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July 2002 Archives

July 31, 2002

News for 7/31/2002

By Glenn Fleishman

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Slashdot makes it easy on me today, rounding up three wireless stories

Athens, Georgia, to set up a downtown wireless cloud: a neat project to test the utility of a larger network run without a particular purpose in mind.

Military imposing limits on wireless device use: Although not focused on Wi-Fi, this new set of limitations is intelligent. But listen to this: President Bush's top cybersecurity adviser, Richard Clarke, said the technology industry was acting irresponsibly by selling wireless tools such as computer network devices that remain remarkably easy for hackers to attack. That worries me, because it's incorrect. The operating system is at fault, here. The fact that Mac OS, Windows, and Unix, by default, rely on insecure transports. It's clear that the time for insecure transmissions is long past, and we're playing catch-up. But you can't blame Wi-Fi for that. You can't fix encryption in the AP, only in the OS. The AP can aid a link's security, but it can't be "responsible" for it.

The article continues: The industry's most common data-scrambling technique designed to keep out eavesdroppers, called the wireless encryption protocol, can be broken -- usually in less than five minutes -- with software available on the Internet. That's Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), Mr. or Ms. Associated Press reporter, easily found out in 5 seconds via Google or other sources. Five minutes? Not likely. 15 is the best I've heard.

Finally: "It is irresponsible to sell a product in a way that can be so easily misused by a customer in a way that jeopardizes their confidential and proprietary and sensitive information," Clarke said. Rather, companies need to understand better what kind of data needs to be protected and create end-to-end solutions.

Newsforge on small wireless ISPs: Every time I read a story like this, the tone is that it's a new development. In fact, small wireless ISPs date back to about 1997, and hundreds exist today. Of course, I've filed stories with the same tone, because most readers are unaware that this technology is so cheap and widely available as a final-mile alternative.

Fishy pirate story behind AOL/Time-Warner letter: According to this story, AOL/Time-Warner traced a movie pirate's upload of a copyrighted film to a cable modem customer of theirs with an unprotected (but not community/shared) Wi-Fi connection. If true, and it sounds a bit fishy (not's story, but AOL/TW's explanation), it would explain the bizarre tone of the letter sent to their wireless community sharing customers.

Numbers, we got numbers: 802.11 Planet summarizes two expensive reports on wireless networking revenue from the manufacture and deployment sides. It's all up, up, up. A cluster of Wi-Fi manufacturers (Linksys, Agere, and SMC) are now tops for shipments, beating out Cisco. [via Sifry Alerts, Werblog]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:19 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 30, 2002

Pack-Based Networking

By Glenn Fleishman

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Introducing Houndstooth: a new pack-based networking protocol: Houndstooth is a dramatic new mesh network technology that utilizes algorithms derived from canine-pack clustering. With Houndstooth, random aggregations of data are transferred at a variety of speeds based on pack dynamics and distances. A special front-to-end pack discovery protocol allows each node to discover and authenticate new nodes. Best of all, you can redeploy existing logistics to take advantage of pack-based mesh networking by using actual dogs that you may already own or have access to.

Each dog wears a small Houndstooth transceiver, powered by a pedometer attached to a dog's strong back legs. As dogs enter and leave packs, both store-and-forward (known as fetch-and-retrieve in the Houndstooth terminology) and live routed (off-leash protocol) data handling are possible. Parasitic networking by non-pack Houndstooth transceivers are avoided through regular deworming of the connection.

Several applications buildings on Houndstooth are available immediately, including MeetCute, a method employing a combination of 2.4 GHz networking and ultrasonic frequencies to encourage a dog to direct his or her master or mistress to an appropriately suitable other Houndstooth node; BaredTeeth, a highly aggressive security protocol with physical proximity detection; and HowlNet, an out-of-band alernative sub-ultrasonic methodology for longer distances in desolate, less pack-intensive areas (warning: bandwidth drops below modem speeds with HowlNet).

Houndstooth is available today in natty clothing stores everywhere.

Other News

Meet Dave Farber July 31 at NYCWireless: from 6 to 8 pm, NYCWireless will have its regular monthly meeting with former FCC CTO Dave Farber, a brilliant thinker on spectrum, and someone who has defined much of the current debate over spectrum management. Location: Earth Pledge Foundation, 149 East 38th St., Street Level Entrance - Bet. Lex. and 3rd Ave. - Ring buzzer if necessary. Farber will be speaking from 7 to 8 pm.

