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The Starbucks/AT&T Deal To Change Perception of Public Wi-Fi? 170

ericatcw writes "According to ComputerWorld, with two hours of free Wi-Fi soon to arrive at Starbucks consumers should expect more hotspots to go free as well as more attractive bundles from the likes of AT&T, Verizon and providers. While T-Mobile is hurting, indie coffeehouses and chains such as Caribou Coffee, Tully's and others that already offered free Wi-Fi, insist they are not, saying their ambiance and superior brew will help them retain customers."
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The Starbucks/AT&T Deal To Change Perception of Public Wi-Fi?

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  • would seem that access to said information also wants to be free.
    • Not in Australia (Score:2, Informative)

      by crispi ( 131688 )
      WiFi in Oz is charged at exorbitant rates ($15/hr). Starbucks has got Telstra to put in the WiFi infrastructure. Telstra is the incumbant ex-public telco.

      In Melbourne where I live I can name one free WiFi _location_ which is a food court.

      With the advent of HSDPA/3G (Telstra call it NextG), I can see WiFi NEVER taking off. (Why be limited to 50m radius of a hotspot when you cal roam all throughout the capital city)?

      • Even people who are stuck with craptastic telcos in the US thank the heavens they're not stuck in Oz with Telstra.
      • by Mike89 ( 1006497 )

        In Melbourne where I live I can name one free WiFi _location_ which is a food court.
        Thank you, RMIT :). (for those of you wondering where it is, it's part of 'Melbourne Central')
    • by omeomi ( 675045 )
      This is awesome. I'd love to be able to get free WiFi access at Starbucks. Just to check my email on my iTouch. A lot of McDonalds and Paneras already have it. And I don't know what the summary is talking about because a lot of indie coffee shops around me have free WiFi. I've always kind of wondered why Starbucks and B&N charge for WiFi. Maybe just to discourage campers. Not that it isn't their right to do so, and they're certainly not hurting for business, but it's not like offering free WiFi is espec
      • by isotactic ( 1198389 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @04:43PM (#22425400)
        It's only 2 Free hours - you have to buy a card for $15, and then the first 2 hours are "free", after that you start paying again.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by poetmatt ( 793785 )
          so basically its not free. Not a surprise there. Also means its not going to generate any more business than the current plan does, which is not exactly extravagant I'm sure. I guess it's going to be a while before they figure out that catering to customers is a good thing.
        • by jac89 ( 979421 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @05:15PM (#22425976)
          Its actually 2 free hours a day, which for a one off fee of 15 dollars is really not too bad.
    • by cHiphead ( 17854 )
      NEWSFLASH: wifi access is already free in most locations, I purposefully avoid Starbucks because of their lack of free wifi. Both are a bit late to the party, hell even McDonald's has free wifi these days.

      • by mrxak ( 727974 )
        Yeah, a lot of airports have free wifi too. Some of them still charge something though, quite unfortunately. Now if only airports had more power plugs about!
  • Who else agrees (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @04:16PM (#22424978) Journal
    That ubiquitous, free (if slow) wifi is going to be the way of the future?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Agreed (although I would qualify the adjective 'slow' with the adverb 'relatively'). Wi-Fi is fast becoming an expected service, as ubiquitous and taken for granted as electricity and running water. When you go out to eat, do you get charged for using the restroom? Do you pay a fee for the electricity used while you ate your meal? The pay-for-WiFi model is becoming just as ridiculous.
      • by Firehed ( 942385 )
        Well technically, you do pay a fee for the electricity used while you ate your meal, but it's bundled into the cost of the meal. Considering how much a cable line and a WiFi router for customer use would cost businesses, I'd be willing to pay an extra cent for my meal if it translated to 'free' WiFi access.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Spleen ( 9387 )
          Coffee shops and restaurants are somewhat different businesses. Coffee shops want people to hang around because they'll buy another cup or two. Restaurants on the other hand know that once people have had their meal they are doing spending money there. There are exceptions to that, but it is generally true. If a Restaurant's tables are generally full they want people to eat and then leave. Ever have to wait for a table? Imagine if that place had free WiFi and people stuck around after they ate. Peopl
          • Nah, I don't really agree. At one time, I would have sided with you on this one. But at least from what I've observed, coffee shops have evolved in recent years to become much more like restaurants. The idea of a coffee shop being a social hang-out is dying off. (Just like restaurants, they also figured out people are only going to drink so much coffee during a visit.) When you encourage people to hang around playing board or card games, reading books, etc. - you wind up with a place that's half full o
    • Re:Who else agrees (Score:4, Insightful)

