Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Portsmouth Wi-Fi Planning Meeting

We met on Tuesday at City Hall. Here are some random notes/musings from the meeting.

This year's usership numbers are looking exceptionally strong. I'll report on them once we've had a chance to de-dupe and verify the numbers, but we're looking at another year of serious if not exponential growth, which certainly seems to validate our efforts.

We've now got a plan for how and where to install a mesh network with a handful of access points that would cover the key downtown areas. We're looking at phased implementation in that we need to install the "head" of the network first; that's the most difficult and expensive part of the process. Then, like hangman, we can add arms and legs to expand the wi-fi reach around town.

So the technical part is fleshing out nicely. As for the funding and "model," it looks like it'll be a hydrid of a few different ones. It appears there will be private sponsorship opportunities, perhaps as modest as $2500 (or the cost of one color print ad in a magazine, for example). These will fund our initial rollout. Our goal is to get the head in place about the same time that the kiosk hotspot shuts down for the winter. More details of course will be released when this becomes more official.

Monday, September 18, 2006

If Boston is "The Hub," then is Portsmouth a spoke in the wheel? Portsmouth certainly seemed at the center of things over the weekend as two significant cultural events converged on downtown, and I was happy to participate in both of them.

Portsmouth Criterium
Speaking of spokes, wheels were turning fast (exclusive video footage!) (warning - big file!) on Saturday. My troupe and I rode our bikes downtown, partly for some much-needed exercise and partly in homage to Criterium that we were going to attend. The event organizers hit a homerun by instituting a kids race -- they had 45 kids last year and anticipated 120 kids this year, but at the predetermined registration closing time, there was still a long line of hopeful youngsters. They ended up running double heats for all three age groups just to accommodate them all! The helmet fitting/adjustment booth and bicycle saftey check, both staffed by volunteers, was a really nice touch. In fact, my old friend Billy from Exeter Cycles filled my tires as well as my daughter's. Thanks Billy! Our 10-12 year olds loved that they could do the same lap that the pros did.

Anyway, the day was a smashing success from a spectator standpoint. As for the business side, I was pleased to see in this Portsmouth Herald article that only a few downtown shop owners were lamenting the closed streets, lack of parking, and distracted crowds. Some businesses may indeed suffer a one-day hit on Market Square Day and other annual events, but I've always thought this is short-sighted, and this year, it's great to see that they were the exception as more businesses reported more cash in their registers than on an average weekend day.

Indeed, after the women's race, we grabbed grub at Gilly's and Popovers and BagelWorks (different strokes for different spokes?), and between the start of the semi-pro mens and the finish of the pro mens race, we ate and drank at the Coat of Arms. This all on a day when we wouldn't have otherwise been downtown. I recall there was resistance to another event that closed downtown when the Crit idea was first floated a few years back; perhaps the naysaying business-owners spoke too soon?

Telluride by the Sea

Then in the evening, we attended the showing of The US vs John Lennon at The Music Hall. It'll be coming to mainstream theaters, but part of the experience was the crowd at the Music Hall. People were hissing (who hisses anymore?!) at G. Gordon Liddy, J. Edgar Hoover, and Richard Nixon and singing along (pretty well, thanks to good acoustics) to "Give Peace a Chance." You might say it was WILD, man.

The documentary itself, from a film-making perspective, was excellent. But I was blown away by the content, i.e., what it was like in the late 60s and early 70s. My first and overarching reaction was -- with the FBI involved in illegal wiretapping; the administration stubbornly remaining embroilled in an unpopular, pointless, and unwinnable war, and the encumbent president winning re-election despite his questionable character and performance in office -- ummm, what year IS this anyway?! The more things change, the more they stay the same, apparently.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Mr. Softy is Comin' to Town

The E-Coast Insider Reports... As I noted in this space a few months ago, a local software firm has indeed been bought out by a large -- OK, *the* large -- software firm, yes, Microsoft itself. The local entity is/was DesktopStandard, a 30-something person outfit up Islington St. The deal is signed (but not finalized, hence no official announcement yet) and a dozen or so programmer/developer types are already relocated to Redmond. According to my source, the remainder of the company will reform into a smaller firm, selling the one product in their suite that Microsoft didn't buy. I note this as the 2nd time in the past few months that a whale-sized tech company has snapped up a tiny fish from our eCoast -- recall Cisco bought Meetinghouse for $30 million a while back. It's a ringing endorsement for the eCoast as a whole when world-class companies put up the cash for enterprising local firms. Redmond's gain is Portsmouth's loss; congratulations to the founders and the employees of DesktopStandard!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Did anybody else notice that today, on the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the covers of the three major news magazines? Time and US News & World Report both had 9/11-themed covers, as you might expect. Newsweek, OTOH, chose to cover the story of today's overworked elementary schoolers "Today's First Grade; Too Much, Too Soon" Did anybody else notice this? Does this strike anybody else as weird? I mean, it's a valid and worthy news story, but what makes them put it on the cover on the 5th anniversary of 9/11? I'd love to have been a fly on the wall in Newsweek's editorial offices at that meeting!