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Proxim ships Compact Flash 802.11b card: the moment's arrived when Wi-Fi gets tiny. Proxim's device, at just $199, enables wireless access for Compaq iPaq and similar PocketPC devices. It's a short step from this to supporting other devices that use the Compact Flash form factor, at which point Wi-Fi blows out from its laptop base into all kinds of handhelds.
New Zealand ISP deploys rural 802.11: follow this story, as we'll be seeing more of the same. Forget copper in small communities: go wireless.
No global 5 GHz standard: the conflicts between the IEEE 802.11a standard and Europe's long-in-development Hiperlan-2 protocol aren't to be resolved, apparently, according to the EE Times. Forms of Hiperlan have been under considerations for several years, and although the specification has potentially identical or possibly superior characteristics to 802.11a, it isn't "productized", where 802.11a has shipping chipsets and soon-to-appear actual access points and cards.
The Economist writes about Wi-Fi and WEP: this article wisely focuses on the security problems inherent in the current revision of 802.11b and its standard implementation. Unfortunately, the writer produced this article almost literally a few days early: with Windows XP incorporating 802.1x support, the demand for this kind of authentication and encryption combo will grow rapidly. This in turn will encourage manufacturers to adopt it as a standard to support the tens of millions of XP users that will crop up this year.
The largest problem I see with the adoption of 802.1x lies in the small office/home office and individual user's experience and configuration. It's one thing for an office with information systems people to set up a RADIUS authentication server; it's another for the consumer who wants to experience the same confidence in their network's security. Ostensibly, Microsoft, Apple, and Linux vendors could bundle easily integratable RADIUS servers into their products tied in with the OS X, XP, 2000, and passwd user systems. We'll see.
CNet.com presents the current view of free wireless networks and security: the article notes that Windows XP supports 802.1x, a method of using certificates to authenticate users across a network. Microsoft offers an extremely cogent explanation of its 802.11 and 802.1x featureset. 802.1x requires three things: client support (to initiate a session, provide identity information, and handle encryption), access point support (to negotiate with the client and a RADIUS server for user authentication), and a RADIUS back-end. RADIUS is an industry-standard method of authentication for logins that was developed initially to support large banks of modems and other remote-access to networks.
Updated 802.11b security article: I've added in details about 802.1x among other things to the Wireless run-down.
WayPort's Terrible, Busy week: I just spoke to Dan Lowden, the VP of marketing at WayPort, who said that in the midst of all the horror and dislocation, they found their service seemed to help people communicate. Their busiest week ever was last week, as folks stranded at hotels and at equipped airports made use of the service, ostensibly keeping up on the news and maybe incidentally talking to the home offices. The company itself had stranded employees, but no worse, fortunately.
Lowden also noted that displaced companies in New York have moved into temporary quarters at some of the hotels that WayPort has equipped. "Companies are relocating to some of our hotels in the meeting room space," he said. "We’re working with those folks in the best way we can, offering discounts, working with the hotels to make it all happen."
WayPort's moving forward full speed on the airport and business hotel market. Its recent acquisition of nine Laptop Lanes locations moved them into position as the most fully deployed airport terminal ISP. However, Lowden noted that the company will need to work with each airport authority to install wireless access.
Lowden agreed with the thesis that business travellers may wind up spending hours more on each trip in airport terminals between arriving early and waiting for connections. "We feel we’re going to be where business travelers need it most, which is in business hotels and airports," he said.
Meanwhile, MobileStar, Compaq, and Starbucks have opened up their New York-based wireless network for free until Sept. 22 (press release), and are offering in-store laptops in several locations as well to assist people in contacting their friends and families, and putting their lives back together, according to MobileStar's PR firm. (Note: I contacted them; they didn't ask for a pat on the back.) More from MobileStar next week.
IEEE cancels meeting: Due to the difficulties and concerns in travel, the IEEE 802.11 and 802.15 working groups cancelled their joint meeting in Bellevue, Washington. The next meeting in November will be in Austin, at which point some critical issues surrounding 802.11g and other specifications will be raised. No one can fault the organizers or attendees; it's unfortunate timing to have to delay this meeting, but business and technology can wait for normal life to resume.
Support network set up for Pentagon efforts: a hastily put-together long-distance link provides Internet access to rescuers and workers dealing with the Pentagon attack. Bravo for ingenuity.
Symbol announces voice/data handset: fairly amazing piece of equipment, but details of integration, cost, and availabilty are yet to come. Still, combined with an Internet telephony company's network, such as Net2Phone, this could be the killer app for Wi-Fi.
Toshiba overhypes its wireless-ready notebooks: Toshiba's announcement boils down to them allowing customers to order preconfigured laptops on a build-to-order basis that have Cisco AiroNet cards installed. Prior to this, a customer might have had to buy the card separately. The article and press releases don't make it clear whether the real advantage is cost.
Talk about a company with a serious idenity crisis and a serious lack of direction.....anyway I am the owner of a Orinoco Silver card and and RG-1000 gateway and I can't release the DCHP or flash the firmware on the card and all the supposedly correct drivers are not working. I'm not a tech person and this "wireless" solution is a big big hassle. Is there anybody in the SF Bay area who can help me make this card work? I have a laptop and can come to you. Thanks in advance.
As I continue to emotionally process the events of the last seven days, I've started thinking about the future of travel. Last year, I flew over 40,000 air miles. This year, I've flown more than 15,000 so far with at least 10,000 miles scheduled in the next three months.
I'm a conscientious traveller who arrives an hour early, has all his paperwork in hand, and pays attention to security information. I have long thought that airport security in the U.S. was half-hearted, and am deeply saddened that a lack of preparedness in that area may have contributed in any way to the tragedies in New York and at the Pentagon.
