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July 2001 Archives

July 31, 2001

News Roundup

By Glenn Fleishman

Excellent overview of MobileStar and WayPort commercial access with first-person accounts of some experiences: this reporter shows the utility for a road warrior and notes some of the financial caveats with building out these networks commercially.

Four Seasons resorts go Wi-Fi: I like especially the end of the story where it notes that sales guys at a Red Roof Inn could be heavier users of Wi-Fi. They're right! And at, say, $5 or $10 a pop for 24 hours access, you're talking real money, real fast.

Does Wi-Fi threaten 3G cellular?: sure, but you're giving up some quality of service. The reporter points out: who do you call when your free (or cheap) network goes down? Of course, the availability of cheap broadband coupled with cheap or free wireless may allow ubiquity to overcome utility problems.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:27 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 28, 2001

News Roundup

By Glenn Fleishman

SAS to add wireless access to its Heathrow terminal: UK regulations prevent commercial use of 2.4 GHz, however, according to this article. This seems like a bit of old news: Telia told me in February of their plans to wire 19 SAS lounges worldwide, although most of them were to be in Europe. A consultant in this article says that SAS would be responsible for security when, in fact, it's truly a problem for end-to-end systems from a user's machine to the resources they're accessing. (I wrote about this a few weeks ago in discussing the weaknesses and workarounds for the current technology.)'s Al Pritchard has his first Starbucks/MobileStar experience: as a fellow Mac user, I sympathize. Fortunately, I've been working on so many networks, that I knew precisey the settings and even had a configuration set up to work with MobileStar's requirements. I also found their login sequence a little funky.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:39 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 26, 2001

Short Down Time

By Glenn Fleishman

The host of this Web log needed to migrate servers on short notice, so there will be (or has been) some short periods of inaccessible time.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:28 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 23, 2001

Glimpse of the Future

By Glenn Fleishman

Combined 802.11a, b, e, h, i Chipset Due in Late 2002: Envara is putting practically every 802.11 spec into the soup bowl except "g" in offering a chipset that will handle adaptive frequencies, packet prioritization, enhanced security, and both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz transmission bands. Of course, this is all predictive, as there are details to sort out in many specifications, as well as the intelligence of sticking two transceivers that handle a different range at the same power in the same box. 5 GHz 802.11a devices using the same power output as a 2.4 GHz 802.11b device will transmit more powerfully over a shorter distance. This affects the density of access points for successful use of both flavors.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:06 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 18, 2001

Information Wants to Beam Free

By Glenn Fleishman

Free networks hark back to anarchy, cooperation: my article on the groups and individuals building free wireless networks because it's there, because they can.

Microsoft wires English park bench: in the age of Wi-Fi, you really have to ask - why a wired park bench? Especially with Windows XP's support for 802.11b.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:45 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 17, 2001

News for 7/17

By Glenn Fleishman

Windows XP release candidate shows superb 802.11b support: Microsoft has apparently done an admirable job of integrating the networking setup and choice inside the OS. This is the kind of integration that an OS provider should be focused on!

Slightly lackluster article about free wireless networks: I hate to be too critical, as I have a similar article coming out in tomorrow's Seattle Weeky. But I don't feel the writer of this piece nailed down some of the details. He says twice in the article that setting up a node costs $1,000, when the meeting of free networking folks I attended a few weeks ago had a clear consensus on $250 to $400. More elaborate equipment and an authentication PC would boost the price, but you could still do a great job at $500 to $750, easily.

Slashdot thread on the topic of the above article: the effect of free wireless networking

Weak story on London Heathrow 802.11b access in SAS terminal: not only is this old news - given that SAS had previously announced a partnership with Swedish telephone giant Telia to provide Wi-Fi in all SAS lounges, including two in the U.S. - but it barely mentions the proliferation of free and for-fee Wi-Fi throughout London, documented over the last six months.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:13 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 13, 2001


By Glenn Fleishman

I'm having my second ever for-fee Wi-Fi experience as I type this at a Starbucks outlet on Capitol Hill in Seattle. MobileStar, the coffee firm's wireless network partner, has been quietly rolling out more and more outlets in several major cities over the last three months, including Seattle, San Francisco, and New York. They've just started to charge in the last several days. I paid the minimum possible amount, $2.95 for 15 minutes which ticks off to a pricey 20 cents per minute following that.

