Mineta San José International Airport

“Bonus tracks” from San Jose Airport art tour

Wunderkammer detail SuttonBeresCuller

My At the Airport column on USATODAY.com this month describes some of the high-tech artwork at the newly opened Terminal B at Mineta San José International Airport.

You can read the entire column – High-tech art welcomes passengers at San José International Airport – on the USATODAY.com website, but I wanted to include some ‘bonus tracks’ here.

Without a doubt, the star attraction in the new terminal is the 26-foot-tall Space Observer sculpture by Bjorn Schulke in the middle of the terminal.

San Jose Airport "Space Observer" sculpture

The glossy, all-white ‘creature’ has antennas that take pictures of what it sees, a playback screen and propellers on a set of arms of that wave about. See it in action on this video.

Down on the baggage claim level, there are two glass exhibit cases displaying  Silicon Valley treasures.

Small Wonders includes technology-influenced “curiosities” by various artists.

San Jose Airport SMALL WONDERS art exhibit

The Wunderkammer, by SuttonBeresCuller, is “an imaginary natural history museum diorama of the San Jose region created using recycled materials that have defined Silicon Valley.”

Wunderkammer at San Jose Airport

And listen closely as you walk through some of the terminal jetways. You might hear wild Hawaiian Chickens, the sound of Texas at dawn or the songs of sparrows. They’re some of the soundscapes Bill Fontana created to connect San José with destination cities.

Sound like fun? I spent a several hours at Mineta San José International Airport and didn’t get to see – or hear – all the artwork. And are few pieces destined for Terminal B aren’t installed yet. So now I’m scheming for a reason to go back.

Souvenir Sunday: cherries & more from Mineta San Jose International Airport

Each Sunday at StuckatTheAirport.com we take a look at some of the fun and inexpensive souvenirs you can find at airport gift shops.

This week’s treats come from Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC), which just opened its new high-tech Terminal B to the public.

Souvenir motherboard magnet

At SJC, there’s free wireless Internet access throughout the terminals, but in the new Terminal B, 25% of the seats are equipped with AC outlets and USB ports. So re-charging your electronics shouldn’t be a problem. But when you plug in, pay attention: I thought I was charging up my cell-phone only to look down a half hour later and discover that I was plugged into a bank of chairs that wasn’t ‘turned on’ yet.

San Jose Airport power port chairs

But let’s get back to Souvenir Sunday. I spent last Wednesday – the entire day – touring the new Terminal B at San Jose Airport.  So I had plenty of time to poke around.

In the San Jose store, which promises local souvenirs and memorabilia, I found shirts, caps, and water bottles branded with the San Jose Sharks hockey team logo, but all that stuff was more than $10.

San Hose Sharks Hockey team - souvenirs

The recycled motherboard notebooks and cute little frames made out of recycled keyboard letters seemed very Silicon Valley, but a store clerk said she was pretty sure those items were all made in China.

San Jose Airport souvenir recycle motherboard notebook

Moving on, I found a branch of C.J. Olson Cherries. For more than 100 years, this family-owned farm has been growing cherries and operating a fruit stand in Sunnyvale, which looks to be about a 15 minute drive from the San Jose Airport.

The airport shop is small, but it sells fresh cherries and other fresh fruit as well as dried fruits, nuts, fruit-flavored candies and cherry accessories.

C.J. Olsons cherries sign

For my Souvenir Sunday pick, I got a small container of fresh cherries.

C.J. Olson cherries

The cherry-themed apron fell outside my $10 Souvenir Sunday limit, but I found a plenty of cherry-flavored treats that fell well within my  budget.

chocolate covered bing cherries

Have you found a great souvenir while you were stuck at the airport? If it cost around $10, is “of” the city or region and is, ideally, a bit offbeat, please snap a photo and send it along.

Your photo may end up featured on a future edition of Souvenir Sunday.

And if it is, I’ll send you a special souvenir.

Stuck at Mineta San José International Airport (SJC)

I spent a full day this week poking around the brand new Terminal B at Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport (SJC).  Only some of the restaurants and shops are open. And not all the artwork is installed. But what’s there is pretty impressive.

Here are two fun photos from my tour. More tomorrow.

Topiary bear greets travelers at San Jose International Airport

Topiary Bear welcomes travelers at San Jose International Airport

SJC airport may have a swanky new high-tech terminal, but this topiary bear on the entrance roadway has been greeting travelers for years.

Art work at SJC: Space observer

You must pass the Space Observer before entering security checkpoint

Now, this 26-foot tall, all white, interactive “Space Observer” sculpture by Bjorn Schulke greets travelers in Terminal B.

