Monday, May 4, 2009

WiFi Locations

I recently received a comment on my Mainstreet Coffee review about free WiFi and it prompted me to do something I've been meaning to do for some time, namely, start listing WiFi locations for cafes.

This is a pretty big concern since all of the big players, like Starbucks or Barnes & Noble, are still trying to charge for WiFi. And the only big players offering free WiFi, like Panera Bread, suck. They're slow, with connection errors, and only get worse when the place gets crowded with laptops.

And the last one has fallen. Everyone can welcome Starbucks into 2005, since they've finally started offering free WiFi. As near as I can tell, ALL major companies are now offering free WiFi.

Barnes & Noble is now offering completely free WiFi. It's still quite inferior to the local cafes, though. It's slow as shit, just like Panera, and it has a "portal" page, through which you must sign in, just like Panera. This sucks if you have a cell phone, or want to connect to the internet through something other than a browser (Like Yahoo! Go). Cell phone browsers, at least the ones based on WebKit that I use, usually won't even connect. Contrast this with Coffee Exchange, which has an open connection to which you simply connect.

Barnes & Noble even does one better by using the free connection as an opportunity to advertise AT&T "premium" access, whatever the hell that is. So while it initially seemed that B&N had figured out that WiFi as a business plan was as stupid as a pet rock, they actually haven't. It might explain why, during a recent visit, even with a massive FREE WI-FI sign and a filled-to-capacity cafe, not a single person was on a laptop or cellphone.

Borders Books has just followed in the footsteps of Barnes & Noble and started offering free wifi. If you think the sign-in pages at the others is bad, they take it a step further by actually having a small application run in the background that keeps your connection open. It hijacks your computers network connection ability. That's some bad mojo, in my book. UPDATE I just ran Borders on a laptop. The application is apparently only opened on cell phones. It DOES NOT open on my laptop. Not like it matters. The connection is just as bad as Panera, which means just barely usable. The connection is far too slow to do anything but check e-mail. No YouTube, no music, no nothing. Hell, it took 30+ seconds for my Yahoo! page to load. Pathetic.

Panera Bread has done Borders one better by filtering their WiFi to include totally legitimate services, such as This means that you will not be able to click links received via Twitter. Combined with a connection that borders on dead, Panera's WiFi is pretty much useless. I'd recommend buying food there and going to Starbucks or Barnes & Noble. Or better yet, go to a local shop that has gen-yoo-ine decent WiFi.

I'll concentrate on cafes and restaurants, since it seems kinda' weird to list places like clinics that offer waiting room internet.

I would appreciate additions from readers.

I'm adding star reviews to the cafe's and places I've been to. Some of the reviews are to places I haven't formally written about, so I'm just throwing in the stars I would have given had I written a full entry.

All LocationsCranstonProvidenceMiddletownNorth KingstownNewportWakefieldSouth KingstownJohnstonWesterly

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