August 22, 2003

Wi not Wi-Fi on Trains?

Brian Micklethwait | Rail General

David Sucher links to and quotes from this guy, who links to this piece about Wi-Fi on trains. Wi-Fi is Tec-No-Babl for being able to access the internet when on the move.

Wireless access to networks has already made its way onto planes, and if Canadian start-up PointShot has its way, trains are the next stop.

PointShot Wireless on Monday will announce a test with Altamont Commuter Express Rail to make Wi-Fi access available on the California rail operator's trains. The test will begin in mid-September and last three months. Train travelers will have free access to the Internet through PointShot's servers, which will be stored on the train. The route runs from Stockton, Calif., to San Jose, Calif. Passengers will only need a notebook computer or a handheld with the ability to connect to Wi-Fi networks.

The bit of the PointShot Wireless site dealing with this stuff is here.

Personally I prefer books for doing something meaningful on the train. Remember books? Plus, if I used a computer, and if the guy next to me was using a computer, I'd find his computer more interesting than my computer. But although I've computed regularly I've never commuted regularly, so what do I know?

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Comments

Here's a few things that you can do in the bandwidth that is available via wifi (802.11b is the official designation):

1. browse the web including reading books (try the gutenberg project or the baen free library)
2. create a VPN connection so your computer looks like it's at the office and you can get some work done
3. listen to streaming audio
4. watch streaming video
5. run a nifty game server for the amusement of your commuting compatriots (the 21st century equivalent of the commuter bridge game)

This list is not exhaustive, just what I could think of when I'm exhausted. Wifi has the possibility of creating on the fly communities, especially when it's combined with rendezvous (zeroconf) networking technology. Oh, that reminds me, #6 on the list would be networking opportunities on the commute to and from work.

Posted by TM Lutas on August 23, 2003

GNER are going to have WiFi on their London - Edinburgh trains from next year.

Posted by David Farrer on August 23, 2003

That may be the first time I've officially been called "this guy," but thanks for the link.

I think the benefit for Wi-Fi, at least in the states, is for the business clientele. While it's fun to browse the Internet, download streaming audio, etc., TM Lutas has it right with #2 -- the business community will go nuts the ability to do work as if at their office computers while commuting to and from work and while on business travel. When that becomes the norm, the extra hour or two saved on the plane (but with the added hassle of getting to the airport and getting through security) will not longer be a draw, as people will be able to work just as if they were in the office.

Posted by Aaron G. on August 23, 2003

Don't discount the idea of non-business uses. One of the biggest drivers in video cards is the gamer market, for example. TVoIP will be a huge bandwidth use IMO and create a great opportunity.

Posted by TM Lutas on August 24, 2003

The tricky part of this is going to be getting the connection to the outside world right. Getting a satellite link that is stable, high speed, and relatively inexpensive is likely to be fairly tricky, I would think.

Posted by Michael Jennings on August 24, 2003

I spend an hour and a half a day on the Munich underground commuting to & from work, it's the only productive time I get to work on my *interesting* programming project, as opposed to at home (baby) or at work (non-interesting programming project). Having internet access would be a disaster, I'd never get anything done.

Posted by Alan Little on September 3, 2003

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