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PingWi-Fi, Keeping Austin UnWired At SXSW

March 31st, 2010 · Tags:Coffee Shops · Hotels · Satire · Sports · Uncategorized

My first Wi-Fi road trip — an 18,000-mile excursion a few years earlier — wrapped up in Austin with a quick visit to the Wi-Fi Alliance world headquarters and another music festival.

So, Austin’s recent SXSW festival was not my first rodeo, but it certainly wasn’t the end of the road either. And frankly this time I hit more old favorites than new Wi-Fi hotspots. But that’s okay. For me, what makes Wi-Fi special is that it creates a gathering place and community.

Usually, I can find some pretty interesting stuff to upload with Wi-Fi too … say like photos of any one of the thousands of people doing their part to keep Austin Weird on 6ixth Street during SXSW. (Here is a heartfelt ballad … a tribute to them … complete with slow-mo thrashing.):

So, my gig is to review Wi-Fi hotspots … everywhere I go … connecting the dots coast to coast. I am so obsessed with this that I once proposed to my sponsor that I strap on a wireless router and become a walking Internet connection. We didn’t do it. (The negotiations broke down when they wanted me to wear a Star Trek ensign’s uniform. Ha! Can you believe that? I of course held out for the captain’s suit …) But anyway, if you are interested, I still own the URL www.humanhotspot.com … I digress …

Hey, maybe this guy would be interested in that link? Is that the gear required to get on Clear? LOL. I was torn between following him and following this girl ragging on “her parents”:

Why Wi-Fi? Certainly other wireless offerings, especially 4G WiMax solutions, have great benefits. But who wouldn’t rather sit and sip a latte with other laptop types and rock stars as opposed to using an aircard on the side of the road?

For instance …

One of the new hotspots where I did much of my blogging and editing was my hotel — room, lobby, breakfast room. The Residence Inn downtown sits caddy-corner to the Austin Convention Center, shares a lobby with a perhaps even nicer hotel with lots of musicians running around.

I met a guy on the elevator whom I think was the bassist for — Lucero — a band playing at SXSW. Although he was not doing his part to keep Austin wireless. Poor guy. His jaw was broken, and he was wired shut, tighter than a Canadian power trio. Good think he wasn’t the singer.

http://www.luceromusic.com/site/index.php

And … The Residence Inn is one of these newer hotels that are not stingy with electrical outlets — for my iPhone, two laptops, camera, video camera and nose hair trimmers. (I lied about the trimmers.)

The Residence Inn — a Marriott property — has a decent Champions sports bar, a built in Starbucks, great rooms with a new kitchen and a view. The glass in the windows didn’t shatter despite the thumping bass of a SXSW party across the street. They provide microwave popcorn in the room and Texas-shaped waffles at the breakfast for starving artists … and the Wi-Fi was faultless – 6 Pings

Sadly I didn’t get a chance to check out Little City this time, and I am dying to know if they are still open, and if they still have the Sun Ra photo behind the bar.

I did however hit up another great find from last year’s SXSW — Halcyon.

http://www.halcyonaustin.com/

(How many of you can define halcyon, without Googling or Binging it?) Well … if you look it up, it prolly says “really, really cool coffee bar.” The joint has hippie pillow booths, funky drinks, mod couches, beautiful people and bohemians, all maneuvering for prime seating. The music … okay … but I opted for earbuds and TOMOC (tunes of my own choosing …) I believe I may have detected weed wafting in from the concert crowd up and down the street. How very Austin.

I love me some Halcyon or I wouldn’t have been a repeat offender there, but I do deduct one point for a shortage of juice — electrical outlets — not pomegranate or whatever. Oh … met a Pakistani med student there, from Fort Worth. Sweet and diverse, yet down home — 5 pings.

I throw in a Starbucks review from time to time, although their Wi-Fi networks are usually of uniform top quality, like their drinks from one store to the next. This time, I hit up the Bux in the hotel lobby.

My drink was perfect, I met the photographer/road manager for Broken Social Scene, and the Wi-Fi was adequate. Part of the store is basically a hallway with tables on either side … a little small for some of the egos in the room — 4 pings.

http://www.redhedpictures.com/

I didn’t get to see Seattle Best Coffee shop or Zanzibar this time, but I shout out anyway.

But, I did make the little drive north of SXSW to the lake shore for some quality time at one of my favorites in the entire USA — Mozart’s.

http://www.mozartscoffee.com/

Good honk! I thought this place was a mecca for Wi-Fi a few years back. This time, I swear there must have been 20 laptops drinking from the free Wi-Fi network.

Me and Mozart’s cofee shop make beautiful music together. Every friend I have from Austin loves this place … and apparently so do about half of the UT student body. I had some sort of Tex-Mex cheese and sausage pie and some classical Wi-Fi — perfect, 7 pings.

Repeatedly, while at SXSW I tested the Wi-Fi at the convention center. I was impressed … much better than last year when peeps in the blogger’s lounge spent more time complaining about the connectivity than they did retweeting each other.

I sat up shop in the corner of the lobby, uploaded blogs and videos, “downloaded” free PingWi-Fi t-shirts, tweeted anything from rock star sightings to fashion reports … and made a friend who sells Texas-shaped guitars. No problems, mon. Not a bad day at Wi-Fi. Austin Convention Center Wi-Fi and SXSW Wi-Fi — 6 pings.

And somewhere between Wi-Fi, blogging, tweets, photos on Flickr and TwitPic, interviews, etc. … I tried to take in SXSW. Here are my findings in that regard:

Ten Bears

Ten Bears

Smith Westerns

Smith Westerns

John Smith

John Smith

Grave Babies

Grave Babies

Active Child harpist ... yes, harpist:)

Active Child harpist ... yes, harpist:)

Most Fun Band of Festival ... ?

Most Fun Band of Festival ... ?

You Tell Me?

You Tell Me?

Unsigned, I Take It

Austin Keepers

Austin Keepers

Drum Line

Drum Line

Know what I sayin?