Speed up your downloads

    Speed up with caffeine and bandwith. Photo by Katie Tang / North by Northwestern.

    Signal strengths measured with the app iStumbler for Mac.

    While Northwestern’s wireless network is extensive and far-reaching, it can often be restricting. But NUIT isn’t the end-all and be-all for downloading music and movies. Fear not! Downtown Evanston hosts many wi-fi hotspots, where the Internet access is free, unblocked and download-ready.

    The Full Meal Download
    1740 Sherman Ave.
    Hours: 7:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m., Mon. – Sat.; 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m., Sun.

    A smaller establishment, Così’s Internet (also free) can be faster than Panera’s during the lunchtime rush. Also assisting in its speed, the café is located slightly closer to campus, although it can be a bit pricey for a mere sandwich or salad. Quench your thirst while waiting for your mp3 download to finalize; a small soft drink at Così is huge. It’s a good thing the joint has a clean bathroom, as well as easily accessible Wi-Fi.

    Network Name: Cosi
    Signal to Noise Ratio: 67 to 12

    -Panera Bread
    1700 Sherman Ave.
    Hours: 6:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m., Mon. – Fri.

    Panera’s free Wi-Fi can complement a cup of coffee, an asiago cheese bagel or even a soup/ sandwich combo. The café’s cozy armchairs invite you to stay awhile, and with plenty of seating it can also serve as a meet-up for friends grabbing a bite to eat. A few common torrent sites are blocked on the Panera server, but it’s easy to work around the setback. The Internet’s free, and most users prefer to munch or sip as they access the Web.

    Network Name: PANERA
    Signal to Noise Ratio: 55 to 13

    The Last Minute, Late Night Download
    -Burger King
    1740 Orrington Rd.
    Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week.

    BK might be lacking in taste and atmosphere (though you might disagree depending on how late Saturday night or early Sunday morning you go), but its Wi-Fi is just as free as it is elsewhere. Burger King is open around the clock, seven days a week so it’s easy to stop by and stay as little or as late as you like. If you are looking for a snack while you download, the food certainly isn’t refined, but it is cheap. When downloading at Burger King, you can have it your way.

    Network Name: cajamesrestaurant
    Signal to Noise Ratio: 42 to 13

    The Chill Download
    -Unicorn Café
    1723 Sherman Ave.
    Hours: 6:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., Mon. – Sat.; 7:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. Sun.

    Sitting at the Unicorn Café’s coveted counter facing the window with a nice street view, it’s easy to lose track of time. The coffee shop has a very original, homey feel that lends itself to both concentrated studying and inconsequential downloading. It’s a good thing then, that the Unicorn Café provides a free wireless network, aptly named “Unicorn Delight.” Buy a seemingly bottomless cup of coffee, and you’ll stay buzzed on the Internet until your computer dies or the shop closes. Also remember to bring cash; the Unicorn Café does not accept credit cards.

    Network Name: Unicorn Delight
    Signal to Noise Ratio: 41 to 14

    The Funky Download
    1621 Chicago Ave.
    Hours: 11 a.m. – 2 a.m., Sun. – Thurs.; 11 a.m. – 3 a.m., Fri. – Sat.

    From the vibrant décor to the busy atmosphere, Kafein might be an eclectic place to access the Internet, but it’s also a welcoming one. The new age coffee shop is loud and bustling, but can really add to the downloading experience with its crafty caffeinated drinks and overall hip vibe. With a breath of fresh air, Kafein is about as far away you can get from your dorm room’s Northwestern wireless connection while remaining in the campus area. Still, you probably won’t want to immediately listen or watch your downloads in the café; the sights and sounds of Kafein are too intriguing to ignore.

    Network Name: KaFein
    Signal to Noise Ratio: 46 to 13


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