Email Delivery

Receive new posts as email.

Email address

Syndicate this site

RSS | Atom


About This Site
Contact Us
Privacy Policy


November 2010
Sun Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30        

Stories by Category

Basics :: Basics
Casting :: Casting Listen In Podcasts Videocasts
Culture :: Culture Hacking
Deals :: Deals
Future :: Future
Hardware :: Hardware Adapters Appliances Chips Consumer Electronics Gaming Home Entertainment Music Photography Video Gadgets Mesh Monitoring and Testing PDAs Phones Smartphones
Industry :: Industry Conferences Financial Free Health Legal Research Vendor analysis
International :: International
Media :: Media Locally cached Streaming
Metro-Scale Networks :: Metro-Scale Networks Community Networking Municipal
Network Types :: Network Types Broadband Wireless Cellular 2.5G and 3G 4G Power Line Satellite
News :: News Mainstream Media
Politics :: Politics Regulation Sock Puppets
Schedules :: Schedules
Security :: Security 802.1X
Site Specific :: Site Specific Administrative Detail April Fool's Blogging Book review Cluelessness Guest Commentary History Humor Self-Promotion Unique Wee-Fi Who's Hot Today?
Software :: Software Open Source
Spectrum :: Spectrum 60 GHz
Standards :: Standards 802.11a 802.11ac 802.11ad 802.11e 802.11g 802.11n 802.20 Bluetooth MIMO UWB WiGig WiMAX ZigBee
Transportation and Lodging :: Transportation and Lodging Air Travel Aquatic Commuting Hotels Rails
Unclassified :: Unclassified
Vertical Markets :: Vertical Markets Academia Enterprise WLAN Switches Home Hot Spot Aggregators Hot Spot Advertising Road Warrior Roaming Libraries Location Medical Public Safety Residential Rural SOHO Small-Medium Sized Business Universities Utilities wISP
Voice :: Voice


November 2010 | October 2010 | September 2010 | August 2010 | July 2010 | June 2010 | May 2010 | April 2010 | March 2010 | February 2010 | January 2010 | December 2009 | November 2009 | October 2009 | September 2009 | August 2009 | July 2009 | June 2009 | May 2009 | April 2009 | March 2009 | February 2009 | January 2009 | December 2008 | November 2008 | October 2008 | September 2008 | August 2008 | July 2008 | June 2008 | May 2008 | April 2008 | March 2008 | February 2008 | January 2008 | December 2007 | November 2007 | October 2007 | September 2007 | August 2007 | July 2007 | June 2007 | May 2007 | April 2007 | March 2007 | February 2007 | January 2007 | December 2006 | November 2006 | October 2006 | September 2006 | August 2006 | July 2006 | June 2006 | May 2006 | April 2006 | March 2006 | February 2006 | January 2006 | December 2005 | November 2005 | October 2005 | September 2005 | August 2005 | July 2005 | June 2005 | May 2005 | April 2005 | March 2005 | February 2005 | January 2005 | December 2004 | November 2004 | October 2004 | September 2004 | August 2004 | July 2004 | June 2004 | May 2004 | April 2004 | March 2004 | February 2004 | January 2004 | December 2003 | November 2003 | October 2003 | September 2003 | August 2003 | July 2003 | June 2003 | May 2003 | April 2003 | March 2003 | February 2003 | January 2003 | December 2002 | November 2002 | October 2002 | September 2002 | August 2002 | July 2002 | June 2002 | May 2002 | April 2002 | March 2002 | February 2002 | January 2002 | December 2001 | November 2001 | October 2001 | September 2001 | August 2001 | July 2001 | June 2001 | May 2001 | April 2001 |

Recent Entries

In-Flight Wi-Fi and In-Flight Bombs
Can WPA Protect against Firesheep on Same Network?
Southwest Sets In-Flight Wi-Fi at $5
Eye-Fi Adds a View for Web Access
Firesheep Makes Sidejacking Easy
Wi-Fi Direct Certification Starts
Decaf on the Starbucks Digital Network
Google Did Snag Passwords
WiMax and LTE Not Technically 4G by ITU Standards
AT&T Wi-Fi Connections Keep High Growth with Free Service

Site Philosophy

This site operates as an independent editorial operation. Advertising, sponsorships, and other non-editorial materials represent the opinions and messages of their respective origins, and not of the site operator. Part of the FM Tech advertising network.


Entire site and all contents except otherwise noted © Copyright 2001-2010 by Glenn Fleishman. Some images ©2006 Jupiterimages Corporation. All rights reserved. Please contact us for reprint rights. Linking is, of course, free and encouraged.

Powered by
Movable Type

« Metageek Adds 900 MHz Spectrum Analzyer | Main | Venice Unwires »

July 1, 2009

Firefox 3.5 Brings Geolocation to Mass Users

Firefox 3.5 has shipped with location finding turned on: The latest release of Firefox includes by default the option to use a computer's IP address and, if available, a scan of nearby wireless networks to provide a location to Web sites that use appropriate JavaScript to request a position. Users can opt out when asked, disable location requests for a site, or disable location requests entirely. However, "ask for permission" is on by default.

