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wi-fi in cafes


glenn
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Who told you that you need to pay $500 for a "secure connection"? A $50 Linksys router can support dozens of sessions with state-of-the-art encryption, though you'll probably just want to opt for the ease of an open network and let the individual users know that firewalling their PCs is their responsibility.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
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Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Holly, at this point, I see my cafe being in both of those worlds at different times. I'm going to play it by ear.

Steven, let me preface this, which I think I've already made clear, that I know very little about this stuff. My info comes from various vendors I chatted with at the IH/M&RS. Obviously, they have a vested interest in seeing me shell out $500 for their product. My sole concern is protecting myself from any liability claims that may come from nefarious activity originating from my connection. If there is a way to use a basic wireless router to hold users accountable, great. Or, if as someone else said, I'm not liable in any event, than screw it. I have no desire to play cop.

To tell ya the truth, the thought of getting a secure connection never would have even crossed my mind if it wasn't for those vendors at the show.

Edited by glenn (log)
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Okay, Steven has a valid point, but so does glenn. He doesn't want to be held liable for that. However, Ma Bell isn't liable for people who use her to harass other people.

For ~400 or less, you can get a pc, a wireless adapter, and all of the software you need to filter out various ports, throttle connection speeds into, out of, and based on port, IP, whatever, and do any authentication you want. The array of choices you have is mind-boggling. That's why I suggested you get in touch with a linux users group or some other group along that line.

I'm going to come out and suggest that you buy a soekris net4501, demarctech wireless adapter, 256mb SANDISK compact flash, and check out m0n0wall. That will do most of everything you want and will be a minimum of a headache. A good geek can get it all running in 45 minutes or so and oughtn't charge you an arm and a leg. Find a poor comp sci college student who loves linux and pay him cash.

Edit to add, pay him/her cash to set it up, that is.

Edited by jsolomon (log)

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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As far as turnover, one of the coffee shop/diners I go to lets people stay as long as they want during their traditional slow times, but from 11am-2pm weekdays they ask that people take a table if they are having lunch (the place is across the street from the University of Washington.) This was true before they had wi-fi.

"Homer, he's out of control. He gave me a bad review. So my friend put a horse head on the bed. He ate the head and gave it a bad review! True Story." Luigi, The Simpsons

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Find a poor comp sci college student who loves linux and pay him cash.

Edit to add, pay him/her cash to set it up, that is.

Or even cheaper for you: just set up a deal wherebye he/she gets free food from your restaurant in exchange for services. You pay out a lot less than you would in cash, and he/she can have a place to grab some chow without cash from time to time. I know when I was a comp sci student I was more than willing to work for food (or liquor... but that is another story).

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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  • 10 years later...

Okay, the OP has probably made his by now, 10+ years ago, but a couple of thoughts for anyone else contemplating such a decision.

First and foremost, get a second connection that is totally separate from the one you use for your business and strongly suggest your business connection be not available via wi-first unless there is a compelling need for it. The cost for a low bandwidth connection should not be prohibitive.

As far as liability goes, I think it is a non-issue. Imagine car rentals, firearm manufacturers or even ISPs. They certainly are not liable for what their customers do.

Finally as to whether this is a good idea or a bad idea. Are you just a coffee and donut/snack place? Do you need to turn tables? Would your seating capacity be able to accommodate "campers"?

Free wi-fi is certainly a drawing card, but will it add to your bottom line?

p

Edited by palo (log)
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Yeah, ten years have gone by with that post, and during that time about 99% of the businesses have installed wi-fi.

 

My thoughts  as a cafe owner?

 

Wi-fi is a service that is provided to customers and it does cost a little.  There are basically two types of customers that use it.

 

The first is the "casual user",  the smart phone junkie who can't/won't survive 15 minutes without using their device.

 

The second is the "Camper" who will stay rooted to one spot for typically 70-90 minutes, or sometimes even longer with the purchase of a $3.00 beverage. 

 

The problem with the camper is that they have baggage.  They like to occupy a whole table, with their belongings scattered all over two chairs. Ideally this table should have an electrical outlet close by.  Failing that, they will sit at a bar counter and again, occupy a minimum of two seats (themselves plus their belongings).

 

Ther is no tactful way for an Cafe owner to tell a camper to pack up and move on after an hour.  On the other hand, a group of customers can tell the camper to go sit at the bar counter, because s/he is alone, and the group outnumbers the camper, without getting the camper angry at the Cafe owner.......

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