      by misleb ( 129952 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @04:42PM (#22425380)
      Not if it continues to utilize the 2.4Ghz range. In most urban areas the 2.4Ghz band is already saturated. I went to install Wifi in one of our satelite offices here in Portland I was able to see 50... that's right 50! other APs in the area. That sucks when there are 3 (4 if you push it) non-overlapping channels available.

      • That happened to me recently except 90% of the APs were on channel 6. Channel 11 was clear sailing. You'd think manufacturers would randomize this stuff at the factory.
  • What? Americans PAY? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Shuntros ( 1059306 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @04:16PM (#22424980)
    Wifi in European Starbucks has been free for a long time now. Buy a coffee, get a free wifi scratchcard. When credit runs out, go back to counter and get another one.....
    • by jwietelmann ( 1220240 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @05:13PM (#22425952)
      For every Starbucks here in the USA that charges for Wifi, there's a mom 'n' pop or local chain coffeehouse across the street that offers it for free.

      In fact, I've heard that a sure way to open a successful independent coffee shop is to open one right by a Starbucks. They've already done all the research on the location for you, and given a choice, I think a lot of people prefer to support the little guy and enjoy a less commercial atmosphere.
      • by cromar ( 1103585 )
        I know I go to local coffee houses anytime it's convenient. Where I live we have a lot of great coffee houses and even a local roaster, so I am usually not very far from a locally roasted cappuccino or cuppa organic coffee.

        I would like to see more local coffee houses with a drive through, though!
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by imthesponge ( 621107 )
        Then people buy their coffee from Starbucks and walk across the street to park their laptop at your place.
      • by syzler ( 748241 ) <[ten.kedzys] [ta] [divad]> on Thursday February 14, 2008 @09:04PM (#22429064)
        In fact, I've heard that a sure way to open a successful independent coffee shop is to open one right by a Starbucks. They've already done all the research on the location for you, and given a choice, I think a lot of people prefer to support the little guy and enjoy a less commercial atmosphere.

        That is funny since where I live, Starbucks is the little guy. In Anchorage, AK the big coffee shop player is Kaladis Brothers. Kaladis has been offering free wireless to anyone since I came to Anchorage seven years ago. They also have a nicer atmosphere with big over stuffed couches and chairs, plenty of tables, and power outlets for computers every where. Most of the local restaurants and grocers feature "Kaladi Coffee" instead of Starbucks.
    • That's actually a really good idea. It keeps campers off and encourages people to keep chugging.
  • by vondo ( 303621 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @04:20PM (#22425028)
    Aside from airports* and some hotels, wireless is free everywhere that has it. (And what are you going to do, use another airport?)

    Seemingly everywhere now has free wireless: coffee shops, my car dealership, bars, etc. Why on earth would I go to Starbucks and pay $2 for a coffee (not a double soy quad shot latte, a COFFEE) and then pay an extra $10 for a wireless connection?

    That deal was doomed from the start and in today's climate is just silly. The new one is quite realistic.

    * Fort Lauderdale and Jacksonville, I believe, have free wireless at the airport. Nice of them!
    • by vondo ( 303621 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @04:23PM (#22425080)
      In other words, the "perception" of public wireless is already that it's free.
    • A profit motive is generally a good way to start the ball rolling. It paid for the initial setup of infrastructure too.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by samkass ( 174571 )
      Aside from airports* and some hotels, wireless is free everywhere that has it. (And what are you going to do, use another airport?)

