While waiting for his cup of light roast coffee at a local cafe recently, Richard Dunn downloaded "War and Peace."
In its print version, Leo Tolstoy's Russian classic is about 1,500 pages. In a digital world it's 3.13 megabytes. It loaded instantly for no charge, he said.
The 59-year-old securities trader would never read it in its book incarnation, even though he's sitting at the Carson City Library beside stacks of books the next day.
"If I walk up and find out where it is in the library I could've already downloaded it," said Dunn, of Carson City. He opens it up as a word document on his Dell and finds his place using a computer function, rather than dog-earing a page.
Dunn gets his books from Gutenberg.org and his free wireless from the library. As a self-described "lover of information," who listens to a downloaded podcast interview featuring the founder of Wikipedia while reading Investor's Business Daily, he's more inclined to visit the library now.
"(Wireless) determines where I go," he said. "I'm not a big patron of the library, but now it's my home away from home. I can listen to a beautiful interview and read the newspaper. Both things have an interest to me and I'm getting double the benefit for my time."
Maximizing time seems to be a theme in the lives of wireless users, who are diverse in both age and profession. They convene in libraries and coffee shops, craving free wireless like that next shot of espresso. Soon, charging for Internet access in public spots will be a thing of the past, said one information technology expert.
"It makes my life easier," said 18-year-old Jessica Rao, a Western Nevada Community College student. "If I don't have the time to go home, I can come here and do my homework."
She commutes between home in Gardnerville and school in Carson City and work. But Rao recently quit her job as a local barista. That will leave more time for fun, such as surfing MySpace, a social networking site, and professional aspiration, digital photography and honing her PhotoShop skills. She comes to Comma Coffee for the free wireless. If she cared to pay about $20 a month, she could go anywhere.
Cellular technology is available in certain areas for subscribers to go online at any time and place, said Steven Zink, vice president for information technology at the University of Nevada, Reno. You just have to pay a monthly fee with a carrier. A user sitting in Borders bookstore in north Douglas County can bypass its fee-based wireless, or can pull off Carson Street and order flowers online.
Cellular technology will also grow in the next year. This means, instead of swiping your credit card for a purchase, you'll scan your phone, which will hold your electronic signature. The transaction is recorded for you, no more fiddling with check registers.
"It's almost limitless," Zink said, while waiting for a flight at Reno-Tahoe International Airport, which also has Internet access. "Wherever your imagination takes you."
Hotspots in the area
• Carson City Library
900 N. Roop St., the only place the city provides public Internet access. With a library card, the city will give you an access code.
• Comma Coffee
312 S. Carson St.
• Java Joe's
319 N. Carson St.
• The Legislature
401 S. Carson St. and surrounding grounds, using a guest pass or library card
• Nevada State Library and Archives
100 N. Stewart St.
• Java Dash
Western Nevada Community College, 2201 W. College Parkway. The college plans to expand to the library and across campus this year.
• The Carson City school district
Plans to offer wireless access for teachers and students at all schools.
(charges for use)
These locations offer T Mobile HotSpot, ranging in cost from $10 for a day pass to $40 monthly for unlimited use.
• Starbucks locations
South Carson Street, North Carson Street, off East College Parkway and on Topsy Lane
911 Topsy Lane
Dial-up: A way of connecting to the Internet using a standard telephone line. When in use it occupies the phone line so you can't receive calls. Main-stream usage hit in the late 1990s. It's been old technology since 2001.
High-speed Internet: The broader term for any type of Internet access that's faster than the dial-up, about 100 times faster, such as, wireless, television cable, DSL, satellite. Once the signal gets to your house it goes into a modem which converts it into a signal that your computer can understand.
Wireless Internet: Signals received using cellular or radio waves. Requires an antenna to receive, or a connection card, which can be included in most new laptop computers. High Speed Networks LLC, Clearwire Wireless Broadband, Sprint and Pyramid Net provide it in Carson City. Others, such as AT&T, can provide a wireless router just in the home.
Wi-fi: A radio signal. It's not Internet access on its own. It is network access to some other type of Internet access, like bridging a gap.
DSL: Operates on a phone line, but uses a frequency so that Internet and voice signals can exist on the same line. Charter, AT&T, Pyramid Net are providers in Carson City.
- Source: Alex Sehr, director of research and development, JFG Systems