March 14th, 2003

Last night a drunken Fez-wearing turtle came to me in a dream and said:

“You won’t know Jack about Experience Design until you visit Attaboy at his Yumfactory.”

Strange dream, no?

Attaboy art is featured at a free show that will take place March 15 though the end of the month at Culture Cache gallery, 1800 Bryant Street, San Francisco. New Yorkers can check it out in April at CBGB’s 313 Gallery.

Unabridged Excerpts

March 13th, 2003

This week I purchased the audiobook edition of Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon.

Instead of “Abridged,” they labeled the package “Unabridged Excerpts.”

I’m halfway through the third cassette, and so far this audiobook is doubleplusgood.

Video Fabric?

March 6th, 2003

Luminex glowing fabricFrom the Department of Utterly Impractical Ideas:

I don’t usually get jazzed up about clothing. But consider this amazing new glowing fabric from Italy.

Actually, it’s not a fabric in itself — it’s a new type of luminescent fiber that can be sewn throughout all sorts of fabrics. You attach the fibers to a microchip with a battery power source, turn it on and the whole thing glows brilliantly.

The fibers are colorless by default, but they emit whatever color the microchip instructs them to emit. Imagine adding optical sensors and a little intelligence, so that your glowing clothes constantly change colors to match your surroundings. Walk from room to room in a dark club and you’ll change colors like a chameleon. Or imagine using audio sensors to make the colors pulsate with the surrounding music, or in time with the wearer’s heartbeat.

Better yet, could you use Luminex to turn your clothes into a video display? Perhaps you could cover thousands of fibers with an opaque coating except for the tips, then distribute the tips regularly throughout the clothing to form pixels. Then a microprocessor could control it all to display any imagery you can imagine.

Fancy PantsHow about having tiny video cameras in the clothing that capture the imagery in front of you and behind you, then display that imagery on either side of the video-display clothing? People facing you at just the right angle would see a freakish mirror-image of themselves — or they’d see a freakish live image of what’s behind you, so that you’d seem nearly transparent to them…

A big question: how expensive is this stuff? The Luminex site doesn’t even hint at the answer, which probably means it’s very pricey. Let’s hope Moore’s Law drives down the cost soon because I’m dying to play with this stuff.

(Credit where it’s due: I snagged the simulated-invisibility idea from The University of Tokyo’s Optical Camouflage project.)

UPDATE, 3-10-03: Thessy reports that a Swiss distributor sells Luminex at prices much lower than the U.S. distributor’s: 40-60 Euros per meter, which equals about US$41-US$61 per yard. Details below in the comments.

UPDATE, 3-7-03: The U.S. Luminex distributor sent prices and details. In brief, it’s very expensive (fabric costs US$280-US$450 per yard, depending on the type of fabric used) and so far you can’t light up a fiber with any color on the fly. But the fibers are lit by LED’s at the base, and you can have two LED’s merging light of two colors into the same fibers to create the range of colors between the two chosen LED colors. Theoretically, I think it could be possible to create a triple-LED system to create any color, but apparently nobody has done this yet. Details below in the “comments” section, where the full sales message was posted. (By the way, I don’t know any Luminex people and I’m not getting any sort of commission or kickback.)

Free Wi-Fi Cafes in San Francisco

March 3rd, 2003

[Also see the cheesebikini map of free Berkeley wi-fi cafes]

Here are a map and a list of San Francisco cafes that offer free wireless Internet access. If you have a laptop or other device with Wi-Fi (wireless Internet) capability, turn it on in one of these places to enjoy a free high-speed connection.

San Francisco Wi-Fi Map - See Key Below

UPDATE 3/2/05: A four-block zone of Chestnut Street in San Francisco’s �ber-gentrified Marina District is now immersed in free wi-fi, courtesy of AnchorFree. The wi-fi zone covers Chestnut between Fillmore and Scott Streets, according to MacWorld. Thanks to Denis Hiller for the tip — and the wi-fi!

