I’m at the Renton Transit Center, on the 106, waiting to pull out and head back to Seattle. Which reminds me, I rode a brand, spanking new 101 down here: a new style of seats, a new style of straps, and clea-ean. I took a pretty bad photo of the seats on my way out, which I might post later. I digress.
I’m running out of time to tell you that my beloved (and somewhat beleaguered) laptop just connected to somebody’s unsecured network long enough for me to check my Facebook feed (yes, I have an addiction) and my e-mail. Back when unsecured networks were the norm, Nerd and I used to jump on them at lights and stops almost every time we rode the 48. Ah, those were the days!
(Update, 3/3: Here’s my (blurry) photo of the seats.)
Despite the fact that I’m kind of done talking about bus hackers (ST is aware of–and hopefully working on–the problem, after all) Bus Nerd is making me post this:
It’s a screen shot of his network connection dialog during a recent ride on the 545. (This time it was coach 9539.) All told, he’s experienced this issue three times in the past few weeks. Just so you know.
Let me start by saying that, as cool as I find the concept, wireless access on buses is not high on my transit wish list. It’s not in the top 10–or even (I’m guessing, since I haven’t made a list this long) in the top 50. I dream of: more shelters, bus-tracking information at major stops, more frequent and comprehensive service, a really good system map, light rail. Wireless access while I ride? Merely a nice-to-have.
Except, so far, it’s not that nice to have.
I don’t know if we’re officially out of pilot stage yet (if not, it’s been a really long pilot), but if this is the way it’s going to work long-term, I would advise Metro and Sound Transit to invest the money and resources in something else. On the rare occasions I actually manage to connect to an access point (usually on the 545–perhaps twice on the 48), it’s forever until I actually get an IP address. Assuming I manage that, the connection is so grindingly slow that all the applications that are trying to connect start to hang, and pretty soon, my laptop becomes completely unusable.
I’d rather read a book or take a nap (shoot, even eavesdrop) than fuss with my laptop for 30 minutes just to send one e-mail. It’s just not that deep. For now, if I just have to get on the internets while on the bus, I’ll wait for a long traffic light and connect to one of the gazillion unsecured personal networks (can you say “Linksys”?) out there.