Firefox is using Google Location Services, which is a combination of cellular tower data that the company has assembled along with some unknown method of collecting and locating Wi-Fi hotspots, much as Skyhook Wireless has been doing for years. Likely, Google gathers this information as it drives the streets for Google Maps.

Mozilla's location mascot

With several tens of millions of smartphones (iPhone and Android-based models mostly) and handhelds (almost entirely the iPod touch) providing location data through various combinations of Wi-Fi, cellular trilateration, and built-in GPS, getting a location instantly may not seem that interesting any more on the desktop or laptop.

But it still seems to have a place. Location has two purposes. One is to find oneself, an existential proposition if I ever heard of one, because you don't know where you are. But the other is to identify your location to someone else because you want them to know where you are for some purpose: personal, commercial, or otherwise.

In the latter category, having location built into a browser lets Web sites offer rich location data even when you're at home. Aren't you frustrated about having to type in repeatedly your street address for work or home to find something in proximity, such as with a store locator? Wouldn't you like to have Web applications that automatically took advantage of your location by providing relevant data you didn't need to look up separately? (There are already plenty of utilities for Mac OS X and Windows that can use location to change system-wide settings, such as backlighting, r to launch or quit programs, or change your instant messaging status.)

Smartphones work best at giving you instant proximity data when you're out and about, because there's zero startup time. You take the phone out, hit the wake button, and run a program. I've become addicted nearly instantly to Urbanspoon after installing it on my iPhone because it tells me with incredibly little fuss what's near me. I needed to find a place to take my older son for lunch, and his appetite doesn't mesh well with restaurants. He agreed to eat a hot dog. I punched hot dog into Urbanspoon and within a few seconds found a suitable place. (He did eat the hot dog, and about a million fries. We went to Schultzy's.)

A laptop is a much more tedious operation for a spur-of-the-moment check. You have to dig it out, find a surface on which to balance it or hold it in your hand, wake it or power it up, find a network connection (unless you have a cell data card), find the Web site you want, and so forth.

The flip side is that when your desktop or laptop is already running, and you need a location-based piece of information, it's far more convenient to get a full, fast browser experience, with a real keyboard you can use to type in what you're looking for.

We'll see how it pans out. Sites have to enable location services, which should work identically in Firefox 3.5 and Chrome, and which will likely spread to other browsers over time if there's interest. (I suspect indexing software can identify if the JavaScript used on sites contains location calls, and smart people will use that to quantify geolocation-aware sites.)

There has to be a pull from sites to make people interested in and expecting to use location services. If all that sites do is enable store locators via this option, I can't see much interest developing over time. But if sites can find unique ways to let the browser plus location combination provide the social networking or sheer utility of many smartphone apps, then the uptake could be large.

Part of this could happen through making laptops act more like smartphones, too, trickling technology back up. While Sprint includes GPS technology in all its 3G networking cards and dongles--and an API for developers--that's about the extent of GPS in most mainstream products.

Netbooks already have many of the attributes of smartphones (small, fast turn-on time), and are starting to gain ubiquitous networking via built-in 3G cell cards. This makes Dell's decision to put a GPS chip in its Mini 10 quite fascinating. The company has also paired with Skyhook Wireless, which will integrate Wi-Fi and GPS data for a location result. The GPS-equipped model ships next week. Pricing is still unknown, but a reputable gadget site puts the cost at $70 above the current $300 to $350 price tag.

This turns a cheap netbook into a potentially fabulous turn-by-turn navigation system--although you certainly want to have a passenger holding it or figure out a mounting system. The Dell Wireless 700 option, as the company labels it, comes with CoPilot software as part of the cost. But it also means that people with netbooks and without smartphones will have fast and accurate location data.

Is this part of a revolution? Location-based services (LBS) have been discussed as the next big thing for targeting advertising, coupons, and, well, information of use for several years. The stars (and satellites) may finally be aligning.

Mozilla Configuration

Location preferences are a bit obscure. By default, permission-based location access is enabled in Firefox 3.5. If you click a link where a site is attempting to use the Geolocation API's JavaScript, you're presented with a prompt along the top bar of the browser, much as with pop-up windows and certain security alerts. On the left you see a message, with the site requesting location data:


On the right, a set of options, which let you set a once-only share (Share Location by itself) or a site-based share (check Remember for This Site and then Share Location). You can also click Don't Share or click the X to close the bar.


If you set site-wide location permissions, then you have to be on a page at the site in order to disable this permission. Select Page Info from the Tools menu, click the Permissions tab, and then you can modify the options for Share Location. You can use a combination of options, such as unchecking Always Ask and setting the radio button to Block or Allow. Or check Always Ask to re-enable that behavior.

To disable geolocation for the browser, type about:config in the Location bar, then type geo.enabled, and finally double click the geo.enabled preference. Repeat these steps (or double click the preference again while displayed) to turn location back on.

1 Comment

Netscape needs to allow desktop users to define their location (if they know what it is).

It is simply not true that all Qwest DSL lines in western Washington state connect to customers a bit south of Seattle.

Leave a comment