Why certain cafes disappeared from the list and map: In late 2003, ZRNet, a company that outfitted many cafes with wi-fi hot-spots, withdrew free wi-fi service from all of these cafes, so I removed ZRNet cafes from the list. These cafes include: Atlas Cafe (ouch!), Cole Valley Cafe, Cafe XO, Tart to Tart, Cafe International, Brainwash Cafe and Laundromat, the Muddy Waters cafes, most of the Royal Grounds cafes, Cafe La Taza, Java on Ocean, Java Beach and Simple Pleasures. – Sean, 11/7/03

2 H Cafe: 380 17th Street, at Sanchez. Jason Harlan reports that now an employee here “forces you to share tables with other laptop users… and he’s rude.” map | site

3 Jumpin’ Java Coffee House & Eats: 139 Noe, at 14th. map

4 Maggie Mudd: OK, it’s an ice cream shop, not a cafe. But I think they serve coffee… I haven’t stepped inside this place; their Web site frightens me. 903 Cortland Ave. at Gates. map | site

5 Maxfield’s House of Caffeine: Dolores at 17th. Matadors fought bulls nearby! Don’t take my word for it, ask about it in the Mission Dolores museum at San Francisco’s oldest church, two doors up on Dolores. Or check out the bullfight pictures here (the sixth and seventh illustrations from the bottom). But I digress… map
6 Morning Due Cafe: 3698 17th Street, at Church Street. Thanks to Rick Ehrlinspiel for the tip. Added 12/31/03. map

7 Caffe Puccini: (NOTE: Wi-Fi connection here is weak.) This cafe doesn’t provide Wi-Fi access, but they’re within range of someone’s open Wi-Fi hub. When sitting at the south side of the cafe — the side closest to Broadway — I can pick up a low- to medium-strength signal. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any power outlets. Not a perfect situation, but this is a cozy cafe that serves great strong coffee to tourists and classic North Beach characters. 411 Columbus Ave, between Green and Vallejo. map

8 Rockin’ Java: 1821 Haight Street between Shrader and Stanyan, just East of Golden Gate Park. map

9 Martha & Bros. Coffee on Church: (NOTE: Wi-Fi connection may not be strong.) This cafe doesn’t provide free Wi-Fi access, but they’re within range of someone’s open Wi-Fi hub. (This cafe does provide fee-based Wi-Fi access via Surf and Sip; select the “” signal for free access or select “SurfandSip” for the stronger fee-based signal.) Thanks to Brad Lauster for the tip. And big thanks to Cliff Skolnick for sharing his home access point with the public! 1551 Church Street, at Duncan. map | site

10 Peet’s Coffee on Fillmore: (NOTE: Wi-Fi connection may not be strong.) Dave Holmes-Kinsella reports: “If I sit *outside* at Peet’s on Sacramento & Fillmore, there’s a varying number of free WiFi A/Ps available.” 2197 Fillmore Street, at Sacramento. map

11 Oakside Cafe: (NOTE: This cafe closes at 3 pm.) Thanks to Brian McCarthy for the tip. 1195 Oak Street, at Broderick. map

12 Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe: (NOTE: Free Wi-Fi connection may not be strong.) This cafe doesn’t provide free Wi-Fi access, but they’re within range of someone’s open Wi-Fi hub. It’s a cozy little North Beach cafe in a beautiful setting with good coffee and power outlets in back. (This cafe does provide fee-based Wi-Fi access via Surf and Sip; select the “thiebaud apple network” signal for free access or select “SurfandSip” for the stronger fee-based signal.) 566 Columbus Avenue, at Union, across the street from Washington Square Park. Added 3/28/03. map | site

14 Internet Wired Cafe: In addition to regular WiFi (802.11b), this cafe offers one of the new, faster, 802.11g hotspots. Enjoy the free wi-fi, but brace yourself for the cheesiest policy in town: using a power outlet will cost you $1 per hour. By raising the cost of their coffee by ten cents per cup and cancelling this pathetically stingy rule, they’d make make more money and they’d stop insulting their customers. But hey, it’s a free country; let them keeping diverting business to the more than forty other free wi-fi cafes in town that respect their customers. Thanks to “toor” for the tip. 1392 9th Avenue, at Judah. Added 3/30/03. map | site

15 Oh Java! Cafe: Thanks to Kevin for the tip. 562 Central Avenue, at Grove. Added 4/15/03. map

16 Central Coffee, Tea & Spice: NOTE: The hot-spot here is WEP-encryped; you have to ask at the front counter for the passcode, which the owner changes regularly to “keep people honest.” This doesn’t really make sense, because any dishonest person could easily go to the front counter and copy down today’s passcode. But anyway, ask for the code and type it into your Wi-Fi card settings. This is kind of a hassle, but the coffee and the music were good when I visited the place. Thanks to Kevin for the tip. 1696 Hayes St. at Central Ave. Added 4/15/03. map