      Actually, yes. It's one of several reasons that, living in mid-NJ, I drive down to Philadelphia instead of up to Newark for my flights (the other being substantially fewer delays, of course). Philadelphia has free wireless (as does Pittsburgh), but Newark charges $8... someone would have to be really desperate to pay that.
      • by GiMP ( 10923 )
        You don't fly internationally much, huh? Not many Intl. flights out of Philadelphia, not for a decent price.. or maybe you spend more on your flight, to save the $8?

        Personally, I've paid $10/day for wireless plenty of times. I actually spent about $20 in Berlin for internet, when I was stuck there waiting for a layover. I wouldn't consider myself desperate when paying, but I do use it for business, not pleasure.
        • by samkass ( 174571 )
          You don't fly internationally much, huh?

          Nope. Almost all my business travel is domestic.

          or maybe you spend more on your flight

          Actually slightly less. And that's not considering the hours of useless time I've spent waiting for flights to or from Newark, sitting on the Newark tarmac, circling above Newark, or trying to figure out how to get to Newark when you get flown to another NY airport instead. (How can an airline *coughUSAirwayscough* consider their job done when they switch you to a flight going to
          • As long as we're all in the mood to bitch about air travel, US Airways is indeed the worst airline followed closely by Delta. However, in terms of the airport, Dulles takes the cake as the worst airport in this country by far.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      "Why on earth would I go to Starbucks and pay $2 for a coffee (not a double soy quad shot latte, a
      COFFEE) and then pay an extra $10 for a wireless connection?"

      The second part can be answered by the same reason in the first part... $2 for a coffee indeed! Coffee is free or way cheaper than $2 at many locations, and yet starbucks has built an empire selling $2 coffee with $1-2 in extra sugar and calories dumped in for good measure. Maybe the $10 wireless comes with a big cookie.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        You know Starbucks always gets a bad rap for being too expensive. The regular coffee price is pretty competitive with the likes of Dunkin Donuts or Panera. The reality is that you pay a premium at SB because they treat their employees fairly well. They actually spend more on health care for their employees than they do on coffee beans on a yearly basis. I worked there because I could get a full health plan for a 20 hour work week. How many other part time jobs do that for you? I agree I always thought it wa
    • Among airports I've been to recently, Tucson, Phoenix, Albuquerque, Denver (a recent change from a pay service), and Kansas City all have free wi-fi. When it's a hub you're changing in, you can (to a limited extent) choose your airport.

      (But never change planes in Kansas City if you can avoid it -- the gate areas are so small that you have to leave security to change planes!)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pak9rabid ( 1011935 )
      You wouldn't..just steal the fscking service. It's not very hard. Follow these simple steps:
      1. Establish layer 2 connectivity (connect to the wifi network)
      2. Populate your arp cache with other MACs/IPs on the network (nmap -sP works nicely..substitute the proper subnet of course)
      3. Pick a MAC/IP pair at random, and set your MAC/IP to these values, but don't use the MAC/IP of the firewall
      4. Test connection (ping or try browser)
      5. Repeat the last 2 steps as necessary until you get past thei
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by sricetx ( 806767 )
        No, pak9rabid, number 7 is not "Profit". It's "Go to Jail" for stealing service. It's one thing to piggyback on someone's unsecured wifi router (if they have it open in this day and age, they are obviously intending to share it), and another thing entirely to hack into a commercial and secured pay internet service. Just because you have the technical knowledge to do so doesn't mean that you should...
    • by SQLGuru ( 980662 ) [] Look for the FREE providers, but the site lists all, so if you are desperate, you can look for pay providers, too.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      $2? Where?
      A tall(10/12 ounces) is about $1.67 I think. If you bring your USED Starbucks cup or a starbucks mug it's a $.35 refill. Did you know that?

