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Originally published Monday, December 11, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Clearwire rollout signaled

The city of Grand Rapids, Mich., selected Clearwire on Tuesday to build a privately owned wireless broadband network for mobile, portable...

The city of Grand Rapids, Mich., selected Clearwire on Tuesday to build a privately owned wireless broadband network for mobile, portable and nomadic data service in a 45-square-mile area.

By definition, that means Clearwire will roll out mobile WiMax there — making it possibly the first deployment of the soon-to-be standardized technology. Up until now, the Kirkland company has been providing WiMax-like technology that is portable, meaning it can be used in various locations, but not while on the move.

The impressive part of the technology is public-safety vehicles in Grand Rapids will be able to use the service while traveling up to 70 miles per hour.

This gave us pause, given that we learned (again) last week what can happen while driving under the influence of technology (DUIT).

A Mercer Island man fiddling with his BlackBerry crashed into a vehicle on I-5, starting a chain-reaction accident that included three other cars and a bus carrying 28 passengers. No one was seriously injured.

The state's figures show DUIT is a relatively small contributor to accidents. Drunken driving, speeding and drugs play a part in 93.5 percent of all collisions.

On the state's list of causes for the remaining 6.5 percent, No. 5 is talking on a cellphone or using a BlackBerry.

Brick and mortar rules the holidays

In a recent survey, 70 percent of 5- to 18-year-olds said they intended to do their holiday shopping mostly in stores rather than online.

Source: Weekly Reader Research

Using a hands-free device on a cellphone is No. 10, and operating a laptop is No. 11.

Role reversal

The Wall Street Journal reminded us last week of another way in which BlackBerrys and Treos divert attention from what's important.

Under the headline, "BlackBerry Orphans," The Journal described the behavior of career parents who carry the devices everywhere:

"Like a bunch of teenagers, some parents are routinely lying to their kids, sneaking around the house to covertly check their e-mails and disobeying house rules established to minimize compulsive typing."

The article quotes a gaggle of kids describing their parents' bad habits: e-mailing during a dance recital, playing solitaire at a school orientation, typing while driving (we've covered that one).

Jim Balsillie, chairman of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, is quoted defending the devices and pointing out a harsh alternative:

"Would you rather have your parents 20 percent not there or 100 percent not there?"

U get the msg?

Sticking with our theme, you'd think that kids would be a bit more sympathetic to smart-phone-wielding 'rents, given their penchant for instant messaging, the short-form text-communication tool that's well-suited to the really small screen.

Nearly half of 13- to 18-year-olds regularly use IM, according to an Associated Press-AOL survey of 500 teenagers and 1,013 adults.

Fewer than a quarter of adults IM.

Of the teens who do it, more than half send 25 messages or more a day. Predictably, teen users are twice as likely as adults to say they can't imagine living without IMs.

They use it to ask someone out on a date (one fifth of those surveyed) and to dump someone (16 percent).

But both teens and adults prefer the telephone for sharing serious or confidential news.

Download, a column of news bits, observations and miscellany, is gathered by The Seattle Times technology staff. We can be reached at 206-464-2265 or

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