Homeless Dudes With WiFi. Awful or Awesome?

Earlier this week, Gizmodo provided these two awesome photos—along with a little analysis:

There's something really wrong in the world if we can see scenes like this.

At the risk of taking a quick, funny photo post and over-analyzing it: I actually think these images are a sign of something really right in the world. Don't get me wrong—homelessness blows, and I'd guess the life stories of these guys are not all rainbows and lollipops.

But if Gizmodo is right that the second guy has WiFi and some speakers, then he has access to more information and entertainment than even the richest, most powerful men could imagine for most of human history—and he can share it with whomever he likes. When he's bored of beans straight from the can, he can research for-the-homeless, by-the-homeless cooking tips. He can read about the latest in funny cardboard signage. He can watch this week's episode of Glee. He can look at porn (or maybe he doesn't need porn because he's keeping an eye on forums like this one.)

Pew reports that one-third of Americans consider high-speed Internet access a necessity, not a luxury. And that's good news.

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  • Paying Electric Customer||

    You're welcome.

  • dave b.||

    That's Tony and Max posting about the virtues of the collective.

  • ||

    I thought it was Randolph and Mortimer Duke trying to get back into the commodities game.

  • Ragin Cajun||

    Funny, I thought it was Bill Plaschke writing about steroids.

  • ||

    No its Mitch Albom.

  • Mango Punch||

    No, it's day traders in 2002.

  • ||

    No, it's incumbent legislators in Dec. 2010.

  • ||

    I hope this is the winning answer.

  • Montani Semper Liberi||

    In the liberal worldview, a society where everyone is worse off but the rich don't have much more than the poor is preferable to one where everyone is better off, but the rich have a lot more than the poor.

  • sarcasmic||

    Shared poverty is preferable to having someone to envy.

  • ||

    There's always somebody to envy. Like that rich and well-connected guy who owns TWO pairs of underpants and a sock without any holes. There oughta be a law!

  • ||

    There are even psychological studies demonstrating this. Let a subject that he can have $5 and the other guy $50, or he can $1 and the other guy $1, and he will nearly always choose the latter.

  • VoteMuslimNoPork||

    Computers have become so cheap that homeless people can get their hands on one. I don't see how Gizmodo can think its a bad thing that more people are able to access information and increase personal autonomy. Particularly the people who "need" information access the most in order to get themselves out of their current rut.

  • Pope Jimbo||

    Gizmodo is mad because they didn't scrounge up twice the amount of aluminum cans so they could buy an Apple.

    Nothing gets Giz's panties in a bunch like people who don't get how great Jobs and Apple are.

  • ||

    In that first pic, is that a diaper sticking out of that dude's pants pocket?

  • ||

    Nice to see that the whole "digital divide" thing is being addressed.

  • ||

    "There's something really wrong in the world if we can see scenes like this."

    Oh bullshit. I spent years working with the homeless and I think it's a pretty safe bet that the guy in the first photo is homeless by choice. There are some people who simply are too fucking lazy to get a job and live a conventional life. I have known homeless kids who have grown into homeless adults, not because they don't have an opportunity to better their situation, but rather due to their desire to spange instead of work. You could give them a Harvard Law degree and they'd still be on the street because the idea of working a real job is anathema to them. They are lazy and just want to get high.

  • ||

    They are lazy and just want to get high.

    And "found" the laptops at a library or bus stop.

  • ||

    Class warfare!

  • ||

    Right. That's why I spent years and years working with them.

  • ||

    I have a friend who is a social worker in New York. They have any number of programs that as much give these guys a job and a place to live. All they have to do is show up and take advantage of it. But there are always empty spaces. There is a percentage of homeless who really are there because of hard times. But those people don't stay homeless. People who do are either mentally ill and just can't function or make a decision for themselves or they are like you say bums who would rather beg and get high than work.

  • Mr Whipple||

    I lived in Center City Philadelphia for a while, and many of them suffer from mental illness. Many are drug addicts, as well. Then, there's a percentage that simply don't want responsibility and don't want to conform to societal norms, for whatever reason.

