New York parks get free wifi and plenty of strings attached

If you thought cable companies Time Warner and Cablevision had any goodwill in their corporate veins, give up. The two companies are sinking a modest $10 million into wifi networks for 32 New York City parks. In exchange, they get a decade-long renewal on their cable market access to the city. So, $10 million in trade for more than 8 million people, some of whom are just dying to sink money into their television habits … not a bad deal, right? That’s just over a dollar a person!

Try again.

Since these two companies can’t be seen as caring about the community, they’re only willing to pony up three 10-minute sessions per person per month for park wifi access, with any extra use costing $0.99 a day. The users, rather than the cable companies, pay the proverbial dollar.

Or, you could just head over to one of the streets that surrounds the park and try to nab an unsecured connection from one of the residences.

[photo by Tony the Misfit via Flickr]

Anti-wi-fi paint will make it harder to scam free Internet

The days of scamming free wireless Internet may soon be over.

Researchers at the University of Tokyo have developed a paint that blocks wifi signals. So if a room is painted with this stuff, only computers inside the room would be able to pick up a wireless signal originating there. At a projected cost of £10 ($16) a kilo, the paint would be a cheap way of keeping hackers and moochers from using your wireless to download dodgy files.

The paint is infused with an aluminum-iron oxide that blocks all radio signals at 100Ghz, the frequency at which wifi transmits.

As ingenious as this sounds, there are a couple of downsides. First, it won’t protect the user from online threats, and of more importance to travelers, it will stop people from scamming free Internet while on the go. In Madrid I can go to my local park, pop open my laptop, and surf the Internet on somebody else’s euro. I can do this in many other European capitals too. With all the new costs being added to airline tickets, it would be a shame if this travel freebie were to disappear.

Perhaps we should tell the nice folks at the University of Tokyo “thanks but no thanks”? Anybody know how to say that in Japanese?

Steal Boingo wireless by clearing your cookies

If you’ve got time to kill at the airport, wireless can be a life saver. In most terminals, however, wireless isn’t free, and three out of four of the available providers charge an arm and a leg for service. So what’s a cheapskate to do to access his Facebook account without paying through the nose?

Steal wireless, of course. Most people know that if they stand with the proximity of an airline lounge, many of the clubs have unsecured wireless networks. Other open signals can proliferate through the terminal as well, and its not uncommon to see people wandering around the empty halls, holding up notebooks to the sky.

Another way that one can score free wireless comes by using a loophole in the Boingo “sponsored ad” service. Many (not all) Boingo hotspots offer a few minutes free for those willing to jump through a hoop or watch an ad or try out a free service. In JFK’s terminal 8, one can get 20 minutes of free service by trying out Microsoft’s substandard search engine, Bing.

Boingo and your web browser calculate this time using what’s called a cookie, a small thread of data that’s stored on your computer. And cookies, like all security tidbits, are removable. All that you have to do is clear your cookies, reload the Boingo page a few times and reclick the free service ad. In Firefox, it goes like this:

  • Connect to the Boingo hotspot.
  • If you don’t immediately see an ad for sponsored service, reload the page or navigate around a bit on the Boingo website. It’s possible that this market doesn’t have a sponsor, so don’t be disappointed if nothing pops up.
  • Jump through the hoops for free service.
  • Update your Facebook status, Tweet what underpants you’re wearing and stalk your new love interest online.
  • When you run out of time, click Edit|Preferences|Privacy|Show Cookies
  • Ignoring all of your embarassing stored cookies, navigate down to “” or anything with boingo in it.
  • Click “Remove Cookies”
  • Reload the Boingo connection page. If necessary, disconnect from the wifi network and reconnect.
  • Repeat

Easy as pie, and before you know it, it’ll be boarding time. Happy browsing!