The Register UK elaborates on the honeyspot: the Register offers a more in-depth look at the configuration and basis of the D.C.-area honeypot designed to lure in crackers to watch them run their magic. Of course, since much Wi-Fi cracker can be done through passive data monitoring, we'll see how many flies get caught. on EFF's network-sharing-friendly ISP list: more coverage of the Electronic Frontier Foundation's list of ISPs who tolerate or encourage network sharing.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:05 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 29, 2002

News for 7/29/2002

By Glenn Fleishman

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Ah, the quiet point of summer: it's been a slow news...month, and I'm not complaining. I have a pile of Bluetooth devices I'm working with, and awaiting now a Bluetooth cell phone (Sony Ericsson + Cingular service) and wireless headset. I'll be reporting in several forums on my experience with the devices. So far: superior. Better than could be expected from reading the industry publications, but I'm more technical than most.

Speaking on wireless at Mac OS X Conference: the O'Reilly folks are throwing a great event with notable speakers, in which category I shyly throw my hat in. I'm performing a half-day seminar on wireless networking under and with OS X, including both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. When the conference occurs in late Sept. to early Oct., Bluetooth will be a way of life for many Mac users already. (I'm sounding like a zealot, but, no, really, it's muy cool.)

Sifry coins "Honeyspot": an excellent neologism from David Sifry, describing a hot spot that's a honeytrap, the latter term meaning a network set up to attract crackers and study them in an isolated environment that appears to be a fully functional network. My advice to everyone is that most prosecutors aren't hip enough to separate use of property without compensation from attractive nuisance, and will happily charge you with cybercrimes when you merely sucked down a DHCP address by accident.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:52 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 28, 2002

No Last Names, Please

By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

The above is a paid, sponsored link. Contact us for more information.

The Seattle Times's take on sharing network connections wirelessly: a neat slice-of-life article in the Seattle Times, my hometown paper, about first-name-only users in a dense single-family residential neighborhood in Seattle starting to tenatively share. This is an interesting kind of sharing, because "David" wants to charge his neighbors a fraction of his cost, where much of the larger community networking efforts involve people who want to offer their bandwidth up for free as part of a larger matrix. Notably, the reporter talked to all sides of the sharing debate: cable, DSL, and local providers, all of which had different takes on the topic. (Speakeasy, the DSL provider quoted late in the article, is my home and business ISP.)

Qualcomm will add Wi-Fi to CDMA chipset: another piece of the overall picture.

WildPackets's office burns down, company soldiers on: a remarkable story about off-site backups and good business planning. No lives lost, and the company was back up and operating within about a day, according to this report. WildPackets makes software widely used in the wireless LAN industry.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:41 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 27, 2002


By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

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Demonstrations Are a Crime (from the album 1984): According to the Register, a Houston computer security expert was charged with hacking (actually, cracking) after demonstrating to an official and a reporter how swiss-cheese-like the county court system's wireless network was. This reminds me of a case over five years ago in which a legendary perl programmer, who I have had the privilege to meet, was convicted of hacking Intel's systems because he had the temerity to prove to them (without permission) how poorly managed their passwords were. As in this case, the costs of "repairing" the damage were actually costs associated with the reality of the poor management of the system in the first place. Intel got hundreds of thousands from my colleague; the county tagged its loss at $5,000. So, if someone authorized had pointed out the weakness, who would have eaten that cost?

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 5:11 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 26, 2002

News for 7/25/2002

By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

The above is a paid, sponsored link. Contact us for more information.

Ultrafast, ultrashort, ultrawide: some equipment is starting to appear using ultrawideband (UWB) technology, a method of using extremely short and broad pulses of information that could entirely change the way in which data is transmitted. UWB's potential is enormous, because it is non-interferring (hopefully) with virtually all current data uses because of the short duration of the information pulses. UWB requires large swaths of bandwidth to work best, and the FCC's initial approval only allowed small swaths and low power. Still, even with those constraints, you can transmit 100 Mbps over 30 feet. A neat trick, and one that should pave the way to more extensive uses. Yes, UWB could replace Wi-Fi, but the lifecycle of technology suppressed by regulation (and possibly that's wise) means that it will be at least two or three years before we see UWB devices out of this narrow, Bluetooth-like niche.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:53 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 25, 2002

News for 7/25/2002

By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

The above is a paid, sponsored link. Contact us for more information.

Hats off, gentleman: a work of genius - the NIST draft on wireless network security: a truly remarkable piece of literature from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the draft publication on wireless network security pulls together dozens of threads into a single seamless knit. The document is available in PDF form (download document 800-48 from the drafts page or download it directly as a PDF or zipped PDF). The well-illustrated draft walks through sets of security risks and problems, and includes well-written overviews of 802.11b, Bluetooth, and 2G-3G cellular technologies. Everyone should read this draft immediately and fill holes in their knowledge; comments are being accepted until Sept. 1.

ARCChart analyses Wi-Fi aggregator relationships: ARCChart offers a visual set of connections between the various firms funding and operating wireless aggregation services. A picture is worth a million bytes. Their accompanying analysis has an excellent summary: Hotspots are expensive and complicated to operate if access is paid for - authentication and billing require back-end infrastructure - but if the service is provided for free, it is very cheap, requiring a basic broadband connection and a $100 access point. Add onto that the zero-dollar cost of a NoCat authentication system or a Sputnik node to ensure that users conform to good net usage.

