I want my free wifi!

Reading this slashdotted piece on how free wifi is advancing in Estonia made me think deep once again. Why the hell free wifi hasn’t become popular outside northern California … and Estonia?

The point is that wifi is not a business case. I figured this out in early 2001 when I was living and testing the first hotspots in San Francisco Bay Area. Go any coffee shop in the states and you’re most probably online. Many places are free. Starbucks via T-Mobile is one of the most expensive – around 5 euros for an hour or something like 30 per month. Typically you’d go for 20 per month.

In Finland, the mobile internet has been since 1995 or something the GSM (or GPRS for the name’s sake) modem speed. It’s a big joke. Because people don’t experience wireless net they don’t get it. If you haven’t ever watched TV you don’t need it.

Occasional free wifi in a city is a totally different experience from the current closed airport and hotel hotspots. I remember when I returned from California in the late 2001 with my wifi card installed. I found out the biggest operators had started wifi tests. I call them: in order to use any of them I’d have needed to subscribe something like hundred accounts to my big company. The situation hasn’t changed ever since! When do they get that wifi is first and foremost consumer technology?

Finally, my 5 cents. I tried to push free wifi in Finland to EFFI’s agenda in fall 2003. Unfortunately the whole idea has been somehow frozen to a draft stage. Maybe people aren’t interested in wifi after all?

The problem with popular business media

This weekend I browsed once again through the few latest issues of Finnish Talouselämä, a kind of lousy Forbes for the locals.

I have a problem with the mainstream magazines about the economic life (including business and finance to be sure). They are all like soap operas: most talk about local success stories, persons and firms. In every number they run the names and pictures of “top” CEOs and companies as if they would present “the economy”.

The problem is that we don’t get even real-TV quality. They have have little if no analysis. A journalist calls a big company, asks around, takes a phographer with and they shoot some smiling suitefellows. Or maybe it is the hottest startup, which just got millions of venture capital. Or the new prime minister talking “business”. The guru speaks. The economy demystified. One liners. There you go.

I am so lucky to subscribe to The Economist. It’s been the last three years the only magazine I subscribe to. They have independent analysis. People and firms don’t jump out of the economy just because they sell. The name of the journalist does not matter. Just because the bigger picture rules. On the top of all that, The Economist has an own “invisible hand” argument and a courage to write quality analysis about the stuff lamers won’t even mention. The normative economics of drug policy, religion, you name it. And the magazine is still mainstream in its own category.

I recently read from somewhere that most of the readers of The Economist are from the United States. After all, there are people there who think themselves. Highly recommended (*****)

Why video rentals suck

1. You don’t get but the last five years of Hollywood mainstream
2. You don’t get the hottest titles anyway cause someone was there before you
3. Even those hot titles had their world premier at least half a year ago
(4. If you happen to get the movie you want, It’ll be 4 euros – around 5 bucks – and five minutes of forced commercials, region lock, copy lock, and other devaluation)

My gut feeling is that CD is going to outlive DVD. Both of those medias will die soon, that’s clear, but CD will undoubtedly win. I still buy occasionally CDs although I get most of my aural pleasure from the radio (online and offline), various p2p software and iTunes. Why still CDs? The quality is great (same as the “original” in most cases) and the price for used and bargains about right. You also get enough usage-freedom when you own a CD (except the fucking “copyprotected” ones).

But I don’t buy DVDs anymore. And I won’t rent DVDs either, just because the renting system does not work. I re-experienced movie renting the last few weeks while we’ve had to live in a temporary apartment due to some renovation in our own. We have a DVD player in our temp place and the two main Finnish video rental chains just a one-minute walk from our door. So I tried them a couple of times and disappointed big time as you can read from above. Where the hell is iTunes for movies? Before we get anything like that, I urge anyone to try the latest p2p tricks before entering any movie rental shop in Helsinki.

Show me your chain-culture

Lessig’s new book on “free culture” is out and well commented everywhere. I think I’ll join those who have issues with it. The prose and arguments are ok, but the general idea of a chained permission culture simply doesn’t buy me in. Culture has never asked, never will, any permissions from anybody. I agree there is a sub section in our current concept of culture, which we may call “commercial culture”. It plays with things like copyright and licenses. However, most of the stuff we do is never going to be under that permission bullshit. At least it is exremely hard to imagine such a world where browsing the web, chatting online and simply expressing oneself would not be permitted unless paid for. Masses can not be overriden. That would need much more than writing stupid laws and vague lobbying within the commercial media…

What I hate in Finland, part 1

Finland has a hostile policy towards good cars. We have both a luxury tax system and strict anti-import legislation. My “problem” is that I like big cars that may cost a lot of money. With luxury taxes and import problems, having a car I like can be deadly expensive. So I am one among the many who really hates the system. I have a strange feeling that Finland is now quite alone in Europe with its anti-market (against free importation of goods) and anti-environmental (new cars would pollute less) car policy.

I had recently an opportunity to do some research on how the anti-import and luxury tax systems work in practice. I decided to ship a rather new SUV from California and see what it takes to get Finnish plates on it. It wasn’t too easy. Click here for full story!