Monday, 6 October 2008

Wi-Fi Chicago
Wi-Fi Chicago
Tap into Windy City Wi-Fi spots: locations, how-tos, and more.
Thursday Jan 15, 2004. By David Burn

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When it comes to coffeeshop technology, Barbara Clifford is not looking to upgrade to a new espresso machine. As the proprietor of MoJoe’s Coffee Cafe in Roscoe Village, she’s looking to bring wireless fidelity, a 802.11 networking platform commonly known as Wi-Fi, into her shop so patrons can wirelessly “plug in” to the Internet and multitask to their hearts content, all while enjoying a muffin and cup of piping hot coffee.

As more and more computing is being done outside the home and office environments, laptops and handhelds, like the cell phone blitz that preceded them, are fast becoming a ubiquitous site in the public realm. The digerati are streaming into a cornucopia of Wi-Fi hotspots to check e-mail, send instant messages, and update their Weblog, or blog. Hotspots provide a radio signal that typically reaches 100 to 300 feet, enabling Wi-Fi-ready devices to tap into the local network and the vast Internet beyond.

Chicago’s Fulton River District, a warehouse area west of the Loop and popular among Internet startups, is home to two local providers of free Wi-Fi—Jerry’s Sandwiches at 1045 W. Madison and Westgate Coffeehouse at 924 W. Madison.

Jerry’s Sandwiches is a small breakfast and lunch spot with a strong emphasis on high quality, fresh ingredients. Husband-and-wife team Mark Bires and Mindy Friedler (who also run a catering company out of the location) provide a simple to use, highly available Wi-Fi network for their patrons, much to the confusion of the occasional diner who asks for “Some of that free Wi-Fi on the menu.” In the burgeoning world of Wi-Fi, it may be some time before everyone realizes that Wi-Fi is not a food item. Bires said he installed a Wi-Fi network at home and then realized it would be a logical step to bring the same technology into his work environment.

Since he decided to forgo an e-commerce model as provided by Boingo and several others, his Wi-Fi set up was cheap and easy to install. He simply added a wireless router costing less than $100 to his existing DSL account. Bires’ generosity and enlightened point-of-view on free Internet access is further evidenced in his open-to-all, no sign-up or passwords needed, approach.

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