EFF posts friendly sharing ISP list: the Electronic Frontier Foundation made public their page that lists ISPs which either do not prohibit or explicitly allow shared use of bandwidth of a single account in a way that community and free wireless networks require.

BBC talks the chalk: RealMedia format streaming BBC video on warchalking in London. A little sensationalist: one security expert quoted on how people can get into company databases without mentioning that many firms have a variety of security measures that have nothing to do with wireless that would prevent this. Still, maybe that's accurate enough.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:48 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 24, 2002

News for 7/24/2002

By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

The above is a paid, sponsored link. Contact us for more information.

Wired Magazine on the power of meshed networks: although you kinna change the laws of physics, meshed networks allow multiple data paths simultaneously, providing higher bandwidth and throughput over greater distances.

Why Five?: the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA) is reconsidering the trademark to dub 802.11a devices that comply to their certification process. The name floated since last fall has been Wi-Fi5, which has sounded like a stutter to me: Wi-Fi-Five. Spelling it isn't intuitive, either. Focus groups, according to the article, thought the spec was the 5th iteration of something and backward compatible.

WECA has a bigger education issue at stake, too, going forward as the pile of IEEE 802.11 family specs are approved. With devices that could support a, b, e, g, h, and i all appearing at the same time next year, what will Wi-Fi mean versus a set of letters?

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:57 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 23, 2002

News for 7/23/2002

By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

The above is a paid, sponsored link. Contact us for more information.

Boingo Wireless and NetNearU release another plug-and-play hot spot box: continuing a trend, Boingo and NetNearU have a $595 device that ties into Boingo's authentication an billing systems.

HereUAre on the block: HereUAre, a network billing aggregator, is looking for a buyer according to HereUAre and associated firm WiFi Metro (which bought most of AirWave's assets) must be sold within two weeks or the operations will be wound down, the report stated.

PC Magazine shows TI ACX100 chip offers marginal speed benefit: The PC Mag test is too desultory to tell the full story. At what range, what speeds? With X devices, what kind of congestion? Running Wi-Fi and PBCC mode on multiple machines, how does this affect throughput? I'm not sold on the ACX100-chipset-based devices, as they won't actually be 802.11g compatible when that standard is finalized. I'd suggest saving one's pennies to achieve interoperability.

The Goldblog Variations: TIPChalking: The old man of the Internet, all of 42, Brad Templeton introduces the latest variation, tying together the illumanati, our nation's currency, and warchalking. (Brad is the chairman of EFF, a group that is currently suing on my and four other folks' behalf most of the major media companies in the U.S. for our right to use our ReplayTV 4000's without threat.)

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:26 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 22, 2002

Gates and Ballmer Wardrive

By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

The above is a paid, sponsored link. Contact us for more information.

Steve Gillmor on Ballmer and Gates wardriving: Steve writes in his column of a recent discussion with Ballmer: "I was in a hotel in Sun Valley last week that was not wired," Ballmer recalls. "So I turned on my PC, and XP tells me there is a wireless network available. So I connect to something called Mountaineer. "Well, I don't know what that is. But I VPN into Microsoft. It worked! I don't know whose broadband I used," he chuckles. "I didn't see it in Bill's room. I called him up and said, 'Hey, come over to my room.' So soon everyone is there and connecting to the Internet through my room."

Guerilla chalk?: I spotted this sign in Union Square in New York last week. What gives?

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 4:28 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 21, 2002


By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

The above is a paid, sponsored link. Contact us for more information.

Garry Trudeau demonstrates his finger on the pulse of the times: As is my wont, I used someone else's network last week while in New York: XCELerate near Penn Station.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:55 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 18, 2002

News for 7/18/2002

By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

The above is a paid, sponsored link. Contact us for more information.

Apple OS X 10.2 (Jaguar) sends files over Bluetooth, too: I just received a briefing from Apple on yesterday's announcements, and a director of product marketing read yesterday's blog entry and showed me the application for file transfers over Bluetooth, answering that question. The Bluetooth demos are very cool in person, too: they represent a kind of tight, simple integration that make a compelling case for personal area networking that reduces complexity, not just cables. Sony Ericsson and Cingular and AT&T Wireless could sell a lot of phones with the demo I saw.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:14 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 17, 2002

Apple Discovers Its Surroundings

By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

The above is a paid, sponsored link. Contact us for more information.

Apple says: Jaguar in August, Bluetooth built in, discovery a standard: In New York today at the Macworld Expo, CEO Steve Jobs unleashed a hailstorm of minor announcements you can read a lot about in all kinds of forums, like Macworld's show coverage or Macintouch among hundreds of others. (More journalists than attendees, it feels like sometimes.)