(Photos by Harriet Baskas)

Free classical concert at Orlando Airport; free terminal tour at San Jose Airport

As part of its Liberty Weekend festivities, the Orlando International Airport (MCO) will present a free concert by the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra. The concert will take place at 8 pm, on Saturday June 26, 2010 in the atrium of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, which doubles as the public lobby area for gates 60 to 129.  All attendees will get three hours of complimentary airport parking.

Saturday June 26th and Sunday June 27th, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, unticketed visitors are invited into Silicon Valley’s Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) for a sneak peek at the new high-tech Terminal B.  The new building includes seating areas with built-in power ports and public art that includes German multi-media artist’s Bjoern Schuelke’s Space Observer, an interactive, two-story tall robot-like structure with three legs and propeller-equipped arms.

San Jose Airport public art "Space Observer"

(Watch a Space Observer movie.)

Registered visitors will be able to walk through the terminal, see the art, buy a souvenir and enter drawings for prizes that will include airline tickets and travel packages.

If you plan on visiting the terminal, you’ll need to register in advance on the SJC website by Wednesday, June 23rd and pick the day and time you want to stop by.

In the meantime, here’s a link to a great photo slide show of the San Jose Airport through the years from The Mercury News.

When will all airports have free Wi-Fi?

This month, my “At the Airport” column in USATODAY.com is all about airport Wi-Fi.

And all about why more and more airports, including those in Denver, Pittsburgh, Orlando and, just recently, Seattle and Boston, offer this welcome amenity for free – and why some don’t.

Here’s an edited version of that column:

Free Wi-Fi was on Sea-Tac’s to do list for years, but the airport had to wait until its contract with AT&T ran out before making the service free. “It’s almost become a required amenity,” says Sea-Tac airport spokesperson Perry Cooper, “Passengers expect it now. Especially in places like Seattle where folks are very tech-savvy. In fact, it’s been our number one customer service request for years.”

Silicon Valley’s Mineta San José International Airport started offering the service back in May 2008, says airport spokesperson David Vossbrink, because “we serve a high proportion of business travelers and road warriors who have laptops and mobile devices surgically implanted and [they] expect to be able to always be connected.”

It’s pretty much the same story across the country. Everyone wants to stay connected and everyone wants the Wi-Fi at the airport to be free. But how can airports afford to make it free?

Advertising and sponsorship may be the way to go.

At Denver International Airport, which began offering free Wi-Fi in November 2007, between 6,000 and 8,000 travelers now sign on to the system each day and revenue from advertisers help offset the cost of the service. Sea-Tac Airport has asked Clear Channel, which already sells advertising space throughout the airport, to find additional ads to support the new, free Wi-Fi service as well. And at San Francisco International Airport, advertising is being considered as negotiations get underway to figure out how to support a free Wi-Fi program as well. If they can figure out how to fund it, representatives from Nashville International and many other airports say they’d offer travelers free Wi-Fi as well.

Like LAX and the airports in the New York and Washington, D.C. areas, the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport still charges passengers for Wi-Fi access. “We know many travelers would love to see free Wi-Fi,” says airport spokesperson Patrick Hogan, “The bottom line is that airports like MSP must generate the funds to cover all airport operating costs…There is no such thing as free airport Wi-Fi. It’s really just a question of who pays to cover the cost of providing the service.”

For the full posted version of this column, read Free airport Wi-Fi takes off in USATODAY.com. And if you’re want to know which airports currently offer free Wi-Fi, the folks at Jaunted.com have been keeping a good tally on their free airport Wi-Fi map.

And if you do use a free Wi-Fi service at an airport, a hotel, a coffee shop or somewhere else, the Wi-Fi Alliance encourages you to use a personal firewall, make sure you have anti-virus software, and keep these other safety tips in mind:

  • Make sure that you are connecting to a legitimate hotspot – those that require a password have more protection than those that do not.
  • Use a virtual private network or VPN, which establishes a private connection across the public network. This may be supplied by your employer, or you can purchase one.
  • Surfing the web and sending e-mail is fine, but doing your banking for example in a public hotspot is not advised.
  • Configure for approved connections: Many devices sense and automatically connect to any available wireless signal. To regain control, simply configure your device to not automatically connect to an open network without your approval.
  • Disable sharing: Your Wi-Fi enabled devices may automatically open themselves to sharing / connecting with other devices. File and printer sharing may be common in business and home networks, but you can avoid this in public networks.

Got that?