There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Monday, December 1, 2008

Free wi-fi on the train -- sort of

I’m writing this blog post while riding Amtrak train 542 from Oakland to Sacramento. Nothing unusual in that except the connection to the Internet. For the month of December, the joint powers authority that operates the Capitol Corridor trains is testing an in-train wi-fi service. According to the Capitol Corridor rep, the goal is to offer free wi-fi on every train. Details of the Capitol Corridor program are available at

The test is being conducted by Hobnob, which specializes in enterprise mobile wi-fi. The CEO of the company, UC Davis grad Aron Hall, is sitting at a table with all of the apparatus necessary to aggregate the cellular signal and feed it to about 30 people in the car.

I’ve been using a Sprint mobile broadband connection provided by my employer. Unfortunately, the coverage is spotty. When you get to Rodeo and around the refineries of Martinez the signal fades in and out. It really puts a crimp in my work time if I’m online.

I’m hoping Hobnob can find a solution. So far the connection speed has been impressive. I’d guess it is better than I get on my Sprint modem. But I noticed the dead zones still take a toll.

Hobnob currently provides wi-fi services for corporate shuttle buses. Wouldn't it be fun if Sacramento Regional Transit could find an excuse for adding that service? Yes, yes, I know. RT doesn't have enough money to run buses, let alone pay to add wi-fi service. Still, I can wish. I just won't hold my breath.

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