But you won't hear a lot more than just some facile discussion of how Apple is extending itself out of the desktop and into the network. While Apple has always offered excellent and simple networking tools, Jaguar raises the bar by saying that, essentially, anything Mac OS X 10.2 (Jaguar's official release number) is connected to is a resource waiting to be identified and used.

For instance, the Bluetooth support that Apple has been previewing for months will be standard in OS X, and Jobs showed a number of neat tricks, like dialing a phone number from 10.2's vastly improved address book; using iChat, the instant messaging program that works with AOL's system, to SMS (short messaging service) a reply to someone who calls; watching the incoming call identify the caller and bring up their entry in the address book. All of these are interesting. But Bluetooth support still doesn't offer file transfer (it can receive, but not send files, at least in the latest preview) or printer support (that may change, too).

To name drop, Walt Mossberg, the Wall Street Journal Personal Technology columnist, said to me this morning when I bumped into him, why bother getting Bluetooth yet, because there's nothing that's compelling at the moment except perhaps making data calls. Apple's integration pushes that further, but it still doesn't make Bluetooth truly worthwhile except in niche applications. But the technology will pull the uses: people are gambling on making devices that use Bluetooth, and some of these will stick. Apple gambled that AirPort's utility would outweigh its newness and override the years of suspicion built on previous simple wireless systems, like infrared and abandoned radio transceivers.

One of the other components of Jaguar that's really quite new is Rendezvous, a technology I've written about before here. Rendezvous is a discovery protocol that allows the operating system to figure out what resources are available by scanning the network. That network can be anything running IP, in Jobs's words, which includes future versions of FireWire, and existing versions of wired Ethernet and Wi-Fi. Apple wants Rendezvous to become a standard, and announced today that Lexmark, HP, and Epson all agreed to build the standard into future printers.

Like many compelling technologies, Rendezvous solves a giant problem. We all know how irritating it is to have to manually find resources. We want our computers to recognize what they're connected to, whether these devices are directly connected or out in a cloud. I can't imagine how many billions of peoplehours are wasted with IT admins having to configure machines to recognize things that users have access to, but their system won't find or resists recognizing.

Rendezvous plus wireless means that when we connect to unknown networks, all of their gems will be clearly exposed -- no mining required. This could be a good or bad thing depending on how open the network is. Once again, here in New York, I'm using an open network (not free, just unprotected) out my hotel window.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:46 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

News for 7/16/2002

By Glenn Fleishman

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:22 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 16, 2002

News for 7/16/2002

By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

The above is a paid, sponsored link. Contact us for more information.

Alan Reiter weighs in on Project Rainbow: Alan comments on today's New York Times story about a coalition of a number of hardware and cell companies to build a national Wi-Fi/data network.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:35 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 15, 2002

News for 7/15/2002

By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

The above is a paid, sponsored link. Contact us for more information.

New York Times reports Intel, IBM, AT&T Wireless, Verizon, Cingular, and others considering national seamless Wi-Fi network: although any real announcement may be months away, John Markoff gets an early scoop on the ongoing shift in cell telephone company thinking. Intel knows they can sell more machines with wireless built in if they can build out wireless networks. IBM Global Services will make potentially hundreds of millions of dollars a year unwiring offices and public spaces. The cell telephone companies get more dollars per user and happier customers.

Belkin ships Bluetooth products: I heard just this morning that Belkin is shipping its Bluetooth product line. For $90, you can get a PC card or Compact Flash format PDA card; for $80, a USB connector. This should start putting a lot of pressure on other vendors, and push Bluetooth down into the casual price range. (Palm's SD format Bluetooth card is $130; 3Com's USB adapter and cards items are about $120-$130 as well.)

Macworld Expo: I'll be spending Wednesday and Thursday of this week at the semi-annual Macworld Conference and Exposition. In summers, we're in blistering New York (highs 90, lows 70s this week); in winters, in the damp and foggy San Francisco. They wouldn't want us to site-see, would they? I usually don't hit Macworld Expo in New York as it's much more of a rehash of announcements from previous months. This year, however, there's anticipation of several hardware and software refreshes, including a shipping date for Jaguar, the codename of Apple's Mac OS X 10.2 release. Jaguar includes better discovery, or the ability to find resources over wireless, wired, and peripheral networks.

Sifry on Microsoft's plans for access point authentication: David Sifry of startup Sputnik continues his excellent ongoing analyses of Wi-Fi issues, here talking about the challenges if Microsoft's home Wi-Fi equipment (see last week) incorporates PEAP and MS-CHAP-V2 to build encryption on top of and outside normal Wi-Fi interaction. PEAP builds on SSL/TLS, which is the basis for secure email in sendmail (EAP-TLS) and secure Web serving (SSL).

