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Recent Entries

Book: Take Control of Your 802.11n AirPort Network
BART Wi-Fi Plan Not in Jeopardy over Funding
Wee-Fi: iPhones Get Free Wi-Fi; Another Loiterer Arrested
Backwards, O Hands of Time: Atheros Single Stream
Wee-Fi: Enterprise 802.11n Rated; Au. U Illegal Use-Fi; Micro-Fi: Shorts on Cities
Positive Response to WiMax Launch in Baltimore
Fon Raises Alien Price to 5 Dollars, Euros
Wee-Fi: More Geolocating with Google, Boingo Ups Count, Nationals-Fi, Free AU Mickey D-Fi
Wee-Fi: Quantenna In Depth, WalkingHotSpot, T-Mobile's 3G Footprint, Devicescape's Easy Wi-Fi. Boingo on Moto Q 11
Boingo Tweaks Rates, Raises Global Price

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October 2008 Archives

October 31, 2008

Book: Take Control of Your 802.11n AirPort Network

By Glenn Fleishman

$5 off new edition of my book on using Macs with Wi-Fi: Folks, I've just thoroughly overhauled my book on Apple Wi-Fi networking, Take Control of Your 802.11n AirPort Network. The latest edition, 244 pages long, costs $15--but for you fine people, just $10 with a $5 coupon.

The book covers how to use an AirPort Extreme, AirPort Express, and Time Capsule base station from Apple with Mac OS X and Windows for the best advantage. The latest Extreme model, along with Time Capsule, can share multiple printers and hard drives to Macs or Windows systems. With 802.11n built in along with options for wireless and Ethernet connection, you can build a robust network that can handle video streaming and large-file transfers.

The coupon code CPN007281031WNN can be used at checkout to pay just $10 for this $15 instantly available electronic book.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:38 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Book review, Home

BART Wi-Fi Plan Not in Jeopardy over Funding

By Glenn Fleishman

The Examiner reports that Wi-Fi Rail may be in trouble about signing contract with BART, raising money: But Wi-Fi Rail says it ain't so. Cooper Lee, the company's head, just called to let me know that the focus of the article was a bit off. In an earlier version of this item on Wi-Fi Networking News, I wrote:

"Wi-Fi Rail spoke bluntly to the San Francisco Examiner five months after the board of the Bay Area Rapid Transit plan had approved contract negotiations for a full-blown installation. The negotiations aren't finished, and the tight credit market means it might take months after signing a deal for Wi-Fi Rail to raise the necessary funds."

Lee said, however, that they've already raised the money they need for the next 12 months, and that they believe they'll sign a contract soon. Lee said that the company needs to spend a total of $20m over 24 months, but that $9m are in equipment leases, which is simple financing.

He also said that much of the negotiation with BART was ensuring that the ramp-up for customers and revenue was fair relative to the fees paid to BART; BART doesn't want Wi-Fi Rail to be saddled with obligations they can't meet before customers appear, which makes sense for a transit authority looking many years into the future. They'd rather have a stable than a squeezed provider, obviously.

Lee said the company is moving forward with the expectation they'll be able to start work soon, hopefully before Christmas.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:41 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Rails

October 30, 2008

Wee-Fi: iPhones Get Free Wi-Fi; Another Loiterer Arrested

By Glenn Fleishman

AT&T finally gets off the dime--sorry, quarter--and opens its Home network to iPhone subscribers: AT&T had promised some kind of Wi-Fi deal for its legions of iPhone subscribers for more than a year, and at least twice posted information that was premature. Yesterday, the company pulled the trigger. The mechanism to get service at about 18,000 domestic hotspot locations--mostly McDonald's and Starbucks--is complicated. You join the network, visit a gateway Web page, enter your cell phone number, and wait for a (free) text message. The message contains a link to a secure site that, when followed, activates 24 hours of access, but only at that location. You can apparently activate service at as many locations as you want in a single day.

British lad arrested for kiping Wi-Fi: A 16-year-old was arrested for breaking the encryption on his neighbor's Wi-Fi network. The arrest was apparently "canceled" later--I don't understand British jurisprudence enough to get this part--with the boy's father fileing "a complaint for unlawful arrest and detention," The Register writes. The misuse was discovered because the fellow's network name was set to be his own (by his father), and this showed up in the Wi-Fi gateway's list of DHCP assignments.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:45 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

October 27, 2008

Backwards, O Hands of Time: Atheros Single Stream

By Glenn Fleishman

Atheros thinks single-stream 802.11n has potential to replace 802.11g: Atheros has introduced the Align, a family of chips that use a single antenna to bring some 802.11n advantages without the spatial multiplexing, improved receive sensitivity, further transmit range, or antenna diversity, among other characteristics. The company told EE Times that they wanted to get beyond 802.11g for future devices to bring the advantages of newer designs. This should allow G prices with some improved N features.

