The Right Coast

October 14, 2004
Guilty pleasure
By Tom Smith

I just discovered a big comfy chair in a little used Starbucks which is a hot spot for the wireless network of the office across the parking lot. So I can sit there and actually work on my brilliant article and nobody even knows where I am! O bliss! (I need internet access to work. Most articles are online and it's so nice just to be able to bookmark them. Paper is evil.)

It is wrong to free ride on somebody's wireless network this way? Maybe technically. But it doesn't seem any worse really to me than standing outside Isaac Stern (or some great living musician)'s window and listening to him practice. They really should encrypt their network, but I'm not about to try to get any information from them; I wouldn't know how, anyway. I guess you could apply the Golden Rule and say, would I want somebody free riding on my wireless network? Well, no. But if I knew to the same degree of certainty that that person is as honest as I am, I wouldn't care. Of course, that's impossible to know. You could say I'm just converting what would otherwise be wasted bandwidth into something valuable, and in my case, incredibly valuable. Along these lines, some guy was recently arrested in SoCal for driving around at night without pants, laptop on lap, looking for wireless networks to sponge off of. As to the sort of site he was interested in, I will leave that to you. I'm glad the cops got him. I, on the other hand, am downloading economics articles, which is an entirely different thing. There is nothing remotely prurient about them.