Mini-SSL/TLS lesson: SSL/TLS avoids man-in-the-middle attacks by combining public-key cryptography, third-party certificates, and short session keys. An SSL/TLS client, like a Web browser, communicates with the server. They handshake to agree on protocols, use public-key cryptography (with the server typically providing a certificate that's been signed by a Certificate Authority like VeriSign) to exchange a private session key, and then start talking. The PK session is needed to avoid a man-in-the-middle attack, and the CA necessary to ensure that the server is who it says it is. The shorter session key is computationally less intensive to calculate than PK, but you need PK to exchange a secret.

Bluetooth and 802.15.1-2002 licensing: in my article on Bluetooth last Friday, I noted that I believe that a manufacturer could make 802.15.1-2002 (the full spec name) equipment and pay reasonable licensing fees via the IEEE's guidelines and create fully compliant Bluetooth-subsetted devices that would interoperate with Bluetooth equipment without the maker having to join the Bluetooth SIG or apply for Bluetooth certification. The chair of the 802.15 Personal Area Network Working Group confirmed that this is so.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:54 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 12, 2002

News for 7/12/2002

By Glenn Fleishman

Would you like your message here? You can sponsor 802.11b Networking News for a week at a time and reach thousands of daily readers

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Bluetooth's Virtues

FatPort launches FatPoint: in a move long anticipated by their hardware focus (and some conversations I've had with them going back to November), Vancouver, B.C.-based WISP FatPort released three all-in-one packages under the name FatPoint. If you're in a Canada, you can get FatPoint Complete, and use FatPort's DSL leverage to get Internet connectivity and the box that ties you into their network. If you're anywhere else, you can just buy the box for US$525 and split revenue 50/50. (A subscription fee is folded into the one-year contract.) If you're the enterprising type, you can buy the OEM version, which is solid hardware, and customize to your own needs.

About sponsorship: FatPort will be sponsoring this site starting Monday for two weeks at the regular rates. I don't cover anyone just because they sponsor the site, nor does the sponorship confer any special status. As long-time readers know, or those who survey the archives can find out, I speak my mind.

Small Net Builder Product Review of the D-Link AirPlus Enhanced Cardbus Adapter (DWL650plus): a fairly comprehensive survey of the D-Link that uses the Texas Instruments chipset supporting 22 Mbps PBCC encoding as well as 11 Mbps backwards compatible 802.11b. D-Link won't be upgrading this unit via firmware to support 802.11g, however, as TI plans a different chipset for 802.11g support.

Bluetooth's Virtues

My dear colleague, David Weinberger, author of the mind-changing set of essays Small Pieces Loosely Joined has gotten embroiled in a debate over Bluetooth. I joined the fray, and he asked for some longer comments, which he abstracted into an article he's writing. I've edited my response and made it a little clearer, and abstracted his questions into the below Socratic text on why Bluetooth has a place in this Wi-Fi world.

Why is Bluetooth so slow (1 Mbps)?

Speed is a function of bandwidth, and usually there's a wire limit to bandwidth, like category 5 8-wire copper can handle 100 Mbps over X feet, or a physical (as in physics) limit to bandwidth, like "Ethernet nodes can't be more than X feet apart because you need within X milliseconds for any two receivers on an Ethernet connection to recognize that a collision has taken place and stop transmitting."

So you can't throw more bits on a wire than it will handle nor can you put things too far away for them to do their talking (although you can play games, like putting in switches that are, essentially, little Ethernet devices themselves).

In the case of Bluetooth, the designers had about 75 MHz of bandwidth to play with, or the full legal U.S. bandwidth for use in the 2.4 GHz band for unlicensed users with licensed devices.

Bluetooth designers were thinking about data sync and cable replacements, both of which are essentially serial technologies. USB runs at 1.5 Mbps and 12 Mbps (and USB 2.0 runs much, much faster: 480 Mbps), but it requires physical access and close physical proximity. Also, I’ve discovered that USB cables ain’t cheap. If you wanted longer cables, especially, you’re talking about a lot of money. USB hubs don’t work as well as I’d like and they require an outlay and often separate power supplies. USB may be simple, but it’s not as simple as it could be.

So the Bluetooth design goal was more or less: how do we make something that could eliminate the low-speed USB necessity and allow it to be more generic, requiring no separate drivers for each new device? The ancillary question was: how do we eliminate cables, hubs, and physical connections? So you have a single Bluetooth interface that can work with modems, keyboards, handhelds, printers, and so on, without additional cabling, network protocols, or what have you?

They chose a pretty simple approach. 1 MHz bands using frequency hopping which changes 1,600 times per second. This choice allows a lot of different Bluetooth at once (because of the lack of chance of random collision), and a reasonable speed for the design purpose.