  • anarch, troll pre-emptor||

    I read H&R Comments contributors for a while, and many of them suffer from mental illness. Many are drug addicts, as well. Then, there's a percentage that simply don't want responsibility and don't want to conform to societal norms, for whatever reason.

  • ||

    +1

    And more power too them.

    Also, to the homeless by choice.

  • Chilean Miner||

    All they have to do is show up and take advantage of it.

    Bullshit. There are ALWAYS strings attached. The main one being NO ALCOHOL.

  • ||

    That's a brilliant idea. When President Obama is done--probably after this term--he should go ten up on Carter in dealing with homelessness. By living as a homeless man for a year.

  • ||

    And Eddie Murphy gets to be president for a term? I forget how the Lost Script to Trading Places 2: White House Boogaloo went, exactly.

  • Joe M||

    Well done.

  • Joshua||

    No, you've got it all wrong. The successful black guy gets thrown out on the street & the homeless beggar gets elevated to a position of power.

    Or... that's the case if you want to do something interesting.

    oh, and RACIST!

    but for real, can you imagine the Trading Places with the ethnic roles reversed in this day and age?

  • Mango Punch||

    They are lazy and just want to get high.

    Versus suffering from addiction?

  • ||

    You have no idea what you are talking about.

  • Mr Whipple||

    Tell that to Dr. Bob and Bill W.

  • ||

    This is true, but there's not really anything wrong with it. And it's not exactly laziness either.

    If you want to live "free" as in on the street without possessions, traversing a social network of other bums, then it's certainly your right to do so. There are actually support networks for this lifestyle, couch surfing, hostels etc. There are people who just do this for a year or so as an adventure.

  • NoStar||

    Pew reports that one-third of Americans consider high-speed Internet access a necessity, not a luxury. And that's good news.

    Soon one Hundred percent of Obama-Pelosi Democrats will agree that high speed Internet access is a right. And that's NOT good news.

  • ||

    WHERE'S MY SINGLE PAYER MOBILE INTERNET ALREADY? HERE WE ARE, THE WEALTHIEST COUNTRY ON EARTH GARBLE BLARGLE BARK MARKEL FARBLE!

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    I'm ready for the "we spend more than any other country on wireless internet and yet has better connection than we do" whining. Bring 'em on.

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    Ah shit. Formatting messed that up. It's supposed to say
    "...and yet (insert European country here) has better connection..."

  • ||

    Wait, what am I doing on Slashdot?

  • reasonistreason||

    It's already happening here, in the EU.

  • ||

    What the hell? This video has content from Vevo which is blocked in my country (regarding your name link). I live in America, land of the free, home of the nothing should be blocked on the internet.

  • reasonistreason||

    it's a link to Kasabian's "Reason is Treason" music video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....mp;ob=av2n

  • ||

    Still blocked. Could just be my workplace, even though it says my country on YouTube.

  • waffles ||

    it may not be a right, but is piggybacking on a wireless network wrong? like stealing cable wrong? or downloading copywrighted works wrong?

    It's getting fuzzy. I, for one, would "steal" wifi and download movies and music, but won't steal cable. Something about the physical evidence of the wire maybe.

    Shit, everything is free as long as someone else pays for it.

  • sarcasmic||

    I figure that if someone doesn't encrypt their wireless that they are either allowing people to piggyback by choice or they're stupid.

  • ||

    So if I don't lock my car that is parked on a public street, I'm in effect saying, "Yo, steal my hoopty. It's okay?"

  • ||

    Bad analogy. If it was your private street and you did not have it barricaded and you let other people with their own cars drive on it, then that would be the same.

  • waffles ||

    if you honestly think using an open wifi network and stealing a car are equivalent then you are beyond rational discourse.

    also, below to RC, what kind of shitty plan has a monthly cap? I don't think I could buy a capped plan if I wanted to.

  • ||

    what kind of shitty plan has a monthly cap?

    as waffles goes and checks his/her service agreement...

  • waffles ||

    I'm pretty sure unlimited means without a limit. There is a burst and sustained download limit but not total monthly bandwidth. Seriously, your ISP pulls that kind of shit?

