Blogging on the run

This blog is coming to you courtesy of the wireless access at the Hampton Inn in West Hazelton, PA. I am blogging in my room without the nuisance of finding and using the data connection on the room phone. I just fired up the laptop and it informed me that the hotel had a connection waiting for me. Did that ever bring a smile to my face. Another Christmas present!

In the last few years, getting internet access on the road has been transformed from an ordeal to effortless simplicity. Two years ago I crossed the country twice while moving from San Jose, California to Charlottesville, Virginia. On those trips, too many motels either had no internet access or an expensive and slow dial-up access. I was offline for two whole weeks, an eternity in internet time.

Since then, wireless internet access has been creeping relentlessly across the country. Our five-year old Toshiba laptop recently started producing pop-up windows announcing wireless network connections. We didn’t know that it had wireless capability, and now it won’t shut up. Every time we turn it on, it finds more and more open connection points.

The other day, on a hunch, I took my laptop with me on a trip into
Charlottesville. In almost every parking lot, I found evidence of
wireless network connections. Most required access codes, but about a
third provided open access.

Parking outside Starbucks, I found two connections, one from
Starbucks. Clicking on the Starbucks link, I was given a choice of
pricy options for access through their connection. Since I was only
window shopping, I declined to sign up and headed for home.

I finally stopped for a latte at my local coffee shop, the Kafe,
near Lake Monticello, VA, where they have great coffee and now offer
free wireless access for patrons.  Fast and free, it was a great deal.
I was able to surf the net with no delay.

This seems to be an increasingly popular means of stimulating
traffic for shops of this type. The most interesting thing about the
Kafe connection is that the wireless connection was only  available
inside the shop. I could not detect their connection from the parking
lot.

I needed to blog about this before it becomes as common as cellphone
access. At the current rate, that will probably occur this summer. We
may look back next holiday season and have difficulty remembering when
it took a cable to get internet access.

On other fronts, we expect to switch to an internet-based telephone
system this year. The cost savings are too big to ignore. VOIP systems
like VONAGE look like the next wave for home phone systems. There is
more work to be done, but the tipping point has definitely been
reached.

How many of you have made the shift or are contemplating VOIP?

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