Bluetooth further limited distance by specifying maximum power output to comply both with FCC regulations (they're well below those limits) and the kinds of devices they wanted to work with: USB stubs (USB-to-Bluetooth), cell phones, handhelds, etc. All places where battery life is a scarce commodity. Shorter range also reduces the chance of interference. If you had 100 Bluetooth devices across a 2,000 sq. ft. office space, you might have no interference. There’s no way to build that kind of ad hoc network with Wi-Fi: it has to be planned and analyzed.

A lot of Wi-Fi-is-god backers, which I used to be an ignorant member of, foresaw that Wi-Fi would replace many of Bluetooth's functions as Wi-Fi's curve for cost was plunging much faster than Bluetooth's. However, the power issue is a biggee. Almost all Wi-Fi devices, even those designed for small form factors, are designed to run 150 to 300 feet. This is part of Wi-Fi design spec.

As we know from physics, when you combine speed and distance, you need power and bandwidth. You can tweak different aspects to control or expand those parameters. Wi-Fi uses 22 MHz channels, non-frequency hopping (direct sequence, a different technique) and to get the Wi-Fi stamp have to meet certification tests that mean that any Wi-Fi device can reach the same minimum distance and conform to the same standards.

You can't, at the moment, make a Wi-Fi Lite because there's no way to differentiate. You’d need an entirely different spec. Hmm.

Further, the low bandwidth isn't a hindrance for the appropriate activities. When Bluetooth is harmonized with Wi-Fi (802.15.2 and a new Bluetooth revision), you'll be able to have possibly a single radio that talks Bluetooth and Wi-Fi using different MAC chips. They'll serve different purposes, but be bundled in the same wrapper. There are already companies selling Bluetooth/Wi-Fi products, and we’ll see more of those.

Wi-Fi, as I've said many times, has a lot of network costs: you have to build a network connection, use TCP/IP or a similar protocol that runs over Ethernet, and transmit a lot of noisy information, just to exchange a few bytes. The authentication protocols are computationally expensive, as well as tedious for smaller devices in which entering 128-bit WEP keys (15 hexadecimal two-digit numbers) is ridiculous.

Bluetooth was designed to allow security in a computationally efficient manner for the kind of data being transmitted, down to the simple passphrase handshake to establish a connection between two devices.

A device needs to be certified before it is Bluetooth compliant?

Certification is as much an issue for Wi-Fi as it is for BT, and this argument is incorrect.

The IEEE 802.15.1 task group has passed a very full subset of Bluetooth in coordination with the Bluetooth SIG, the industry consortium that owns the patents and defines the technology. You'll be able, with minimal IEEE appropriate license fees, to implement Personal Area Network (PAN) devices that are Bluetooth compatible using 802.15.1 and advertise them as such. (I’m confirming this via the 802.15 public relations task group.)

If you want a device that says Bluetooth on it, which is a trademark and a certification, you will have to pay other fees, just like the members of the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA), the $25,000 or more a year membership fee trade association that controls the Wi-Fi certification process and trademark of interoperability.

You will be able to make digital cameras that conform to 802.15.1 if you pay the license fees (IEEE requires them to be reasonable and uniform), but you won't be able to call it Bluetooth. Today, you can make 802.11b equipment and not call it Wi-Fi, too, but you find very few manufacturers who don't want the marketing advantage of hopping on the certification and mark.

The weakest argument against Bluetooth is that I shouldn't need both Bluetooth and 802.11b/a. Isn't that like saying that I shouldn't need both USB and a special cable to hook up my monitor?

This picture from the 802.15 working group tells it best, showing the relationship of WPANs (Wireless Personal Area Networks), WLAN (wireless LANs), WWANs (Wireless Wide Area Networks), and WMANs (Wireless Metropolitan Area Networks). Note that as you increase distance, you also increase speed to allow a bigger pool of bandwidth from which to draw.

On the more practical side, Bluetooth is ad hoc from the ground up. Two people meet, don't know each, and can exchange data with minimal fuss. (Critics of the current generation say that's not so, but I've been doing essentially that with various Bluetooth devices in my office for WEEKS.) It'll get easier than it is today when it's in the Mac and Windows OS like Wi-Fi.

Yes, there are specialized reasons to need different protocols. We don't all view Web pages over FTP; we don't send email via carrier pigeon; we don't take pictures with our monitor. Maybe we will (shades of AT&T), but there's no good reason to.

The folks who are anti-BT like the fact that Wi-Fi does so much, but there are degrees of trust that are extremely difficult to embed in small, low-power, simple devices when you're working with Wi-Fi. I run into the problem of stuffing the wrong problem in the wrong sack all the time when moderating mailing lists: well-run mailing lists answer some questions so effectively that people get mad when the moderator (moi) won’t allow them to ask all questions they want, even those far off topic.

The most idealistic folks I hear from say, sure, but you can just change Wi-Fi: make a low-power alternative, change the spec, add another kind of protocol that runs over Wi-Fi, etc.

