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March 10th, 2006:

Here comes the wireless network

Here’s an update and overview on Houston’s project to install a citywide WiFi network.

The updated technology would cost Houstonians half of what they pay today for Internet access, Richard Lewis, the city’s director of information technology, told members of a City Council committee Thursday.

“We’re trying to drive down the cost of wireless broadband for Houstonians,” Lewis said. That means people who can’t afford Internet access now may be able to once the network is in place, he said.

In considering the project, Houston is joining a nationwide race to go wireless. More than 70 cities are planning large networks, including Corpus Christi, Philadelphia and Chicago. Others, such as Spokane, Wash., and Oklahoma City, offer so-called hotspots, small “wired” areas where residents can access the Internet.

Houston’s network, which could be installed starting as early as next year, is intended to foster economic development, help the city operate more effectively and give residents and business owners access to new, faster technology.

It’s still in the preliminary stages: Companies will likely start bidding on the project in the next few months. And while the final contract needs City Council’s approval to proceed, Mayor Bill White has been one of it’s strongest supporters.

The wireless fidelity, or WiFi, network would enable police and other public safety employees to log on from the road, retailers and schools to access high-speed Internet without paying for their own infrastructure and Web-surfers at home to upgrade. It would also ensure the city has a way to communicate with others during a disaster.

The service would be free to city government, as well as Houstonians who bring their own laptops to select hotspots, such as large parks.

In homes and businesses, the connection would come with a price, but one that’s likely to be more affordable than it is now. The monthly fee could be about $15 compared with the $30-50 residents pay now, Lewis said.

Houstonist noted a story from a few days ago in which the city’s new high-tech parking meters could be the first users of the new network.

I think you all know by now that I love this idea and can’t wait to see it come to its fruition. Dwight nailed it in his comments when he said that this is “the 21st centry equivalent to paving streets”. In a few years we’ll look back on this and wonder why anyone objected.

Snoopy’s legal guardian

Here’s a nice article about Jeannie Schulz, widow of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, and how she’s adapted to her role as caretaker of his legacy. She was the guiding force behind the creation of the Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, which Tiffany, Olivia, and I had the pleasure of visiting while out in CA last week. Seeing some of those truly classic original strips, some of them for the first time, was awesome. If you dig Peanuts at all, you owe yourself a visit. Next time, when Olivia is older, we’ll drop in on the Redwood Empire Ice Arena as well.

Link via Mark Evanier. Like Evanier, I too was charmed by the comic strip tiles in the bathroom, but unlike him I wasn’t carrying my camera to document it. Alas. Anyway, check it out.

Friday Olivia catblogging

No, I don’t normally catblog – among other things, I don’t have a cat. But we spent a couple of days with some friends in Walnut Creek who do have cats, and Olivia was utterly fascinated by them. Click the More link to see a picture.

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Petition time

So for the next two months it’s petition-gathering time for the independent candidate campaigns. Anyone spotted a Friedman or Strayhorn table yet? I’ll be curious to see if I run into one. I’ll have my voter reg card with its “Democratic” stamp on it to ward them off if I do. In the meantime, however, I was confused when I wrote that you could vote for Radnofsky in the runoff and still sign one of these petitions. The Statesman says:

Strayhorn and Friedman must each gather 45,540 signatures by May 11 to join GOP Gov. Rick Perry, Democrat Chris Bell and Libertarian James Werner on the November ballot. Registered voters can sign as long as they did not vote Tuesday and abstain from voting in either party’s April runoff.

And here’s § 142.009:

PETITION TO BE CIRCULATED AFTER PRIMARY. A signature on a candidate’s petition is invalid if the signer:
(1) signed the petition on or before general primary election day or, if a runoff primary is held for the office sought by the candidate, on or before runoff primary election day; or
(2) voted in the general or runoff primary election of a political party that made a nomination, at either primary, for the office sought by the candidate.

Sorry about that. I know which one I think is more important, but to each their own.

One other point:

“Support a true Texas independent,” said Seth Waits, 22, who said he began as a fan of Friedman’s music and writing and now is vice president of [Longhorns for Kinky].

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: If Friedman were a “true independent”, wouldn’t he have supported the efforts of Ralph Nader to overturn Texas’ restrictive ballot access laws for independent candidates? Friedman was already publicly talking about running for Governor as an independent when Nader filed his ultimately losing lawsuit. An amicus brief probably would not have made any difference, but it would have shown support for the independent cause and been in his best interests besides. Is the boastfully non-voting Friedman, who griped about the Secretary of State’s totally routine exhortations to Texans to vote in the primaries, that disconnected from the political process that he was unaware of Nader’s suit, or was he just not interested in any “independent” besides himself? Either way, forgive me if I scoff at that characterization.

Ron Paul has found his purpose in Congress

Apparently, Rep. Ron Paul has decided he no longer needs to try to eliminate the Federal Reserve Board. He’d much rather compel them to keep spending taxpayer money printing a report that no one uses. Kash at Angry Bear has the details.

Click fraud

Do you know what click fraud is? It just cost Google ninety million bucks.

Google has agreed to pay $90 million to settle a lawsuit alleging the online search engine leader overcharged thousands of advertisers who paid for bogus sales referrals generated through a ruse known as “click fraud.”

The proposed settlement, announced by the company Wednesday, would apply to all advertisers in Google’s network during the past four years. Any Web site showing improper charges dating back to 2002 will be eligible for an account credit that could be used toward future ads distributed by Google.

[…]

Mountain View, Calif.-based Google makes virtually all of its money from text-based advertising links that trigger commissions each time they are clicked on. Besides enriching Google, the system has been a boon for advertisers, whose sales have been boosted by an increased traffic from prospective buyers.

But sometimes mischief makers and scam artists repeatedly click on specific advertising links even though they have no intentions of buying anything. The motives for the malicious activity known as click fraud vary widely, but the net effect is the same: advertisers end up paying for fruitless Web traffic.

The lawsuit alleged Google had conspired with its advertising partners to conceal the magnitude of click fraud to avoid making refunds.

The frequency of click fraud hasn’t been quantified, causing some stock market analysts to worry Google’s profits will falter if it turns out to be a huge problem.

Google executives have repeatedly said the level of click fraud on its ad network is minuscule — a contention that the proposed settlement amount seems to support.

The $90 million translates into less than 1 percent of Google’s $11.2 billion in revenue during the past four years.

Google’s had a few glitches lately, hasn’t it? This article from the Sunday SF Chronicle, which I read while I was out in CA last week, has more on the state of the business in Mountain View. Check it out.