      Where are you getting $2???? I live and work in Boston/Cambridge area and that's what I pay. Well worth it for free wi fi. ALL StarBucks I go to the service is so friendly and helpful it's crazy. Places I go to routinely know me and are even more friendly. I don't even go everyday, I mostly brew starbucks or other brands at home. But when I have to go into
    • by Pinback ( 80041 )
      PDX has free wifi, and Micron sponsors it in BOI.
    • Aside from airports* and some hotels, wireless is free everywhere that has it. (And what are you going to do, use another airport?)

      I live in the DC area where there are 3 major international airports within reasonable driving distance, so I can quite conceivably use a different one. So, of course, you'd expect market forces to ensure that all 3 have free wifi. Thankfully for them, the regional airport authority decided to ban free wifi in any of the area airports based on totally preposterous safety a

  • by cbowland ( 205263 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @04:28PM (#22425166)
    Panera Bread [] has had free wifi for years. You can use this page [] to find one near you. They typically don't hassle you even if you are camped out and not buying much.
    • The Panera closest to me shares a building with Starbucks. I always found it humorous that Panera's free wireless is bound to stop anyone from paying for Starbuck's. Panera has better coffee, too.
    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )
      So does Atlanta Bread and Camilles cafe's. Not to mentions a ton of other places.
      I am not a big Starbucks fan.
      • Sure, lots of places offer free wifi. I used Panera as an example as there are some 1000+ of those cafes across the country. Not quite to Starbucks' scale, but probably more available than the other mom and pops or smaller chains. I think I read somewhere that they had the largest free wifi network in the states.
        • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )
          I agree Atlanta Bread Company is also a pretty big chain. As is the other place a mentioned. The funny thing is I both Panera and Atlanta Bread much more that Starbucks. They have a lot better food. Coffee? Well I don't drink Coffee so what do I know?
  • just announced today that starbucks here in KY is closing some of their shops. they are closing 100 stores across the country because they opened too many of them (and the economy stinks).
    • starbucks here in KY is closing some of their shops
      I hope they're smart about it and close the ones in places like the Kroger stores and the Starbucks across from a Starbucks in Covington...

      Why am I going to buy coffee at a place I'm going to buy groceries at?
    • I wouldn't be surprised if this wasn't in the plan for a while now. It's been known that Starbucks would open a store not too far from another Starbucks (sometimes even across the street) to help drive out competition. Once the competition is gone, why would you need two (or more)Starbucks, unless the traffic between the stores was more than one could handle.
    • They've need to close stores for awhile. I was in the airport, I think Dallas and from where I was standing I could see 3 Starbucks. Keep in mind that I could walk to all 3 w/o going through a security checkpoint or anything like that. I hope whoever was making decisions about where to expand has been replaced.
  • What I want to know, is: will the agreement between T-Mobile and AT&T allow the T-Mobile Hotspot@Home WiFi phone service to work?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by all5n ( 1239664 )
      Yes. One of the things that T-Mobile got as a concession for Starbucks breaking the contract early was protection for the T-Mobile UMA (HotSpot@Home) service to remain accessible to T-Mobile customers. T-Mobile wifi customers will still be able to access the wifi at starbucks for some period of years at no additional cost. Since AT&T provides many of the T1 connections to the starbucks locations, they can offer SBUX a sweeter deal than T-Mobile could. Going to the 2 hour pass would have been the off
      • Works for me.

        UMA basically sets up an IPSec VPN to carry the VoIP traffic. If the wireless router hasn't firewalled the ports, you're golden.

        Now, what I really wish is that I could use the unencrypted network the phone connects to to run it's UMA/VPN tunnel to browse, etc. It's silly to connect to the web server I have running at home, connected to my wireless router, from my phone via t-mobile's VPN. Waste of their traffic load, to boot.

        • Now, what I really wish is that I could use the unencrypted network the phone connects to to run it's UMA/VPN tunnel to browse, etc. It's silly to connect to the web server I have running at home, connected to my wireless router, from my phone via t-mobile's VPN. Waste of their traffic load, to boot.

          HUGE SECURITY HOLE. Which is probably why they only allow GSM-over-IP traffic over the encrypted tunnel. You don't want any sort of data being passed through your core, when you can just get by with the voice data.