  • ||

    Comcast says shit like "unlimited" in all their commercials, but if you read the plan there is a cap.

    Update your "pretty sure" by checking your agreement.

  • waffles ||

    It's verizon fios, can't access it now, but over the past year I've downloaded 30-50G/month and haven't hit my limit.

    That essentially means unlimited to me. Also I've never seen my rate throttled though I understnad they can to that to more egregious (ab)users.

  • waffles ||

    reading below, limits seem to only exist if you live outside a city. but if you're not in a city then the chance of someone piggybacking is tiny. there are about 24 networks within range of my apartment of which 8 are open. the only reason for me to pay for internet is for gaming as it is the only way to ensure lag-free play.

    internet is already free, in urban environments.

  • ||

    Ok, well, the limit for my comcast plan is 250GB/month. Even with two people watching netflix all the time, we still don't come close.

    I didn't say the caps actually MATTERED to most users, just that they exist.

  • sarcasmic||

    If you leave your car unlocked and running with the keys in the ignition and the door open...

  • ||

    Yeah, but even total stupidity doesn't negate ownership rights.

  • sarcasmic||

    Don't leave your car unlocked in Upper Moreland Township unless you want to pay a $25 fine.

    I'm not making this up.

    http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com.....34.html?dr

  • ||

    Not surprising--PA is my state. We're still such busybodies we don't let you buy a car or hunt on Sundays.

  • Mr Whipple||

    Blue Laws suck. PA is not the only one.

  • Mr Whipple||

    Across the River in NJ, it's against the law to leave your car idling when you go into a 7-11 to get a cup of coffee.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    That more than likely is something NJ has included under its Clean Air Act State Implementation Plan (SIP), rather than anything else.

    NJ is in the Ozone Transport Corridor and last I checked, the entire state is in nonattainment for ozone. They've got to implement various measures to reduce the emission of ozone precursors, and bans on idling vehicles is one measure.

  • Mr Whipple||

    It's a combination of both. There are "no idling laws", and there are "unattended vehicles laws".

    "Unattended Motor Vehicle" (Title 23,
    Subchapter 1111): "No person shall permit a motor vehicle to stand unattended without first stopping the
    engine, locking the ignition, removing the key from the ignition and effectively setting the brake, air temperatures
    permitting ...The thrust of the law, which dates from 1973, is not environmental but rather safety and security -- preventing
    car thefts and runaway cars."

  • sarcasmic||

    I hear that the reason New Yorkers are always so grumpy is because the light at the end of the tunnel is New Jersey.

  • Mr Whipple||

    I wouldn't know, I'm in South Jersey. We actually have farms, that grow real produce, not commodities. In fact, some of the best produce in the nation. The only reason Dr Welch didn't stay here, where he invented his non-fermented grape juice, is because the local supply couldn't quite keep up with demand.

  • ||

    Can you pump your own gas in NJ yet?

  • ||

    Across the River in NJ, it's against the law to leave your car idling when you go into a 7-11 to get a cup of coffee.

    This is the complete opposite in Japan. People would leave their car running with children inside and go shopping in the convenient stores for 20 minutes.

    Non sequitor, but I don't know why the Japanese (and liberals) think Japan is so eco-friendly.

  • Joe M||

    No, but you deserve a ticket, apparently.

  • BoscoTech||

    I think a better analogy would be: "If your neighbor has a stream that runs through his property, and you take a cup of water from it (without trespassing), is that stealing?"

  • Joe M||

    Well, you're using bandwidth, which is limited, so yes, it is wrong in a sense. On the other hand, not having a password on your wireless network, in my opinion, is essentially declaring it open to the public, which is fine.

  • ||

    We need to bring back vagrancy laws. Keep moving, bums. Find some private land that allows urban camping.

  • ||

    Private land. What a novel idea. A lot of these 'homeless advocate' non profits have money. Why don't they just buy some land and let these people live on it? That sounds a lot better than insisting that anyone can live anywhere.

