Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz gets it: Schultz understands the combined importance of having wireless access for his customers and a wired national network connecting his outlets for supply-chain management. Whew. Now if he'd just tell his CEO (see yesterday). (Link via Tomalak's Realm.)
Schultz, too, seems afraid to say the name of the partner devoting tens of millions of dollars to building their network, MobileStar of Texas. In this interview above, he says in response to a question about the network, "We have been working on this for quite some time with Microsoft Corp. (www.microsoft.com) and Compaq Computer Corp. (www.compaq.com). The network, which will be based on 802.11b technology, could be very significant for us and for our customers." Is there something in the business relationship with MobileStar that I'm missing?
Wireless : in light of today's news stories (see below), I've added a permanent link to the rundown of security problems with 802.11b that first appeared here in mid-July. It's now updated to reflect the latest announcements, too.
Meanwhile, 802.11b security is dead: the paper will be presented in two weeks, but it's certainly to spell the end of WEP for any kind of reliable security. Now, to avoid overstating the case, most networks aren't going to be busted no matter how simple the cracking techniques are. With hundreds of thousands of networks currently available, and millions ultimately being built (from the size of a home to a college campus), the odds of an individual network being cracked is small. On the other hand, if you're running a law firm - or really any business with customer data - it's time to make sure you have industrial-quality VPN software installed between the access points and your firewall.
And, finally, some concrete evidence that corporate buyers are worried about all this stuff: consumers are pushing the growth of Wi-Fi revenue, but companies are still chary because of the above-mentioned security issues. The simple breaking of WEP that will be revealed will almost certainly cement that trend. But it should speed WEP's replacement. Of course, all existing devices may be out in the cold, unless they have enough space and computational power to support a firmware upgrade that would add a WEP replacement to their existing capabilities. Experience with "56K" modems would argue against that, requiring a vast equipment upgrade for installed operations. (More follow up from SF Gate.)
Dan Gillmor turns off his Wi-Fi: Dan, a well-regarded tech columnist who I find on target all the time, has chosen to stop using 802.11b due to the latest security development. He points out that we all need to consider our networks public from now on. (See my rundown of encryption options for more details.) Dan could keep using his card, but he'd have to opt for virtual private networking or SSH tunneling, which necessitates infrastructure changes - changes which should be made regardless of wireless network security, of course.