MobileStar has begun their medium-hard launch of the service. They redesigned their Web site and they've added a special Starbucks page with details on locations.

MobileStar also dropped its recent promotional pricing plans and rolled out its regional unlimited minutes plan. Let's take a look at the pricing. At first glance, it appears flat-rate based on service: some number of minutes or unlimited use. In fact, there are a lot of provisos to pay attention to.

The four plans they offer are:

The not-so-fine print is worth examining. I'll reproduce the relevant parts in their own language with my comments in italic:

The charges when calculated hourly are closer to Internet kiosk fees rather than Internet cafe rates (which are more like $4 to $8 per hour). The per-megabyte charge worries me unless they provide an application or an account tool that allows a user to keep track of these charges.

A quick spot check of hotel properties they offer service at doesn't mention any per-site surcharge (which is often $10/24-hour-period for their competitor WayPort). It also notes that the hotels (at least the half-dozen I checked randomly) have FH (frequency hopping) service, which is the older HomeRF/OpenAir standard. It not only runs at under 2 Mbps, but isn't compatible with 802.11b or any of its variants.

The signup server is a secure SSL Web server; see my entry yesterday about security on that score. This use of SSL ensures that your credit-card information and login name and password are not zipping around unprotected as you enter them over the local network.

Generally, MobileStar appears to be pursuing their correct market: business users who won't care about spending a few bucks for a service that's ubiquitous and works. MobileStar has to be careful to roll out additional airport access quickly, as it's much more likely business travellers will have the need there than at random points along the way. It's also a great extortion point: anyone travelling with a laptop (or even a Palm or Handspring with the right module) would pony up a few bucks to not wrestle with phone cards and payphones in a pinch.

WayPort has tied up a number of hotel properties - which would argue for a fee-settlement roaming agreement between the two firms allowing their users to cross networks. But recent comments from MobileStar's new CEO indicate he thinks roaming is far in the future. His take is quite different from the previous CEO, who thought roaming agreements would help rise the tide that floats all boats.

Another problem looming for MobileStar and other companies rolling Wi-Fi into high-density central points where people congregate in cities: free networks. I filed an article yesterday for the Seattle Weekly on this subject, and I'll link to it next Thursday when it appears in print. But I can summarize a bit here.

The free wireless networks that are being built in cities around the world may be able to provide an adequate patchwork or even perfectly dense and seamless grid of access that covers areas far, far greater than any commercial company could pull off. Their costs are low, they already may have high-speed access, and the advocates typically live in dense, urban neighborhoods.

A summit of these builders I attended a few weeks ago reveals incredible technical competence and a hankering for the cheapest best thing.

Where I sit right now, looking at downtown Seattle buildings (line of sight) as well as several other coffee shops and restaurants and tall residential buildings, I could reach any of hundreds of networks, if publicly available. MobileStar's competition may come from the open sky, not the closed network.

802.11g Developments reports that the IEEE still hasn't approved a modulation scheme for 802.11g: it sounds likely that Intersil's OFDM proposal will finally be agreed upon in Seattle in September. Meanwhile, analysts are saying that 802.11a's higher speed and uncluttered spectrum make it the natural ultimate wireless choice. This disregards the problem of installed base, which will grow by leaps and bounds before 802.11a ever ships; cost, which will certainly be high initially, just as 802.11b was; and range, which physics dictates requires more power at that frequency to span a greater distance.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:23 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified | 6 Comments

July 11, 2001

Business News: b becomes Big

By Glenn Fleishman

Dell'Oro Group reports $231 million in revenue for 802.11b products in first quarter 2001: for those of you interested in the financial underpinnings of our market, Dell'Oro analysts report 15% growth over last quarter. Agere's Orinoco line (formerly part of Lucent) was the leader, with Cisco at number two, and Buffalo at number 3. The firm also mentioned strong growth among SMC Networks and Linksys.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:37 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 9, 2001

Today's News is Brought to You by the Letter E

By Glenn Fleishman

Allnetdevices reports NetGear ships 802.11e-like wireless adapters: time to learn a new letter. NetGear ships this month a line of wireless adapters that share many 802.11b characteristics, but more closely conform to the proposed 802.11e specification, using time domain multiple access (TDMA) as well as a variety of interference avoidance techniques. This unfortunately great-sounding set of qualities could allow NetGear (and future compliant 802.11e devices) to offer reliable streaming media and voice-over-IP as well as work in particularly interference-prone regions.