Those of us who continue to travel extensively will find ourselves spending substantially more time in airports with time on our hands. I hope that the commercial firms that are deploying 802.11b (see links at left) and similar technologies leap at the opportunity to help us remain productive.
With human lives lost and still at stake, I don't want to suggest that productivity should outweigh any other considerations. But the airlines inform us that we are now requested to arrive two hours before domestic flights, and three hours before international flights. Airlines have also warned that hub cities will see greater gaps in connecting flights to consolidate air traffic. This will turn the airport terminal into a greater extension of a business office than ever before.
The cost to U.S. businesses is necessary but substantial, resulting in tens of millions of additional person-hours spent at some stage of transit. The sad side effect is that with fewer flights and less congestion, the actual time in the air will almost certainly conform to published schedules. What a way to arrive at this result.
Calvin Coolidge said, "The chief business of the American people is business." This last week has proven that there is much, much more depth to us than that. We'll get back to business soon enough.
I don't know if it's time yet to get back to business, but there is news, and I'm willing to post it. The Red Cross in New York had asked for a variety of equipment donations, including 802.11b cards, but according to the current story on TechTV, the Red Cross has everything it currently needs and is not looking for equipment right at the moment.
Time magazine has an excellent rundown of current 802.11b and Bluetooth issues that should serve as a consumer reference for things to come. It will certainly be the last time we see a story like this in Time for several weeks.
A colleague and friend based in Brooklyn, Mike Daisey, at the moment when events happened was in Manhattan using a wireless network connection. He sent out this report:
"I am writing this from downtown New York. In a perverse reversal, I have no way to contact anyone except through my high-speed wireless internet connection--phones are out, and electricity in the area is intermittent.
"The media will ultimately tell the story better than I, but I can tell you that there is massive loss of life. The sky is black with ash, the people have been panicking and fleeing in unadulterated terror. I have never seen anything like it. It is very difficult to breathe, even with your mouth covered--the ash blows down the streets and burns your eyes. It feels like the world has ended. When the screaming started and the crowds began to run after the second plane struck it was a horror film running in overdrive, jumping frames and cutting in and out. Time got lost--I don’t know how long this went on. I have a cut on my leg. I ended up in a Wendy’s where a huge number of us took refuge. I don’t know where the workers were--I helped get water for people.
"I am starting to see emergency workers, and the streets are clearing somewhat--at least the first waves of panic are passing. I’ve seen bodies draped in white sheets--it took me a time to realize those were bodies, not injured people; they must be out of room or not be able to get them to the morgues or the hospitals.
"I’m headed for the Brooklyn Bridge to walk out of the city. I’m going to stop at any hospital I find to give blood before leaving. If anyone reading this can, please donate blood--I heard from a medic that the hospitals are already running out."
Superb rundown of Intel's entrance into the 802.11a market using Atheros chips in November: one of the big players in the corporate market steps forward to embrance 802.11a. A good point mentioned here that we've discussed earlier: 802.11a may not offer its top speeds at the same ranges that 802.11b can perform at peak, but it's still faster. Where 802.11b would drop to 2 Mbps, 802.11a could range from 2 to 12 Mbps, according to the article. Another account by internetnews.com.
I dispute the dual-radio-problem contended here: my editor over at Wired, Paul Boutin, says that engineers have told him that dual-radio cards are unlikely. Everyone I've spoken to and other news reports refute that: there's already a chipset in the works that could allow common components to talk to two radios, rather than requiring two entirely separate units. (See illustration in this article.)
A less-informed piece from Wired News on 802.11a's emergence: the writer doesn't quite get the numbers right, which muffs the overall point. 802.11a may not wind up being much different in price for comparable equipment. The prices quoted in the article are all over the board, as they don't distinguish between home gateways (which run $200 to $300), SOHO equipment ($200 to $600), and enterprise (several hundred to over a thousand).
Wi-Fi phones: you have to buy a system and it only works in an office setting, but it's one more step in the transition from ubiquitous networks to ubiquitous voice and data.
Wowee, more wireless in schools! Hip hip hooray!: can you tell that was sarcasm? This article hypes the fact that the schools are using wireless, only mentioning in passing what the wireless technology and computers are being used for. Writing, research, and a bit with video. Except for the last, I don't see the advantage over paper and books, which are remarkably cheaper, last longer, and can be shared more effectively. They also don't require subscriptions, and are generally peer-reviewed and have some authority (the books, not the blank paper). Don't get me started.
Users reject notion of parasitic grid: although InfoWorld didn't publish any of the many letters I was cc'd on about a column that appared in its pages a few weeks ago about free wireless networks, it did run this odd article. (My take on the initial issue is here.)
O'Reilly Networks's Rob Flickenger and Dave Sims discuss the parasitic grid: nice discussion between two clued-in folks.
A trip to Maine this last week demonstrated how 802.11b is a great alternative to wired access: Midcoast Internet Solutions, a long-established and well-run ISP in Penobscot Bay is using 802.11 and 802.11b to run point-to-point high speed links to businesses and individuals using a variety of relaying points and repeaters. They have space on a bluff towards the south (near Owl's Head) that can reach many customers through direct line-of-site.
IEEE may approve standards that would allow 802.11a, b, and g in the same chipsets: nothing particularly new here, but it's a well-researched and written article that shows how a, b, and g may converge, supercede, and complement each other. The general conclusion is that 11g may take long enough to market and 11a may cost little enough that industry will focus on the 5 GHz band instead of retooling in the crowded 2.4 GHz band used by 802.11a, g, HomeRF, Bluetooth, cordless phones, and microwave oven emissions.