17 Crepe Soleil: Thanks to Stew for the tip. Polk Street near Pine. Added 4/15/03. map

18 Venture Frogs: This is not really a cafe, but cofounder Tony Hsieh says people are welcome to use their free wifi connection, and they serve coffee and tea. 1000 Van Ness, at O’Farrell. Added 4/15/03. map | site

19 Castro Country Club: Thanks to “csmoll” for the tip. 4058 18th Street, at Castro. Added 4/19/03. map | site

20 Caffe Roma: I love this cafe; thanks to Ben Hammersley for the tipping me off to their new wifi service. 526 Columbus, between Green and Union. Added 4/19/03. map | site

21 Golden Gate Perk: Thanks to Chris Bucoy Brown for the tip. Bush at Kearny. Added 4/19/03. map | site

24 Nani’s Cafe: Thanks to Eric L. and Natty for the tips. 2739 Geary Boulevard, between Masonic and Wood. Added 4/26/03. map | site

25 Sacred Grounds: Thanks to Cameron for the tip. 2095 Hayes Street, at Cole. Added 4/26/03. map | site

27 The Canvas Cafe/Gallery: Thanks to Adrian Elliot for the tip. 1200 9th Avenue at Lincoln Way, just south of Golden Gate Park. Added 4/26/03. map

28 Dulcinea Cafe and Catering: This cafe doesn’t provide its own hotspot, but from there you can supposedly reach the hotspot next door at DNA Lounge. Thanks to DNA’s Jamie Zawinski for the tip — and for the bandwidth. 371 11th Street, between Harrison and Folsom. Added 4/26/03. map | site

30 Cup a Joe: It’s “a great cafe with good light, couches upstairs, lots of plugs, and the best banana bread around,” according to Corii Liau. Thanks for the tip, Corii. 1901 Hayes Street, at Ashbury. Added 5/24/03. map

33 Pearls International Beverages: Galen reports that Pearls offers free 802.11a and 802.11b Wi-Fi access. 329 West Portal Avenue, between 14th and 15th. Added 5/26/03. map

34 JavaCat Cafe: 5549 Geary Blvd, between 19th and 20th. Added 5/26/03. map

35 The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf: 2201 Fillmore Street, at Sacramento. Thanks to praxis for the tip. Added 6/14/03. map | site
36 Metro Crepe: 1 Sansome Street, at Market, in the courtyard. Thanks to des for the tip. Added 6/21/03. map

37 Samovar Tea Lounge: 498 Sanchez Street, at 18th Street. At the site of the old Chat Cafe. Thanks to Robert James Sandler for the tip. Added 6/28/03. UPDATE 12/31/03: “Alec” and “Bobby O.” report intermittent wi-fi availability at Samovar; Bobby O. says this cafe turns off its hot spot on weekends and discourages use of neighboring hotspots within Samovar. map | site

41 Skylight Caf�: 1720 Taraval Avenue, at 28th Avenue. Thanks to Victor d’Allant for the tip. Added 8/10/03. map

43 Muddy’s Coffee House: 1304 Valencia Street, at 24th Street. Thanks to Romel for the tip. Added 9/9/03. map
46 Sea Biscuit Coffee Shop : 3815 Noriega Street, at 45th Avenue. Thanks to Vernon Kuhns for the tip. Vernon says the place is “Small, homey, and good sound track.” Added 11/3/03. map
47 Joey’s: 517 O’Farrell Street, at Jones Street. Thanks to John Abbe, who reports that this is “another laundromat/cafe, apparently with 802.11g,” and that they offer “‘Espresso, Ice Cream, Sausage’ (the sausage was okay, but nothing special)’ with outlets available. Added 11/3/03. map

48 Cafe Francisco: 2161 Powell Street, at Francisco Street. Thanks to RacerX, who reports that two, sometimes three, open wi-fi access points from nearby homes are within range of this cafe. RacerX reports: “Coffee and tea are both cheaper than at Caffe Roma, and there is plenty of outside seating in the shade.” Added 11/3/03. map

50 Puccini & Pinetta: 129 Ellis Street, at Cyril Magnin Street. Thanks to John Abbe for the tip. Added 11/3/03. map

51 Westin St. Francis Hotel: 335 Powell Street, at Geary Street. Thanks to John Abbe, who reports: “Access is free, but you fill out a web form every 1/2 hour. There’s an outlet along the wall in the back right of the ground floor. The open snack/drink area there has some comfy seats, and expensive drinks/snacks. The connection is also available from a corridor on the second floor, but not the higher floors…” Added 11/3/03. map

