WellUrban

Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

I can see my house from here - part 3

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This is the third instalment of a series covering mapping sites, remote sensing and other views of Wellington that are available on the web. Previously, I've dealt with satellite imagery and aerial photography, as well as topographical and street maps. This time I'll look at a map that shows an invisible but nevertheless important aspect of downtown Wellington: WiFi access points.

CaféNET is a fantastic asset for the city, but as of yet it is still far from ubiquitous, so it's important to know where you can get connected. Their website has a map of Wellington coverage, but it's broken down into quarters, making it hard to get the big picture of coverage throughout the city. So after a fairly rough bit of Photoshop hacking, this was the result.

Combined map of CafeNET hotspots in Wellington - original maps by quarter are available at http://www.cafenet.co.nz/zones/wellington/map/index.html
It looks like a fairly good distribution, and for visiting businesspeople up the suity end of town, there are certainly plenty of places to grab a post-meeting coffee while mailing off the latest sales projections. But what about a spot of leisurely dinnertime blogging, or surfing with a snifter of Cognac? After hours, you're more likely to head for the Courtenay/Cuba end of town, but the picture there is decidedly patchy.

In fact, many of the "hot spots" marked on the Willis and Cuba quarters are daytime-only cafés, offices, photocopy shops or "general coverage", which means that unless you can find a nearby café that manages to grab a little bit of bandwidth inside, you'll have to be prepared to share a bench with Blanket Man. I was excited when I heard that new hot spots were opening up in upper Cuba St, but so far I've found that coverage is intermittent in Olive and virtually nonexistent in Floriditas. If this is your hood, you'll have to wander down to Felix for post-prandial bandwidth. (Update: I've just heard that the Cuba Mall coverage around Slow Boat records and Olive had a glitch but should now be fixed).

Things are even worse in southeast Te Aro. If you find yourself in that part of town after dark and fancy some time on the wireless web, then it's time for a trip to Courtenay Place. I haven't tried out the coverage in Hummingbird or Establishment, but on all but the quietest evenings they would seem far from conducive to relaxed surfing. Espressoholic seems like the place to be, judging from the number of glowing Apple logos on display the last time I was there.

Aside from CaféNET, there are a lot of enthusiasts offering access points around the city. NodeDB is a worldwide project that helps people list and locate such places, and this is what their map for Wellington looks like:

NodeDB map of Wellington
As far as I know, none of these access points are being set up as free-for-all Internet access points. Some are just for testing, but some say that if you ring or email ahead, they'll give you access. I haven't tested any of these myself, but as these people seem keen to offer a cooperative wireless network, feel free to give it a go.

Wireless LANs are notorious for their poor security, and if you've ever tried connecting to CaféNET you may have noticed various unsecured networks detected by your computer. It may even be possible to just go ahead and connect to these, surfing away for free on some poor sucker's bandwidth: I couldn't possibly comment. So far, I haven't seen any warchalking signs in Wellington, but maybe I just haven't been looking closely enough.

2 Comments:

At 4:32 PM, November 29, 2005, Blogger the_sifter said...

I just war-drove...er, rather - performed an unrequested security scan between the airport and The Terrace. 119 wifi networks, almost half unsecured.

Including one that was named "Joe Blogg's Computer"... (NB - names have been changed to protect the innocent)

 
At 9:42 AM, December 01, 2005, Blogger Jo Hubris said...

The Saint James/Jimmy has a cafenet sign in its window, and given the abundance of room there, it might be a good place to write a novel in, although there's always the risk that you might get sabotaged by some deranged phantom...

 

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