          /t-mobile user with UMA BB Curve
          //I love UMA
          ///and T-mobile

  • Such a crock (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bombula ( 670389 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @04:30PM (#22425208)
    While T-Mobile is hurting

    Somebody call a whaaaaaambulance. For God's sake, the only reason T-Mobile's service had any operating costs was because they were trying to charge customers money. When you give away wi-fi for free, as most places are doing now - and not just coffee houses - it costs virtually nothing. What, $400 for a cheap PC and wireless router that any 15 year old employee knows how to run backwards and forwards?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by corsec67 ( 627446 )
      WRT-54Gl with suitable firmware. $60 per unit.
      (My favorite firmware is Tomato Firmware [])
      Have them flashed and set up at a central point, and there would be no configuration at the deployment point.
  • ... we charge you outrageous prices for the WiFi and give you free coffee.

  • Now I may actually have a reason to care about Starbucks. I'm on AT&T DSL (it's slow, but the cable company here has not-too-liberal bandwidth caps/exorbitant over-your-limit fees, plus I don't want cable TV). The fact that DSL also gets me local dial-in numbers in quite a few places and occasional WiFi (typically McDonald's and Barnes&Noble) have been real nice additions. Adding Starbucks to the list helps even more.

    Of course, the bad for them is that getting more ubiquitious WiFi means I'm less
  • by Rick Richardson ( 87058 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @04:44PM (#22425422) Homepage

    Fellow Minneapolis chain Dunn Brothers offers free Wi-Fi with *no strings attached* at its 90 locations.

    Caribou is 2nd (one hour free).
    • by garcia ( 6573 )
      But then there is this [] issue where the entire setup of the shop is changed and people are coming in just to leech the wifi. While chains can handle that, the small guys are getting fucked.

      If you want to skip the blog post, go straight to the Flickr pic here [].
  • by ArikTheRed ( 865776 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @04:47PM (#22425458) Homepage
    First AT&T makes major deals with Apple, now with Starbucks? What's next - NPR, Prius and The Daily Show?

    ps: joke.
  • Is this right? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blumpy ( 84889 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @04:49PM (#22425490)
    "Up to two hours of free Wi-Fi service per day will be available for Starbucks Card holders"

    If I understand this correctly, if you go get yourself a card, fill it up with a minimal $5, you pretty much can get 2 hours of free wireless anytime?

    Sounds like a good deal, most of the time you really only need to check your mail or "look something up" quickly anyway... and with Starbucks being pretty much everywhere, this seems like a nice convenience. Great for people like me with an iPod Touch.

    • by SQLGuru ( 980662 )
      That's pretty much how I've interpreted all of the things I've the cheapest card and get two years of free (2hrs per day) wi-fi at $tarbucks......not sure of the implications of having TWO cards.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by SQLGuru ( 980662 )
        I know, replying to your own post is bad form, but I just thought of this.....

        Instead of buying a card, find someone who is done with their card (esp. if it has just a few cents on it) and get free wi-fi without paying anything......maybe start an after-market market for Starbucks cards.

    • Pretty sure they mean the Starbucks credit card, not the pre-paid cards.
  • by MooseTick ( 895855 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @04:55PM (#22425590) Homepage
    Now many McDonalds, Krystals, Atlanta Bread Companys, Burger King, Denny's, Dunkin' Donuts, IHOP, Jack-in-the-Box, KFC, Subway, Taco Bell, Quiznos, and Wendy's offer free WIFI.