Yeah, yeah, and it's taken almost two years to fix the broken WEP (wireless equivalent privacy) encryption layer in Wi-Fi, and we're still looking at maybe March 2003 for ratification and probably six months before the firmware updates for OLDER devices roll out.

So anyone who says, just change the spec, hasn't read the committee meetings from the IEEE, which I have. They need to go and read these public documents from several meetings and understand the number of players and the degree of collegial and non-collegial accommodation that happens to make even the tiniest of change.

Wi-Fi works because of this great, long process, and it can't turn. Works like a fish, steers like a whale, to paraphrase Doug Adams.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:05 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 11, 2002


By Glenn Fleishman

Microsoft to Enter Wi-Fi Hardware Business This Fall: Details are scanty, but remember that Apple has sold its AirPort equipment, Wi-Fi certified, since 1999. Microsoft and Intel joined Wi-Fi certification trade group WECA (Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance) several months ago and both received board seats. Several readers pointed me to many articles, including ones at InfoWorld, and this laughable pretense at an interview that's really a press release.

My first reaction to this was to chortle: yeah, I can just see the tech support folks dealing with hardware! But then I checked myself: I've called Microsoft support on more than one occasion, and, in fact, not only are the techies good, but they have a very nice set of procedures that ensures you get to the right person, you get the answers you need, and that they follow up in email with a case number, your resolution, and tools for following up if you have additional questions or are unsatisfied.

Microsoft could, in fact, be a great company to offer Wi-Fi. First, they're leaping into a crowded, competitive, inexpensive field. Because it's hardware, they can't cut costs too low nor do they have a motivation to do so because they can't get much margin out of it. (In fact, Wi-Fi is a tool to push Windows XP, because XP's Wi-Fi support is generally superb, even when stacked up against the stellar but less flexible Apple AirPort software that only works with Apple products and a few Agere items.)

What Microsoft will have to do is integrate their operating system support directly with the configuration of the hardware, much like Apple did with AirPort. The reason that Apple's AirPort Admin Utility is far superior to everyone else's products is that it's not Web-based. Frankly, although Web-based configuration interfaces are useful, they're just not the best approach for complicated settings that need to be changed often in the client and the AP at the same time. Better yet, a coordinate client/AP interface means that it could be simpler to distribute AP changes across a network to individual clients.

3Com's software is among the best for Web configuration, though, to give them a plug: their tools work about as one would expect for host-based software, including contextual help.

PPP'd off: I spent an hour with a pal this weekend after brunch trying to help him get his Linksys BEFW11S4 EtherFast router to talk to his ISP. His ISP was using PPPoE (PPP over Ethernet) for authentication and they'd given him a static IP. It worked great for months and months, and then stopped working. After a lot of fits and starts and finally upgrading the firmware on the EtherFast we discovered his ISP had stopped using PPPoE. Without this authentication step, which the latest Linksys software wouldn't allow at the same time as a pure static IP configuration, the router worked as expected. Sometimes, it's the little things that make you crazy.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:14 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 10, 2002

News for 7/10/2002

By Glenn Fleishman

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Take the Wi-Fi train to Tokyo, Japan, and the Narita Airport!: In a very cool development, one I was pushing for months and months ago, a Japanese commuter train and airport connection service is offering premium riders Wi-Fi access in a free trial. The train uses 3G cellular data, but a satellite connection could certainly work just as well -- there are lots of existing mobile satellite service offerings at sea and on land. [via Jim Thompson]

Glenn weighs in on warchalking: My take on warchalking in the New York Times Circuits section (out in Thursday's print paper). I try to skirt the line between enthusiasm, because it's catchy, and skepticism over its staying power. The Times style guide forced the word into two parts: war chalking. They don't like neologisms over at the NYT.

Intersil and Sychip want to stuff Wi-Fi into the Secure Digital format: many devices support and more will suport this form factor, so it would be a great development to have a Wi-Fi card with the power and signal requirements to fit this slot. [via Alan Reiter]

Jeremy Wagstaff of the Far Eastern Economic Review raves about Wi-Fi: he thinks he's an early adopter, but, sorry, Jeremy, you're late to this party -- even for the FEER audience! The Eastern Economies are full of innovative Wi-Fi deployments. There's still a full keg and plenty of kazoos, though, so join in. [via Alan Reiter]

Washington Software Association's Wireless Special Interest Group has its first panel tomorrow night: if you're in the Seattle area, you can learn more about "Breaking down barriers in the European Market." Jim Harkins, the organizer, has arranged for three great panelists: Robert Fredrick from, Brian Hill from Mobiliss, and STS Prasad from Aventeon. The meeting is at Starbucks corporate headquarters, July 11, 6 to 8 pm.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:02 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 9, 2002

