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The trip from Agenda 2003 in Phoenix to Paris for the IBM CIO conference was fifteen hours door to door. I can’t say it was a fun trip but thankfully it was uneventful. The conference was actually at Disneyland Paris which is in Marne La Vallee, an interesting place unto itself (with a really neat homepage) and also part of Paris. The CIO conference is something IBM has been doing since Lou Gerstner’s arrival in 1993. I am sure Lou will mention this in his new book because I know how much he has enjoyed CIO conferences.

I can recall the first year the conference was held. After arriving I looked everywhere for a place to get connected and get my email. As was the case many times in the early days, I eventually found a closet with a fax machine where I could be sure to find an analog line that I could borrow for a few minutes. This year was different. IBM had set up two WiFi networks on the premises. One was identified as DISNEY and provided public Internet access for the customers who were attending. The other was identified as IBM and provided secure access to IBM’s intranet for employees (using Cisco LEAP protocol). I think everyone found these arrangements really convenient — I certainly did.

After getting through check-in and a very long security line at Charles De Gaulle Airport, I headed for the Air France lounge. It is always difficult to get connected there. only a few phones with RJ-11 connectors are available and if you are lucky enough to get one, you then begin the challenges of dial-up. It is some combination of swiping your credit card, pushing the # key, figuring out how many zeroes to enter, and then hoping you don’t get a French message that you don’t understand. I had gotten my email update just before leaving Disneyland at the public WiFi room IBM had set up. It took just a few minutes. I decided to skip my normal frustration with getting connected from a European lounge and instead would watch others doing it. It was a scene. An elderly gentleman was having trouble getting connected and he asked a French lady at the reception desk for assistance. They were having great trouble communicating. The poor guy was so frustrated. Finally, he said, "I just want to know what the protocol is to get connected.

I was tempted to say "802.11" but instead offered to help him. Wouldn’t it be nice if the answer in every airport lounge or waiting area was "We have WiFi. Simply establish "Air France" as your SSID and you will be automatically connected". Better yet would be that when you walk in a sign says, "We are pleased to provide you with WiFi. Relax and enjoy your stay with us" and then the software automatically took care of getting you logged in. XP and the Mac actually do this pretty well but if you don’t have either you can use Boingo.

  • Index to all WiFi postings in patrickWeb blog
  • Reto Sigl, Director of IT at the IBM Zurich Research Laboratory took some pictures with his Sony-Ericsson T68i mobile phone (with plug-in camera). The speakers pictures were not very clear due to lighting conditions and digital zoom, but otherwise very good photography for a telephone!