I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more about these developments soon, as the IEEE finalizes a variety of 802.11 specifications that could be rolled up into a super-spec that address b's weaknesses.

802.11b's great strength, of course, is cheapness and ubiquity, neither of which properties show any sign of abating. NetGear may be pursuing either a huge lead in the market or a Betamax dead-end on the consumer side.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:21 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 5, 2001

Entering Hex WEP Keys into an Apple AirPort Card

By Glenn Fleishman

A colleague just discovered the secret of entering a 10-character WEP encryption key into an Apple AirPort Card: precede the hexadecimal key by a dollar sign. If the key is in text - some systems allow you to enter five ASCII characters - enclose the text within double quotation marks: "

This seemingly trivial piece of information is required to put an Apple on a network that uses standard 802.11b protocols. Apple's own system uses a encryption messaging algorithm that takes arbitrary text and produces an almost unique 10-character (40-bit) encryption key.

The converse solution is well known: in the Apple AirPort Admin Utility, selected Network Equivalent Password from the Edit menu, and the software displays the hexadecimal key needed by other manufacturers' software.

This item warrants its own page in order that this information will become disseminated more clearly via search engines.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:44 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

News for 7/5/01

By Glenn Fleishman

Entering a 40-bit encryption key into Apple AirPort software: this seemingly trivial bit of information is vital for intermingling Macs, PCs, and Unix boxes. Follow the link for the long answer; for experts: enter a dollar sign before entering the 10-character hexadecimal key.

Hitachi announces 2.4 GHz security chip: this story isn't quite what is seems by my headline. In fact, it's not related to 802.11b except by frequency. Hitachi has announced a tiny chip that can be embedded into money and other small, flexible packages, and that contains RF circuitry and 128 bits of ROM. The unit can transmit - ostensibly through passive transmission - over the 2.4 GHz band.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:40 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

802.11 Spec & Service Discovery

By Glenn Fleishman

Q: Is there a free copy of the 802.11 spec anywhere? I have gone to IEEE and it looks as though you need to be a member to get a copy.

Q: Does the 802.11b spec offer some form of service discovery? ie If I enter an airport that has an 802.11 service provider ( or perhaps many ), is there a way to present the network options to the user so that they do not have to go into thier Wireless LAN card and configure?

Q: Is there a gateway ou there that will record access times, acounts etc.

Any/all help is greatly appreciated.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:54 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified | 1 Comment

July 3, 2001

Linksys Wireless Bridge

By Glenn Fleishman

Linksys updated the firmware for their inexpensive WAP11 access point - $209 from - to allow this device to act as a bridge between wireless networks. However, even though the configuration is available, there's no documentation. I've contacted the company about this.

The advantage of a cheap wireless bridge means that you could operate multiple networks in adjacent facilities (or even thousands of feet away via line-of-sight antennas) and only have a high-speed Internet connection in one of them. Previously inexpensive access points would only bridge wired to wireless networks, allowing wireless laptops and computers to access the Internet via the access point. But a wireless bridge would allow an entire wired network to bridge to the Internet via a wireless hub.

Information from readers welcome as always.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:24 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 2, 2001

News for 7/02/01

By Glenn Fleishman

802.11 Conference Announced: this October, the folks who used to bring you Internet World and related conferences (before they sold them off) bring you their first new event: 802.11 Planet. (This is not a sponsored announcement, by the way.)

Xircom announces Palm m500 series 802.11b adapter: This is an extension of their earlier Handspring Visor module formulated to fit into the Palm m500 series expansion slot.

Panasonic unveils laptop with 802.11b-connected LCD display: Neat idea, but let's hope they did it right. If there's no encryption (forget plain old WEP) between the laptop itself and the LCD, decoding the stream of data should be trivial. Panasonic said they had law enforcement officers in mind when developing this unit, so data transmission should be made more secure than useful.

Proxim backs off on revenue estimates: Proxim, the leading backer of HomeRF, a competing protocol to 802.11b, has reduced its estimates for revenue, which analysts attribute in part to 802.11b's growing success.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:47 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

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