Long time ago I promised my friend Sami an article about free WiFi in Oxford. That was really long time ago. For one reason or another I got pulled away from doing this for over a year. It’s time to fulfil this promise.
This article intends on being short series, divided into four parts (or regions). Cowley Road, City centre, Jericho and Summertown. I aim to focus on local businesses, not chains like Costa, Starbucks etc. Why? Because small business can be influenced to change, if needed, or benefit from good press.
So, without further ado, let’s start with first area – Cowley Rd.
166 Cowley Road
Oxford, OX4 1UE
Mon-Fri – 7am till ?
Sat-Sun – 9am till ?
This place is a relatively new addition to Cowley area coffee fan club. Located opposite Tesco, it’s biggest focus seems to be on organic, healthy drinks and food. The decor is quite basic, although not too raw.
Coffee and juices offered are quite tasty, with a wide selection which would probably satisfy most fussy customers.
But hey, I’m supposed to talk about WiFi, right? Well, they have it. That would be the closest description. There are no obvious signs saying that they offer free WiFi. After coming up to the counter and asking for coffee (with a laptop in my hand), I had to ask about WiFi, as no sticker/label/board was to be found with information on how to access it. When asked, the staff informed me of the access point name (which btw is quite unusual and not obvious: XLNbusinessservices. Really? Not BeetRoot? Or something? Oh well, missed opportunity here). After which I was told the password. Not very complicated, but not too obvious either.
The good thing is, it doesn’t seem to be “purchase only” access, as they do not operate any ticketing system for WiFi access. So once you visit for the first time and save the network, you’re always in.
WiFi itself is working, but it’s not speed demon.
All in all, it’s an ok place. Coffee is good, there’s a lot of space, service is nice. WiFi could do with improvement, having login info on some board would be nice.
Overall: 3+ out of 5
Side note – and just when I was typing those notes, internet went down for few minutes. To the guys from Beetroot – if you need someone to take a look at your network, drop me a line, I’m sure I can help!
101 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1HU
Mon-Sat: 9am – 7pm
Sun: 11am – 5pm
Truck Store. An independent music store turned coffee shop. The place is a little tight, meaning you have to get here at the right time, or you’ll miss on a place to sit. It’s full of vinyl records, CDs, second hand CDs etc.
Coffee is… well, A+ Not much more to say here, apart that it’s really good. They don’t do food, but then again they don’t need to. Staff is friendly and smiling. Also, they have recently introduced “Pay what you want Mondays” where you can pay whatever you feel like for your coffee (coffee, not vinyls, calm down). Really cool. If you’re a music lover, you’ll have a great time chatting to staff there about all kinds of music, record players, etc.
As most places (and a music store) they also have background music. Maybe a tad too loud for my taste (had to really increase the volume on my headphones to listen to what I like).
And of course, the WiFi. Again, no obvious signs or advertising the fact that they do free WiFi. This time I decided to risk it and just try to connect myself. I’ve sat down, clicked the connect button, and there it is. TruckStore SSID. Connected, a page showed up asking for my name and email in order to give me access. Pretty usual procedure (although I would like to know what they’re doing with collected data. Also, I’m pretty sure you can give out fake info). Anyway, this is a massive change from Beetroot. See for yourself:
So, in conclusion, this is my favourite go to place in Cowley. The coffee, net and atmosphere make up for a very friendly experience. Sure, music volume could be a little toned down, and maybe a clearly visible WiFi sign would come in handy, but otherwise – spot on.
Overall: 4+ out of 5
88-90 Cowley Rd,
Oxford, OX4 1JB
I think this is the most coffee house styled place of them all in this area. Dark interiors, combined with dark leather sofas and wooden tables. There’s plenty of place to sit here. It’s also quite full most of the time. From what I’ve noticed, this is a very popular hangout spot.
They also aim to be quite arty. If you’re an painter, photographer or any other type of artist, you can display your work for sale there. It will hang for a month, and the coffee shop takes modest 20% cut if you sell anything, but they do not charge anything for the privilege of hanging it on the wall. Neat.
Place is quite famous for it’s macaroons and coffee art.
WiFi wise, they operate a code system. You get a slip with randomly generated code with your purchase, and that allows you to access the net for the next two hours, after which you have to make new purchase. Not my favourite system, but at least you do not have to share your details and let’s face it, who drinks one coffee for more then two hours. Speed wise, again, it’s really decent, slightly better then one in Truck Store. SSID is also quite obvious.
All in all, nice atmosphere, speedy internet, tasty sweet treats, good service. Sometimes a little bit too crowdy.
Overall: 5- out of 5
104 Cowley Road,
Oxford OX4 1JE
Welcome to George and Delila. THE place for ice cream in Oxford. As most Oxford residents know, there are three locations for G&D. Jericho, City centre and Cowley Rd. This paragraph is specifically for the Cowley Rd one.
I seriously doubt I need to introduce anyone to ice cream quality that G&D offers. If I do – I’ll just say go. Go now.
Apart from ice cream, they offer wide selection of foods, like bagels, baked cookies, and of course coffee. All very tasty and good quality.
Place is spacey. Mostly tables, bar stools and one lonely sofa (more sofas!). It’s also usually packed with students, business people, etc. All in all, I really don’t think this place is in need of further advertising in terms of food and drinks. Or atmosphere (which is quite nice).
Internet wise though… completely different story. At first they were operating similar system to the one at Rick’s with slips and codes. That system was always failing. Or most of the time. Didn’t quite work with mobile devices too. So they decided to scrap it. And rightly so. Instead of operating passwords, logins, etc. they simply decided to open up the network to all users. Seems like a convenient way to go – you just show up, choose G&D SSID and off you go. Problem is, this is an open public network. With hundreds of users connecting daily. My opinion? Not a smart move. Or safe. To top it all, the speed… is just slow. I mean not as slow as Beetroot, but close. Problem is, looking at upload speeds (very high) and very low download speeds, my guess is someone is abusing their connection. maybe a neighbour next door? Or a customer comes in to download their portion of Torrents or other. Again – not safe or smart. Looking at PlusNet who’s their provider, they have 70Mb/s fibre optic connection. To get 1.53Mb/s down at this means some serious abuse. I think you should look into it guys, if not for yourself, then for comfort and security of your customers.
Final thoughts – food is spot on, coffee ok, broadband is simply dangerous.
Overall: 3 out of 5
This ends the first part of the mini series. Hope you enjoyed it. Next part should come up in couple weeks time. If you have any suggestions, want me to perform some network tests, or have places you want me to visit – leave a comment below!