  • sarcasmic||

    George Carlin had a good solution:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbSRCjG-VLk

  • Mr Whipple||

    Golf courses and cemeteries are the biggest wastes of prime real estate.

  • sarcasmic||

    Make homelessness illegal. Then it will go away.
    Laws can fix anything!

  • ||

    That's inhumane. Now, a good dose of regulatin', and those homeless could be better smelling, more attractive, bumps on the sidewalk.

  • Montani Semper Liberi||

    I still think the Soylent Corporation has the best solution to the homeless problem.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    Ick, I would hope they would wash them first, or else that would be some pretty skanky-tasting Soylent Green.

  • ||

    A good 2min scalding to remove the hair usually does the trick for cleaning as well.

  • ||

    it may not be a right, but is piggybacking on a wireless network wrong?

    Yes, it is. You are using something that isn't yours, without permission. Is that so hard?

    Not only that, but my wifi plan has a monthly cap. If someone eats my MB, I have to pay.

  • Brett L||

    I like to keep a 'honeypot' open network that provides users with access via a router that reboots every five minutes. I'm thinking about connecting up a couple of virus-ridden PCs for the script-kiddies, but I have no evidence that anyone has tried to connect to local addresses through it, so that may be a waste of a perfectly good doorstop.

  • sarcasmic||

    If you don't want people to piggyback your wireless you should encrypt it. It's not difficult.

    Here's a link: http://tinyurl.com/2ujsphg

  • ||

    Tell Sally Soccermom or Grandpa Smothers to "encrypt" their wireless metworks and prepare for a bumper eye-glaze crop.

    I await the first tech company that can make a wireless router a 1-2-3 process. (1-Plug in the power and ethernet cable. 2-Choose WPA2-AES and don't assign a passcode that a child can guess. 3-Click OK.)

    And why do they still predominantly make and sell wireless routers? Both Comcast and Verizon provide routers today and not just "modems." What most people need is an access point, which are harder to find than virgins in college.

  • ||

    My new router offers one-button configuration for encryption. Or so the manual says; I did it the old-fashioned way.

  • ||

    And why do they still predominantly make and sell wireless routers? Both Comcast and Verizon provide routers today and not just "modems."

    For people who don't want to pay comcast the equiptment rental. Basically, same reason they sell the modems at bestbuy as well.

    What most people need is an access point

    I thought that's what the typical wireless gateway does. Mine does, and it's nothin special.

  • ||

    No, most wireless units are routers that need DNS info input, unless your modem is set to do DHCP, which not all are.

    Access points are just dumb bridges that usually are set to DHCP.

  • ||

    I still think you're demanding they introduce a product who's purpose is already achieved by the other router/gateway devices on the market.

  • ||

    No, I just want the mfrs to do a better job at what they already do.

  • dfd||

    Wireless access points are still rare because until recently almost all home wireless networks needed the router functionality and it was much more "user friendly" to combine the router and WAP in one box for home users.

    What's somewhat interesting is that typically WAP's were only used by businesses so the market is much more limited and the price correspondingly higher for a standalone WAP than for a combined router/WAP. However, most wireless routers can be configured to behave as a simple WAP without too much trouble and a few even offer explicit standalone WAP functions.

  • ||

    And why do they still predominantly make and sell wireless routers?

    In the U.S. you are right. But when I lived in Japan, having internet at home is still a strange concept to them for some reason. Since they all have mobile phones/plans that allow for lots of internet usage, their home internet plans are hella expensive, plus don't come with the router for wireless. It was still cheaper to buy in America and have my parents ship it to me than to buy a router there.

  • IceTrey||

    Any Linksys router can do that.

  • Russ 2000||

    I await the first tech company that can make a wireless router a 1-2-3 process. (1-Plug in the power and ethernet cable. 2-Choose WPA2-AES and don't assign a passcode that a child can guess. 3-Click OK.)

    WTF? That is exactly what my wireless router took to set up. I spent more time putting the disconnecting the ethernet cable from the old one and putting it in the new one.

    I realize hat some people are so technology-averse that even simple instructions look daunting. That's what things like "geek squad" are for - granted they take longer than necessary in order to make it look like they are doing a lot of work for the charge.

