stingy with the wireless

I am the intern for the Writing Program’s technology guru. I get to sit in his office and participate in tales of woe, cries for help, curses, shrieks, and (sometimes) simple how-do-I-do-this queries from teachers and students alike.

Yesterday a staffer popped into the office to ask how to set her wireless hub at home so that it blocked unauthorized users.

Now, normally I sit quietly and listen to George’s wisdom. Rarely, if ever, do I volunteer advice or opinions unless they are solicited.

But yesterday I was shocked.

“You mean,” I interjected, “you don’t want me to park outside your house with my laptop and borrow your connection?” I half-joked.

“Yeah,” she says.

“Really? You don’t want to share?”

“No way,” she says. “They’re not paying for it; I am. They can get their own connection.”

I turn to George. “Now, if I *do* sit outside her house in my car catching her signal, does that slow her connection down?”

“Only if, say, 20 people parked in her driveway at the same time to use it.”

I turn back to the inquirer, who, at this point, is getting a bit defensive. “Nothing’s being *taken* from you. Why do you feel the need to lock it down?”

“Because it’s mine. I’m paying for it.”

Well. I let it drop, though I probably could have continued ribbing her for her paranoia and stingyness for several more minutes.

Is it because I’m a near-socialist that I would be happy to share my wireless with a neighbor? HAPPY. I mean it. I’m paying for it anyway, and it’s not like portions of food that disappear with increased mouths or electricity that costs more as your draw increases.

It reminded me of this article I saw on BoingBoing a few weeks back: Philly prepares to offer free WiFi citywide. I went back to the article and realized that this isn’t the start of the utopia it should be, and even that this move might be a BAD idea if it will prevent other urban areas from being able to institute similar programs.

At any rate. I will not be locking down my wireless hub anytime soon.

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11 thoughts on “stingy with the wireless

  1. Wow that is truly amazing. Remember the good ole days when the guys at Radio Shack could help you steal your neighbor’s cable? It always amazes me how well internalized the idea of *mine* becomes in a capitalist society. Heck, I want to get wireless now so that I, too, can spread the joy.

  2. Wow that is truly amazing. Remember the good ole days when the guys at Radio Shack could help you steal your neighbor’s cable? It always amazes me how well internalized the idea of *mine* becomes in a capitalist society. Heck, I want to get wireless now so that I, too, can spread the joy.

  3. We got wireless in our apartment and we made a point of telling everyone in our building that we had it and if they wanted to tap into it, they could. It’s just silly, unless you’re sending top secret messages or something.

  4. Americans have so many issues over the concept of ownership. And of course, when it comes right down to it, we don’t *really* own anything ….

    I’m guessing the person in question is a control freak. I’d much rather be neighbors with you.

  5. I heard a while back that dowtown Syracuse was going to have free wireless, but never heard whether it actually happened or not. I love it when commercial establishments offer free wireless access, but haven’t found one here yet.

  6. One question–if folks can access your wireless, does that make it easier for them to hack into your stuff? Just wondering…

    Sign me,
    Always One Step Behind

    P.S.–To poach on our wireless, you’d have to park in our driveway, which would confuse the dog, or sit on our patio, and it’s waaaaay too cold for that just now!

  7. I’m on a roll tonight…

    This is a great anecdote and in some ways a methaphor for what has become of the Internet. I’ve never been keen on people who do the whole “back in the day…” thing, but I do remember (in my AF days circa 1986) working on the old ARPA net and wondering how this “web” thing was going to work out. Just look at what happend to Netscape — the good and the bad. Human nature and capitalism.

  8. Well, for anyone interested, folks are not only doing drive-by search and seek looking for a free unlocked hub, they in fact have done this to our system time and again and it doesn’t take 20 people to slow it down or detect that someone’s using your hub. There’s also the concern that whatever these people are seeking, downloading and or hacking is being done through your link-up and ISP.

    I don’t think it’s being over-cautious at all in locking down your wireless hub anymore than it is to permit someone free use your telephone line to call in a bomb threat.

    It’s only a matter of common sense to consider that folks who need or intentionally want to hack onto your wireless hub are not going to remain within legal boundaries of internet use. It’s not the same as a WIFI community hub. These folks are searching for a private open hub most likely for particular reasons, not to just merely and innocently borrow your connection.

    So for all the folks who posted with comments of “give me a freakin break” or “get a life,” you might want to consider just how someone might be using your hub and whether you are liable to any extent.

  9. thanks for the balancing. we all need it once in a while, me especially.

    of course, it never occurred to me that ISP is how they track people…

    although, i must admit, there’s something strangely uncool about people checking other people’s doings out by tracking ISP numbers. i suppose i simply (and frequently naively) assume that given the chance, people will ultimately do good.

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