Monday, April 17, 2006


Free and open Wi-Fi networks are out there. The art is in finding them, then chalking a mark on a street.

It's pretty common to find unsecure wireless networks if you're living in an apartment, thanks to the generous neighbors who haven't locked their wireless networks or made them secure. Anyone who's lucky enough to find them gets a piece of chalk and then marks sidewalks, walls or poles with symbols based on an old sign language. Anyone who understands these symbols then knows that there's an unsecure wireless network that can be used around that area. Laptops and notebooks are charged, then brought to that area for free internet access.

The history of Warchalking goes as follows:

In 2002, London-based IT consultant Matt "Blackbelt" Jones came up with an idea for Wi-Fi users to help each other get online. Jones proposed marking sidewalks, walls, or telephone poles where networks could be found with a set of chalk-mark symbols based on the old sign language that hobos used to alert one another to food, shelter, or potential trouble during the Great Depression in the 1930s.
Jones dubbed this practice "warchalking," a pun on "wardialing," introduced in the 1983 movie Wargames, in which a young hacker has his computer automatically dial all the phone numbers in the area looking for other computers. Geeks termed the practice "wardialing." Add that familiar erasable writing technology and you wind up with "warchalking." Here are the universally accepted trio of symbols for warchalking:

Apparently, the most common used symbol is the one to the left. It reminds me of the Chanel logo with the opposing brackets. The ones to the right mean or symbolize closed networks. That means that they're closed access and no one knows how to access them. The one with the W in the middle means that you need a WEP or WPA key.

You'll find a few marks here and there in the big cosmopolitan cities such as London or New York, but most of them were made by the business owners themselves in order to attract passers-by by offering free internet access.

It's funny how some people would go to extreme extents for the sake of free internet access. A friend of mine told me that her driver would drive to Beach Center where there's an internet place for kids, which has a lot of games in there. The place is filled with 10-year-olds who would get bored after using the computer for 10 minutes that they'd just leave it. He'd go there and wait for a kid to get bored so that he could sit after the kid who left the computer and use the internet for free for almost an hour.
That's smart, funny too.

I wonder what sort of new trend will come along after the wireless craze fades out.

For more information on chalking visit this link. Read the story that BBC did on warchalking here.

Breaking the Chains:

"The days of the digital watch are numbered."
Tom Stoppard


MD said...

oh, the chalking bit is interesting. i havent used wirless connection apart from the one time that i was at french connection, working on a project. just this morning, there's a cafe near my office where all the sleazy arabs go...and i was surprised that little place had wireless net too. and i thought, "wireless porn?". you can see men there, smoking shisha at 10am and sitting there till late noon-evening.

Dots.. said...

lol i love wireless connections as long as they are fast.. !

i remember every single day fil summer whenever i'll switch on my laptop i'll get like 7 - 10 wireless connections from the neighbours.. 3 weren't secured.. one day i really missed my loved ones.. and i was this close to just access it.. too bad i couldn't do it ! :p '6ameeri ya5ti ta3ban ! ;)

Seraph said...


lol@wireless porn. i never knew that even shisha places offered wireless connections!!! i guess that almost everyone has those


lol yah i remember, i also told u to use it :p it's not like ur doing anything illegal or like anyone would know LOL. no ur better off with ur good conscience don't listen to me