Yahoo, Compaq, Amtrak: Wireless Train Troika
Amtrak teams with Compaq to offer branded Yahoo services via wireless (not Wi-Fi): the press release indicates that you must use the Compaq iPaqs that will be freely available in Yahoo wrapped train cars. The service used, according to a Yahoo spokesperson, is a combination of Sierra Wireless Aircards and GoAmerica with service running over a variety of providers depending on the part of the country.
In my talks with a variety of folks in the Wi-Fi world, the idea of putting 802.11b in trains isn't unheard of or impossible. Because of the train construction (metal, mostly), each car would need an AP, or specific cars would have to be labeled. The train would have to relay service via microwave or satellite, most likely.
One of my editors at Peachpit Press described her former job's commute: a trip down the East Bay to San Jose, California. One or more people in her train car had Metricom Ricochet service and would set up a software base station on their Macintosh. The other folks in the train car would connect via Wi-Fi to that Mac and get continuous, low-speed service for free, essentially. Talk about opportunistic networks.
Just wait until GPRS comes to the laptop - at a per byte rate, everyone in the train car will have to pony up for the software base station operator. Hey, there might be a business there. Anybody remember the Kingston Trio song, He Never Returned?
Down Under and Way Down Under
Jim Hamlin writes from the Antarctic (I kid you not): "We are using 802.11b in Antarctica with great success. For example, one of our links uses Cisco 340 bridges 55 miles apart, a 21dBi dish, and a bi-directional amplifier. The link has never dropped due to inclement weather, and we have the worst weather imaginable. The scientists are using wireless NICs in their laptops, which link to an access point, the wired network and out via a wireless bridge. All this is done in the most remote parts of Antarctica." (I'm guessing the FCC doesn't have jurisdiction down there, but who does?)
Jim wrote to ask about whether I knew of methodologies or test software that would allow him to measure load and other factors on their access points to assure continuous good service and throughput. Suggestions are welcome; send to me and I'll be happy to forward them on.
A community network in Sydney, Australia gets the religion: Mega WAN Project: if we think telcos are a problem in the U.S., just ask anybody anywhere else. Sydney Wireless is using mapping, Web sites, and a desire to not pay telcos to string together a city-wide net.
Kodak forms wireless group: not sure how I missed this significant announcement from two weeks ago. Kodak could easily leverage new Compact Flash form factor Wi-Fi cards, and offer dual-CF cameras, for instance: one or both could be used for storage; one would have an antenna hook up for Wi-Fi transmission. Either transmit directly when you take the photo to a properly equipped computer, or transfer via Wi-Fi or 802.15.3. (The 802.15 Working Group is dedicated to Personal Area Networks like, but not including, Bluetooth. 802.15.1 is working on converging a spec with the Bluetooth SIG; 802.15.2 developed a PAN/WLAN co-existence spec; 802.15.3 is the high-rate PAN group.)
The mother of all FAQs on electromagnetic radiation and health risk: this is an extraordinary resource wtih comprehensive answers and a bibliography to refer to for general information and peer-reviewed studies.
Holding pattern for intra-airplane Internet: airlines explicitly put plan to put Internet access in planes on hold.
Airify and Helic announce GRPS/Wi-Fi chipset collaboration: this could be the Holy Grail, kids. A two-chip chipset that would allow a manufacturer to produce a PC Card or PCI card that could handle both next-generation cellular data and our favorite 2.4 GHz signal modulation. [Via Alan Reiter]
Proxim hedges bets; to merge with Western Multiplex: Proxim has its fingers deep into HomeRF, the future of which is still an interesting uncertainty. Its merger with Farallon in 2000 added Wi-Fi gear; the Farallon brand recently disappeared into the Proxim line. Western Multiplex makes enterprise-grade high-speed wireless systems, and it gives the combined company a real consumer to telco range of customer and product.