Thursday, November 27, 2003

I am in Adelaide now for the last week and I have had a really interesting experience using wi-fi in the city. Citilan the wireless network is serviced by two providers Airnet and Internode. There has been lots of newspaper coverage and online promotion about it so I had been looking forward to using it. They have hotspots throughout the main city centre and it looks very dense and impressive on online maps.

This all sounds terrific. However accessing the system is not easy. There is no signage in the main city mall which is odd considering it was officially launched in September. The coverage in the main pedestrian mall is sometimes patchy which meant that I could not even sense Citilan at first due to the location of my first seat. I then went into a café and looked online and found the two service providers through the Citilan site. I called one as the online packages seemed expensive for a visitor and spoke to an operator who explained that there were better deals than those listed on the website. I could in fact use my (actually Nina's) credit card to become a member for one month for $11; which includes 50hours of dial up time and wireless internet in the city centre. All very complicated but very interesting as it took us at 3 hours and 3 cafes to work it all out.

I have found that using a laptop in the open has developed my understanding of the environment to know locations to power up, to get the best signal and protection from the weather. Firstly I have gathered enough experience to know the best seats in the Mall for the strongest signal. I have never had four full bars of signal but three means it is a good place to sit. Then I have to choose a seat that is sun protected as the screen can be difficult to read and it's bad for your skin (33degrees lately). There are also variables that make these good locations problematic; the sun moves and the cells experience interference.

Right now I am sitting in a cafe in which I can only see the wi-fi cell if I stand on the balcony and rest my laptop on the railing... not very safe or comfortable. So I have been writing emails and downloading web pages standing up and then sitting down to read them. Nina, Genevieve and I have joked about attaching some kind of bungee cord to the laptop, for safety reasons as well as a way to drop it into wifi signal areas. Given our location, a boomerang laptop could also be interesting.

Speaking of which… what do you call a boomerang that doesn’t come back?
A stick.