  • ||

    (1) I do encrypt it. Even if I didn't, it would still be wrong to piggyback.

    (2) I have a Verizon wifi modem. Its that or satellite, out where I live. It has a monthly cap.

    But even if it didn't, it would be wrong to piggyback.

  • ||

    OK, JW, its actually a Verizon router. It was pretty effing EZ to set up with encryption. I use their password, but other than that it was pretty much your (1) - (2) - (3).

  • ||

    Good to see Verizon doing it right. When the Verzion tech installed my FIOS, there was mucho setup to be done. Still, the wireless in it is 'G' and I wanted 'N'.

    I recently fought with several routers, trying to set them up as APs and had to give up finally. Bought a Buffalo router that had an exteranl switch to let it be used as a AP. Problem solved.

    Still, the admin interface is enough to send most people running.

  • ||

    Many business, and a fair number of individuals, choose to offer open connections. How's someone supposed to know that a wifi connection is "private" if it gives every indication of being public?

    If you insist on standing on your front steps and shouting then you can't complain that people are listening in.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    DAMN IT!!!! My tubes are slow.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    I agree in general but must point out that culutraly today it can be argued that an "open" wifi is advertised as being free to use for any passers by. Yes the distinction could and probably is business versus residence but still the simple line is blurring. If I leave mine open and I am Starbuck I am INVITING people to use it. If I leav mine open at my private residence then MAYBE I am inviting.

    Not saying I necessarily agree but there is an argument to be made.

    Just sayin

  • ||

    You're wasting your time arguing ethics on a libertarian board, RC. When it comes to the more arcane property-rights situations, too many libertarians go the anarchist route. It's the easy way out. Besides, they love the "free" stuff.

  • ||

    I view this as an issue of autonomous personal priorities and choices. I really really like clean clothes and a place to take a long hot shower every morning.

    If push came to shove, I would willingly sacrifice my computer and wireless for that. Fortunately (I guess) I don't have to.

    Fuck off, Gizmodo busybodies.

  • ||

    No one should ever have to choose between feeding his children and having reliable, high-speed Internet access...

  • ||

    You got people out here, gotta decide between food and clothes for they kids.

    *Naked Man strolls past the camera eating a sandwich*

    Or, even, for they selves. It's real out here, nigga.

  • ||

    The human condition will be much improved when we have homeless people living on the streets of Titan. The moon of Saturn, for those wondering.

  • Mango Punch||

    NET NEUTRALITY!!!!!!!!

  • Colin||

    People are making the assumption that those are functioning laptops.

    It's a way big assumption.

  • ||

    I just presume that both photos are faked.

  • ¢||

    He can watch this week's episode of Glee.

    A bum might suck some dick for money, but that doesn't make him gay.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    The rule of the road.

  • ||

    Dollars to donuts, those are stolen laptops.

    If somebody already made this point, oh well. I'll go read the comments now.

  • Zeb||

    High speed internet at home is a luxury, not a necessity (unless you run a business from home that requires it). I know this because I have lived my whole life without high speed internet at home and I somehow manage to live a comfortable life.

  • The Gobbler||

    Tell your great-grandchildren that I say "Hi!"

  • ||

    "Sliced Bread? Pfft, you kids and your gadgets."

  • ||

    *shakes fist at joke-handle*

  • Zeb||

    There is a difference between necessities and things that are common and expected by most people, you know.

  • bill.||

    Cryptonomicon:

    "Very well, let me put it this way," Kivistik said magnanimously--he was not above dumbing down his material for the likes of Jon. "How many on-ramps will connect the world's ghettos to the Information Superhighway?"

    Oh, that's much clearer, everyone seemed to think. Point well taken, Geb! No one looked at Jon, that argumentative pariah. Jon looked helplessly over at Randy, signaling for help.

    Jon was a Hobbit who'd actually been out of the Shire recently, so he knew Randy was a dwarf. Now he was fucking up Randy's life by calling upon Randy to jump up on the table, throw off his homespun cloak, and whip out his two-handed ax.