    'Bucks will start losing customers who want to surf and schmooze. I'm sure they especially don't want to lose that extra $6 cupcake sale when someone has been hanging around the store for an hour and starts to get hungry.
    • Not quite. McDonalds charges somewhere around 6$ an hour IIRC. However, they have a deal set up with Nintendo for free access for the DS (and it happens to work with Opera DS). I wouldn't be surprised if you couldn't change your MAC to appear to be a DS, and the system give you a free pass.
    • by Allador ( 537449 )
      Yeah, lovely. Just what I want to do is sit in a grease-shack and work in a hard plastic chair smelling french fries, while sharing the space with homeless people (speaking to the fast food joints offering wifi).
  • It's one month since I installed a Fonera router ( in a pub. People does not connect. They just don't go to the place for WiFi. Most people have internet access at work and at home, accessing the internet even when relaxing in front of a coffee is actually nonsense.... well... hmmmm.... I shoulnd't be posting this on slashdot, right?
    • I don't know, there's a pub near me that offers free WiFi and has very comfy chairs and good beer. I'm planning on taking everyone who turns up to the Étoilé hackathon there, and I expect at least a few people to brink laptops...
  • I see bars offering free WiFi to attract fantasy sports nuts, WiFi is becoming more and mainstream every day...soon everybody will be expected to offer it as service to their customers. That's the real news...WiFi has gone mainstream to the point that charging for it will cause people to choose one establishment over another...
  • I know Starbucks are ubiquitous with all those jokes about them being across the street from each other, but read this quote:

    Bauhaus has thrived despite all of the Starbucks shops that have popped up around it: 15 within half a mile, and 38 within one mile.

    So that's 38 Starbucks in one square mile? That's what it sounds like.
    • Don't plan on winning big on Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?...that's pi square miles.


      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Don't plan on winning big on Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?...that's pi square miles.


        Only when using Euclidean geometry, I get sqrt(1) using taxicab geometry, assuming radius measurements were taken using a car odometer. []

        According to Google Bauhaus Books & Coffee(301 E Pine St, Seattle, WA 98122), and the startbucks located at 2200 Alaskan Way # 120, Seattle, WA 98121 are 1 mile apart but it would take 1.9 miles to drive between them.

        Both of our calculations are based on the 1 mile figure being a radius,but measured differently, do yo

        • OK, a circle of taxicab radius 1 would be, in Euclidean terms, a square of side sqrt(2) and area 2 -- unless you have a definition of "taxicab area".

    • Sounds more like 3.14 square miles.
  • I've often wondered about the wisdom of charging for WiFi at Starbucks.

    When you buy a coffee, the sugar is free. The creamer is free. The newspapers people bought earlier in the day and then left in the "already read" newspaper bin are free. The bathrooms are free. The lights are free. The heating/cooling is free. The electrical sockets (when available) are free.

    WiFi should be just like these - free. It's just another element of the building these days.

    Charging for Wifi creates a viscous circle: you need to
    • So, you get a bunch of cheapskates sitting around your tables using the free Wi-Fi without having to buy anything, while your paying customers may have trouble finding a seat. If I'm a business owner, I like this why?

      I recently turned around and found another place to have lunch when there were no seats at a cafe with Free Wi-Fi near my office. At least half of the table-occupants didn't seem to have purchased anything, or had finished consuming it some time before.
  • actually not doing well and is rumored to be shopping for a buyer.

    It's probably not due to WiFi, in all fairness, but to say they're not hurting isn't true either.
  • I live in the Seattle area, and I work from Tully's pretty regularly because it's free. The coffee is good too. But they're not absolutely *everywhere*. Starbucks is, and so it's the de-facto meeting place to do business. If you're meeting a client, partner, friend, study-mate or whatever in this town the standard is, "I'll meet you at the Starbucks at X-o'clock." Then it's usually, "Which one, there are 3 in that neighborhood." They're ubiquitous, and it's a nice atmosphere to be in for an hour or so
  • I'm not so up on how it is in other places, but in Austin, basically every place has free wi-fi. The bars, the restaurants, everywhere. Except for Starbucks, before now. It being Austin, I knew this probably wasn't standard everywhere else, but I'm surprised to hear that it's that far off. I am 100% used to going to basically any place I want, including a dive bar, and being able to pull out my laptop and dick around on the internet. (Though that only lasts a few minutes until the beer starts.)
  • In every Starbucks I've been to in the last few years they've had free wifi.

    All other coffee shops I've been to (outside the US) have also had free wifi (when I've tried). If I go to one that didn't have it, I'd go to another one (but that's not happened yet).


System checkpoint complete.