Starbucks Launches Free + Libre Wifi

I had seen the ecstatic proclamation of free wifi at Starbucks in the US a few weeks ago, but missed the announcement that the deal was coming to Canada on July 1st too.

To be clear, “free wifi” of a sort had been available at Starbucks previously: you had to have a account, and by logging in you could get 2 free hours/day. The new free wifi service is two-click: agree to the terms and click connect. (“Free wifi” versus “free free wifi”? “Free+libre wifi”?)

When you do so, it takes you to what is currently an almost blank version of the Sympatico portal:

I don’t know what the equivalent page looks like in the US, but I’m guessing that it’s more elaborate:
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Spring has sprung. Let’s meet!

Mo’s post to our mailing list:

After spending a lovely afternoon in Dufferin Grove the weekend before last, and seeing the enthusiasm so many people have about the wireless access there, I feel inspired to get together and make something new happen.

i think it might be a good time to get together and start hatching new plans.

Personally, I’d like to explore the idea that if we pick just one of all the great ideas that have been kicking around WT lately, and all get behind making it happen in the next two months, the combined energy and teamwork might help generate enough momentum to roll us into other projects.

So we’re on for Wednesday the 26th.

Let’s meet at the 3 Brewers on Yonge Street, south of Dundas, at 7pm.

Bring ideas!!

WT at Dufferin Grove Park for Jane’s Walk, May 1st

This Saturday, May 1st, WT will have a table at Dufferin Grove Park for Jane’s Walk. We’ll be chatting with folks about what we do, the service in the park, etc. One of the routers in the park is down, so this seems like the perfect time to fix that, too. There are official walks from 11-1 and 4-6, but if it’s a nice day there’ll probably be people around all day.

DGP is one of my favourite places in the city to spend the day; plan to come by and hang out!

More info:

In-Site Toronto

in-site torontoToday marks the launch of In-Site Toronto, a series of newly-commissioned artworks which will be presented on the portal pages at several Wireless Toronto hotspots. Artists Dave Dyment, Swintak, Jeremy Bailey, Fedora Romita, Willy Le Maitre and Brian Joseph Davis have created works that are automatically displayed when users log in to their Wireless Toronto user account at designated hotspots. The project is by media arts organization Year Zero One, is curated by Michelle Kasprzak, and was produced with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

The launch of the project will take place on March 31, 2010, at the El Mocambo (464 Spadina Ave, Toronto), in association with Spacing’s spring 2010 issue release party. Wednesday, March 31, 8pm-12am. Admission is $10 (gets you a new mag), or $5 for Spacing subscribers.

Hope to see you there!

For more info, see


Toronto wifi maps

In just the past few months, two new sites have launched, collecting & mapping info on locations of free wifi locations in Toronto.

“FWIT” offers short writeups on many spots: intends to map a user-gen list of hotspots, the WT hotspots, the TPL hotspots, and paid hotspots:

The original (as far as I know) in Toronto was Wireless Bandit, which was active from 2003-2005:

I really liked the Seattle/Vancouver Wifi Mug, but the wiki’s filling up with spam and the Google Map is broken: is attempting a global wifi map:

There are a bunch of important challenges to successfully running a site like this:
1) Collecting the information, either through legwork or by encouraging contributions from others.
2) Presenting the information in a helpful way, recognizing that different people will have different needs. (Is the captive portal mobile-friendly? Are there lots of power outlets? etc.)
3) Surely the hardest: keeping it up-to-date.

People often (very often) mistake as a website which maps free hotspots in Toronto (while in reality we set up free hotspots) — clearly people are looking for this kind of info. While we’d love to also map out others’ free wifi hotspots, we’ve got our hands full running and expanding our network… I hope that one (or more!) of these sites are successful!

WT volunteer tech training workshop

IMG_0016It’s been a while since I ran a router flashing/configuring/troubleshooting workshop. So I’m going to do one on Monday the 23rd, at 5:45pm, at 215 Spadina Ave., 4th floor.

The objective of this workshop (for me) is:

1. To train other folks so that they can help with Wireless Toronto router installations and/or to help fix routers that go down.

The objectives of this workshop (for you) are:

1. To learn how to do some basic stuff, so that you feel comfortable “adopting” a Wireless Toronto hotspot near you, and/or help installing new Wireless Toronto hotspots.
2. To learn generally about advanced wifi router configuration.

Here’s the tentative plan:

PART 1: Linksys WRT54GL
– Flashing firmware: why and how
– How to set up a router with wifidog for a Wireless Toronto hotspot
– A little bit about the wifidog auth server
– A teensy bit about tweaking settings for better wifi performance
– Things that might go wrong, and what to do if they do

PART 2: Open-mesh
– Mesh networks: what and why
– What I like and don’t like about open-mesh
– Compatible hardware
– How to set up a basic open-mesh network
– Things that might go wrong, and what to do if they do

I’m only going to cover concepts and technologies that directly relate to what Wireless Toronto does. If you’re interested in other stuff too, that’s totally cool — I’ll do my best to answer questions in the workshop, and we’ll have plenty of time to chat about other stuff over drinks afterwards. It’s not imperative that you bring a laptop, but it’s a good idea.

If you’re interested, but can’t make it on the 23rd, email me off-list — I’m open to scheduling another similar workshop in December or January. If people are interested, we can also plan some kind of advanced masterclass or something.

If you plan to come, drop me an email, just so I have a general idea of how many people are coming.

New hotspot: St. Louis Bar & Grill at Fairview Mall

stl-map The St. Louis Bar & Grill at Atrium on Bay has been a Wireless Toronto hotspot since it opened, just over two years ago. A new location has just opened this week, at Fairview Mall, and it’s now a WT hotspot too. Nice people, lots of TVs, and it looks like they’ll have a great patio in the spring.

Tip: you can’t actually get to it directly through the mall, you have to go outside. It’s on the southwest side, near Sears.

New hotspot: The 3 Brewers

3b-mapWireless Toronto’s newest hotspot is at The 3 Brewers, at 275 Yonge St., just south of Yonge-Dundas Square. The place is huge, and besides their brewed-on-site beers, they’re known for their tartes flambée (Hilary will be happy!).

Tip: the wifi is stronger on the lower floors.

Another attempt at Toronto muni wifi?

At today’s Government Management Committee meeting, a report will be received updating the committee on three public policy initiatives:

  1. Setting up a “Meraki-style” mesh network in one of the priority neighbourhoods.
  2. Allowing the Oxford Group to install free-to-use, sponsored public Internet terminals in one of the priority neighbourhoods.
  3. Setting up free-to-use public wifi at City Hall and in publicly-accessible areas in other city buildings.

The report is here; it’s quite good, actually:

In addition, the committee invited (through an RFI) “major leaders in the Wireless marketplace” to “present an overview of their Wireless strategic directions and plans.” Each will have 15-20 minutes to present. There’s a bit of info on this here:

Item 26.21 is scheduled for 1:30pm, and the meeting is in Committee Room 1; I hope to be there.

As I mentioned, I think the Staff Report is pretty good — it’s the first City document I’ve seen that shows a realistic approach to public wifi. Some highlights & thoughts:
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