    The words came out of Randy's mouth before he had time to think better of it. "The Information Superhighway is just a fucking metaphor! Give me a break!" he said.

  • ||

    There we go: Ship the homeless to Kinakuta.

  • Jerry||

    If you give all these homeless dudes a wireless antenna you could easily get a an ad-hoc community network going. As long as the spread of tin cans is distributed evenly over a given geographical area, coverage should be guaranteed.

  • ||

    The ad-hoc wifi still needs a router connected to an ISP.

  • ||

    The ad-hoc wifi still needs a router connected to an ISP.

    What the fuck are you talking about?

  • ||

    I think the sad irony lies in the fact that homeless people can have access to more information and entertainment than the richest kings and queens could only imagine for most of human history, but they can't get work doing the kinds of things peasants have been doing for most of human history.

  • ||

    but they can't get work doing the kinds of things peasants have been doing for most of human history.

    You try being a subsistence farmer in America. Fucking property taxes.

  • Brett L||

    Most homeless people are unwilling or incapable of holding down any kind of job. Much less one where you have to do actual stuff all day long. Spend some time with them. They aren't noble sufferers of society's ills, they're banal schizophrenics who won't take their meds.

  • The Gobbler||

    Years ago (about 1967) I was a little kid walking with some friends downtown, when a man came right up to me with his arm extended saying, "Shake my hand, I'm a bum." My immediate reply was, That's okay, I'm a Methodist."

  • SFC B||

    I dunno if "banal" is an apt description for an unmedicated schizophrenic. "Hilarious" maybe.

  • robc||

    Actually, I think they are doing a job that peasants have been doing for most of human history.

    Which part of human history didnt have people living on the street and begging for alms?

  • The Gobbler||

    Tony would say during the Clinton administration.

  • Abdul||

    If the peasants had access to modern high-class intoxicants, they wouldn't have shoveled pig shit.

  • ||

    It's highly likely that being a homeless person in America beats the shit out of being a peasant through most of human history.

  • guy in the back row||

    I always wondered about the people who post on www.DemocraticUnderground.com

  • Tesla||

    Where are the getting the power to run these laptops? Solar, wind, natural methane gas? I know if you get food stamps and welfare etc you also qualify for a free cell phone. Looks like they have free laptops and internet now as well. Not working and getting high all day just gets more and more lucrative by the day. No wonder more people are opting for that life it pays better for some I guess.

  • Abdul||

    I think there's a way to patch into lamposts. I knew a guy who worked for a Philly untility company, and he said it was fairly common to have homes self-wired by hooking jumper cables to a utility line. Dangerous, but common.

  • Invisible Finger||

    These are daylight photos. Maybe they go to shelter at night occasionally to recharge.

  • Mr Whipple||

    Paul Romer explains why poor people in Africa have access to cell phones, and the internet, but no access to electricity in their homes.

    http://www.chartercities.org/resources

  • Paul||

    Progressives: Yeah, but is he accessing the right information?

  • ||

    And for the record, that is not Tony in the picture, it is Shrike.

  • Paul||

    By the way, I saw this exact scene in Seattle... oh, six, years ago in front of Westlake Center...

    I thought "Hmm, four homeless guys looking at a laptop... wonder how long that stays with him before someone sells it for drugs, or spills their 40 on it."

  • Mad Scientist||

    Dude! You're gettin' a Dell!

  • Invisible Finger||

    The difference is affordable broadband is provided by private enterprise whereas affordable housing is controlled by the government.

  • Invisible Finger||

    Yes, it is. You are using something that isn't yours, without permission. Is that so hard?

    Not only that, but my wifi plan has a monthly cap. If someone eats my MB, I have to pay.

    I agree with you RC, but the government still makes me put a fence around my pool.

    They expect somewhat rudimentary measures to protect myself from trespassers before I get protection under the law. I think it's wrong, but that's the society we live in. If I have to put up with that for a pool, I'm going to have to put up with it for wifi.

  • Nyurd||

    Sucks to be stuck with only 32-bit apps.

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