering that is needed for such an application. That is why they are sold as “Home Wireless Routers.”

    As for as your “where to sit while using the wifi” question. Sadly i believe that Langford’s idea is that you wont have to go into the church, but rather sit in any park in Birmingham and use the wireless.

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