Fuck "wifi_rail", srsly.

So, the pinheads who bring you that marvel of modern efficiency we know as BART have a wifi network on the trains now. They have, of course, managed to make it completely useless. (Even when it isn't over capacity.)

First, you need to sign up for a free account to use it, with an email address and a password. But they don't verify the email address at all! So it is in fact completely anonymous, there is just a pointless speedbump in the way. I guess it is for spamming rather than kiddie porn panic?

It makes you log in with your made-up email address and password before passing any packets, and they set the login page to not remember either the address or password even if your browser is set to remember such things. And, it has a very short time-out.

So, you open up yor mail reader, it tries to get mail, you are redirected to a "welcome" page in the web browser (not even the login page!) where you have to do a fucking lot of typing... And then maybe you can dow nload your mail. Maybe. By the time you are on the return train, you will have to do this login dance again.

Whoever is responsible for this stunning design failure deserves continuous cockpunches.

This message brought to you by the just-slightly-lesser failure that is the AT&T network.

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15 Responses:

  1. bifrosty2k says:

    BART really needs to get a clue, unfortunately they're unlikely to get one unless we campaign to cut their budgets.

  2. scullin says:

    This is where bookmarklets come in really handy. You can write a bookmarklet to fill in the login screen and submit it.

    I did this for the WiFi at my last job because apparently web based login is what passes for "Enterprise Grade".

    This does unfortunately require you or someone you know to access the login screen with a browser that allows you to save the HTML or browse the DOM to examine the login field layout, so it's tricky to do with just an iPhone.

    • taffer says:

      This sort of sounds like "work" for something that should be trivially easy and streamlined... most people are going to be clueless idiots and wont' want to spend any time getting "welcomed" or whatever to the network, they'll just want their email or YouTube when they get on the train.

      Same deal in cafés... just work, dammit, don't make me go through some stupid login or enter my home account information or whatever. Starbucks in my area is "serviced" by Bell Canada and you either have to log in with your home DSL account information (seriously, how many of your typical DSL customers are going to know that?) or whip out your credit card. Screw you guys.

      These are both design failures, possibly intentional to show there's no demand for the service.

    • Yeah, I've done similar to automate logins with WWW::Mechanize in Perl at the British Library which has similarly retarded web portals.

      Pretty sure that I could stick a hook into Network Manager here to automatically run the login script once I was connected to a wireless network with the right SSID or whatever, which would be extra awesome...

  3. frogworth says:

    Yeah, they introduced this a few days before I left SF in November (brief visit). It was moderately exciting and considerably frustrating. Glad to hear they haven't gotten a clue :/

  4. duskwuff says:

    Was wifi_rail giving you an rsh error today too?

  5. latemodel says:

    Omg how can you say such bad things about them when some guy once managed to watch video in the transbay tube.

    What I love most is that the login system is so slow that by the time I'm authenticated, I'm halfway through their four-station coverage zone. I don't know if it's the load or what, but it's been a long time since I've successfully gotten data when the train is moving.

    Am I wrong in my contention that 802.11 is not meant to handle this?

    • pikuorguk says:

      This is what 3G mobile internet is for. My T-Mobile G1 works very well for web browsing and email, and my girlfriend's eeePC has a mobile data connection and is fast enough to use remote desktop.

    • I've managed to going east bound in the tube, west bound, you can barely get signed on.

      I go Embarcadero to East Bay, so I sign up while I wait for a train, and then can usually keep surfing all the way out, but it's spotty in the tube.

      My T-Mobile 3G works much better in BART.

  6. pikuorguk says:

    Wifi in the UK is similarly crap. If they're not charging us £20 a month for access, it has the same silly HTTP based login hoops to jump through.

    McDonalds here give out free wifi, so long as you type in your postcode. Nothing else, just the postcode. They don't even validate it, so any string of letters making up the correct pattern works.

    Hotel wifi and airport wifi here is a total piss-take, with the option to either pay £5 an *HOUR*, or £20-30 a month which is often more than the hotel room!