The X in 802.1x is for Mac OS X

By Glenn Fleishman

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Meetinghouse Data Communicates offers 802.1x authentication for Mac OS X: Meetinghouse extended its Aegis software to include OS X, noting in its press release that this allows educational institutions and enterprises to now piggyback OS X boxes onto existing authentication systems. AEGIS provides an enhanced tunneling authentication solution, EAP-TTLS. EAP-TTLS simplifies network management by eliminating the burden of client certificates, and by leveraging existing standard user-name and password infrastructure. ... Aegis Client/Server Solution repairs the weaknesses in the 802.1X protocol allowing dynamic WEP key exchange while supporting legacy, non-EAP, authentication methods such as PAP, CHAP, MS-CHAP, and MS-CHAP V2 through the authentication tunnel. ...Aegis Client? is priced at $49.99 per user. Volume discounts may be available. You can download a beta.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:21 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

Amplification of wireless signal within home

By Glenn Fleishman

I've probably stumbled onto something here where I shouldn't be, but . . . I'm trying to figure out how to amplify my Linksys wireless router's signal so that it is clear and strong throughout my 2-story home. From what I can glean, I need an antenna to relay the signal. Where can I obtain such a device? Does it have to look gray and industrial and conspicuous, like something you'd find in an electrician's workshop?

I am not a geek and have no technical training, so if you're going to answer make it simple, please.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:14 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified | 1 Comment

July 8, 2002


By Glenn Fleishman

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Newhouse News Service weighs in with a well-balanced, quiet story on the Roadrunner/AOL/Time-Warner Wi-Fi situation: look, folks, if you sign a contract for a certain kind of service, you're obliged to follow the rules. Don't like the rules? Find a competitor that has different rules. If you know that you signed up for home service and you're sharing it with neighbors and strangers, you know you violated the terms of the agreement. There's no question about this.

Now we do have a question about monopoly: if AOL/TW is the only entity allowed to offer ISP service over a cable modem, and is using its lobbying power and other tools to prevent cable modem competition, then you have a different battlefield, but you're still bound by the terms of the agreement. (I think AOL, in fact, was in favor of competition when it was battling other cable companies, but I'm not sure fo their current stance.

If you want to share, then find an ISP that allows it. On that front:

Electronic Frontier Foundation looking for ISPs that encourage sharing connections: Lodrina Cherne, an intern at EFF, wrote on behalf of an effort by EFF "to compile a list of ISPs whose service agreements would support sharing of bandwidth via a WAP....Hopefully, once compiled, a list of these ISPs will help users to make informed choices about who they buy internet access from and show that there are a lot of good (and local!) providers out there." Email her if you know of such resources or are, in fact, an ISP that encourages this!

There are ways for ISPs to make new customers and friends, and still offer sharable service. Many of the Seattle-area smaller ISPs offer a variety of DSL plans which vary by the use you intend for the line rather than the bandwidth use.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 5:22 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 5, 2002


By Glenn Fleishman

Got chalk?: the ultimate extension of warchalking.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 5:40 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

July 3, 2002

News for 7/3/2002

By Glenn Fleishman

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Bryant Park in New York City enjoys wireless: It's a sign of how widespread Wi-Fi access is when you see a nice little article like this about the social aspects that isn't in a technology section of a newspaper.

The inestimable Alan Reiter heads for the seas: Alan is signing on to work with Bernie Dunham, the geek behind Geekcruises's wireless access that I've written about with great glee. Alan's a cell data expert, among other things, who has extended his interest and expertise into the Wi-Fi realm. Bernie is a recent company CIO who was dabbling in Wi-Fi cruising (literally: he's surveyed the biggest boats in the world for Wi-Fi networks) when company politics turned him into a full-time wireless maven.

Warchalking: neat idea, but does it have traction?: Wired News's Paul Boutin asks the question, can thousands of interested geeks turn an idea they (we) all think is cool into a lasting part of our culture?

Business Week weighs in on the confluence of warchalking, bandwidth sharing, and cheap tech: a nice exegesis.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:28 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

WLAN HotSpot Roaming?

By Glenn Fleishman

Hi all,

Telia(Scandinavian Mobile Operator)has made a roaming agreement with Italian wlan-operator, Megabeam... This is firs wlan-roaming agreement in Europe.

Do you happen to know if there's any other roaming agreements around? Any roaming agreements in US... or perhaps between US and Europe?


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

July 2, 2002

News for 7/2/2002

By Glenn Fleishman

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2.4 billion vibrations per second for 1 billion people: the world's second most populous country, India, is removing the licensing requirement for indoor use of 802.11b. Outdoor access restrictions will hopefully follow.

Warchalking, cartoons, and real estate collide: opportunistic homebuying [via Alan Reiter].

Anyone heading to Macworld Expo July 17-19? I suggest we put together a Birds of the Feather (BOF) shmooz. Lunch might be tricky with unwieldy groups, but a 10 a.m. Thursday occupation of one of the on-floor lounges could be just fine.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:07 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

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