52 Caffe La Piazza: 700 Columbus Avenue at Filbert Street. Thanks to Vernon Kuhns for the tip. Vernon reports that this cafe “is next to an open 802.11b hub. It has available outlets, and, most importantly is under new management (a friend). Say Hi to Charley and Jing if you visit.” Added 11/3/03. map
53 Cole Valley Cafe: 609 Cole Street, at Haight Street. Thanks to Jesse for the tip. Added 12/31/03.
map | site
–>54 Bean Bag Cafe: 601 Divisadero Street, at Hayes Street. Thanks to Rick Ehrlinspiel for the tip. Added 12/31/03. map

55 Bahia Cafe: 1901 Ocean Avenue, at Ashton Avenue. Thanks to Alan for the tip. Added 12/31/03. map

56 Cafe Evolution: 1336 9th Avenue, between Irving and Judah. Thanks to toor for the tip. Added 10/21/04. map | site

57 Cup A Joe: 896 Sutter Street, at Jones Street. Thanks to eamonn for the tip. Added 10/24/04. map

58 Cafe Murano: 1777 Steiner Street, at Sutter. Added 10/24/04. map

59 Cafe Medjool: 2516 Mission Street, at 21st Street. Thanks to Cheu for the tip. Added 10/24/04. map

60 Kaleo Cafe: 1340 Irving Street , at 14th Avenue. Thanks to webdog for the tip. Added 10/24/04. map | site

61 Kona Shores Ice Cream: 1206 Masonic , at Haight Street. Added 10/24/04. map | site

62 Cafe 16: 3170 16th Street, at Valencia. Thanks to Mike for the tip. Added 10/24/04. map

63 JJ Dessert House: 1525 Irving Street, at 15th Avenue. Thanks to Benjamin for the tip. Added 10/24/04. map

64 Sit & Spin: 4023 18th Street, at Noe Street. Thanks to Adam for the tip. Added 10/24/04. map

65 It’s Delectable: 4416 18th Street, at Eureka Street. Simon reports that this cafe doesn’t provide wi-fi service, but it’s within range of an open wi-fi access point named “SMC.” Thanks to Simon for the tip. Added 10/24/04. map

66 Polkan Cafe and Deli: 1754 Polk Street, at Washington. Ask the owner for access and he will provide it with purchase, according to Marissa, the Thanks to Marissa for the tip. “The owner is a russian immigrant and extremely nice (he gives cans to the chinese ladies) but has been struggling due to competition from the many dining establishments nearby,” says Marissa. Please patronize Mr. Polkan’s place! Added 10/24/04. map

67 Coffee Break: 4601 Geary Boulevard, at 9th Avenue. Thanks to Jacob LaBay for the tip. Added 10/24/04. map

68 South Beach Cafe : 800 The Embarcadero, near Townsend. Thanks to Danfuzz for the tip. Added 10/24/04. map

69 Notes from the Underground Cafe: 2399 Van Ness Avenue, at Green Street. Thanks to bill for the tip. Added 10/24/04. map

70 Tully’s: 303 2nd Street, between Harrison and Folsom Streets. Thanks to David Kapp for the tip. Added 10/24/04. map

71 [NO LONGER OFFERS WI-FI] The Reverie Cafe: 848 Cole Street, at Frederick Street. Added 10/24/04. map

72 Royal Grounds: 2060 Fillmore Street, at California. James Hall reports that this cafe doesn’t proide wi-fi service, but it’s within range of several open access points. Thanks to James for the tip. Added 10/24/04. map

73 Cafe de la Presse: 352 Grant Avenue, at Bush Street. [This has been one of my favorite cafes for years. It’s across the street from the French Consulate and it draws many Europeans. It’s definitely the most European-feeling cafe in San Francisco. Will wi-fi alter that? -Sean] Added 10/24/04. map | site

If I missed a cafe, or if one of these cafes closes or begins charging for Wi-Fi use, drop me a line and I’ll update the list: sean[at] (Remember this is a list of free Wi-Fi cafes, so please don’t contact me about cafes that charge a fee for Wi-Fi usage.)

Czech this out: Lloyd Nebres spent a day bouncing from one wi-fi cafe to another across San Francisco, posting photos and dispatches along the way to create a little travelogue.

The folks at Beast Blog are putting together a list of free wi-fi locations in the East Bay.

Here’s another list of free Wi-Fi hot spots throughout the Bay Area and the world:

And here’s a list of open wireless nodes that Bay Area people have set up, mostly in their homes.

Join the free networks movement! Details:, and the Bay Area Wireless Users’ Group.