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The New York Times special Wi-Fi package: Thursday's New York Times Circuits section devotes several articles to aspects of Wi-Fi, including two by your humble editor. This five-article chunk is the spiritual heir to my Feburary 2001 cover story in Circuits on public hot spots that, I say without an ego, first introduced the subject of pay-for-access Wi-Fi everywhere to a broad audience. That first article had to explain the technology and its limits as well as paint a picture of what was to come. Interestingly, despite all the bankruptcies and changes in business model, nearly two years later we find several companies continuing to build out public hot spots with more to come, and a very mature and ostensibly moneymaking consumer and business hardware market.
Broad overview of social use and hot spot market: Wi-Fi isn't just for geeks, but is rather employed in hot spots and other venues as a tool for simple continuous high-speed access for an audience that otherwise be missing personal and professional opportunities.
Manhattan's multiplicity of nodes, lack of security, and digital divide: A researcher drove every street in Manhattan and assembled a picture of the distribution of Wi-Fi nodes that also tells the story of a lack of secured points (even with weak WEP), and the divide in computer usage across income ranges and ethnic groups.
Microsoft the winner in setup test with Linksys and NetGear: David Pogue brings his usual good cheer to setting up a wireless access point testing three major brands. Unfortunately, Linksys seems to be the weakest at helping users complete the test comprehensibly, while Microsoft's setup program, well-written manual, and good tech support ease configuration through to completion.
Getting setup and connecting: A basic guide to what to buy, how to set it up, and how to connect to public networks. Some excellent caveats in this article on both the risks of untrusted networks, and some tips for security (firewall) and encryption (VPN). (Glenn Mitsui illustrated the article; he's an old colleague from Seattle for whom I hosted an early Web project in 1995.)
Wireless? You bet. Compatible? Maybe: My take on the alphabet soup story at the 802.11 Planet conference last week. The article well represents my level of concern with the upcoming user confusion and frustration that buying seemingly identical but potentially incompatible gear will engender.
FCC starts proceedings on opening more unlicensed spectrum:Dewayne Hendricks alerted us to this at the Supernova 2002 conference yesterday that the FCC had finished its initial lookover a few weeks ago, but had decided to start proceedings even before the draft report had been finalized. Dewayne was in D.C. last week, and he said that there's simultaneously a lot of interest in quickly opening more spectrum, while incumbents are also fighting against unlicensed spectrum. The conference made it clear that there's a property camp at the FCC -- licenses = property -- and a more open camp that wants to try different models for maximum market efficiency. One commissioner suggests slowing down, waiting for public comments to come in.
Book, Book, Book
My book is shipping: The Wireless Networking Starter Kit, a book I co-wrote with Adam Engst, has left the printer and is heading out to bookstores. If you pre-order from Amazon.com now, you should have it within a few days. I have copies in hand, and boy does it look wonderful. The book is a friendly, uncomplicated look at understanding, configuring, and expanding Wi-Fi networks, with a focus on intermediate users who have some knowledge they want to supplement. Check out the table of contents and even the index and other details at the book's site. We'll have excerpts up in the next couple of days.