This won't break 802.11n compatibility, as 802.11n can hear a single spatial stream just as well as it can multiple ones. In fact, 802.11n provides the flexibility to have multiple streams sending the same data redundantly, which is what Quantenna has opted to do with its consumer gear--sacrificing raw speed for resilient performance.

Atheros is claiming 50 Mbps in TCP throughput with 20 MHz channels and 107 Mbps with 40 MHz. This isn't out of line with the base raw symbol rates in 802.11n (65 Mbps instead of 54 Mbps). TCP throughput still has overhead, of course, so it's likely that single-channel N will be about twice as fast as the 20 Mbps or so 802.11g could achieve.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:12 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Chips

Wee-Fi: Enterprise 802.11n Rated; Au. U Illegal Use-Fi; Micro-Fi: Shorts on Cities

By Glenn Fleishman

Enterprise 802.11n gear has up to 10 times throughput of previous generation: Network World put four equipment makers' enterprise 802.11n gear through its paces, and found enormous improvements over 802.11g. However, as I've seen repeatedly with consumer-grade gear, maximum throughput is limited by internal system resources, like the system bus. 802.11n offers such a vastly higher rate of speed that firms and their engineers clearly need to move up yet another notch in designing equipment that can take full advantage. Network World examined Aerohive, Bluesocket, Motorola, and Siemens access points. Aruba, Cisco, and Trapeze declined in various ways to participate, which is a shame.

University of North South Wales shocked--shocked!--to find illegal downloads occurring: This Australian university may turn off its free Wi-Fi because students are acting like students, downloading what the IT director calls illegal content. The university fines students up to A$1000 for illegal downloads.

Micro-Fi round-up: Hillsboro, Ore., gains Wi-Fi through effort of local resident with Meraki boxes; Birmingham (UK) has extremely limited free-Fi, choosing to have residents, visitors pay for access via BT, criticized by Flickr's visiting community manager; Niagara Falls gets 12 square blocks of free wireless; Portsmouth, NH, accepts $350K in Cisco gear for downtown service with few strings attached.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:05 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

October 23, 2008

Positive Response to WiMax Launch in Baltimore

By Glenn Fleishman

The New York Times and BusinessWeek are bullish on the Sprint Xohm launch in Baltimore: Two veteran tech reporters, who have had time to see it all and be cynical about it all, are fairly positive about the Sprint launch of WiMax. This is the first city-wide launch in the U.S. for regular signups, and one of the largest networks now operating in the world. (As far as I can tell, Seoul's WiMax-compatible WiBro network is still not designed for 100-percent city coverage, but is boutique.)

Bob Tedeschi at the Times found solid performance wherever he tested, but he notes the caveat that the network is nearly empty at the moment. While comparing Sprint's promised up to 4 Mbps down and 1.5 Mbps up, he uses an outdated number for AT&T's 3G network. AT&T used to give out the numbers he states, but as of their HSUPA upgrade a few months ago, they claim 700 Kbps to 1.7 Mbps downstream and 500 Kbps to 1.2 Mbps upstream. I haven't had the opportunity to test these rates, but this is their current claim, not what Tedeschi reported.

Tedeschi checked out various adapters and devices, including the Nokia N810 WiMax Edition ($500) that just went on sale. He had problems with video playback, but that could have been the network or the phone's operating system or the site he was accessing. He did like the quality of VoIP calls.

BusinessWeek's Stephen Wildstrom was more enthusiastic, seeing rates of 3 Mbps down and 500 Kbps to 1 Mbps up, and was able to watch streaming content as a passenger in a moving vehicle.

Both reporters note that WiMax seems to improve on Wi-Fi and cell data service in both speed (as 3 Mbps is faster than most Wi-Fi hotspots, and much faster than the average of most 3G networks), availability (for Wi-Fi), and cost (for 3G).

Subscriptions are a little complicated: $30 for roaming, $35 for home, $45 for a combined plan, and $60 for multiple devices, if I have all that right. Subscribers also need to buy a dongle, card, adapter, or CPE (home bridge), which seem to run under $100. Adapters will eventually be built into Intel-designed laptops.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:36 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: 4G, WiMAX

Fon Raises Alien Price to 5 Dollars, Euros

By Glenn Fleishman

Fon ups the ante on joining its network by raising its daily connection price to $5/€5 for "aliens": The Fon network of what they claim is nearly 200,000 active locations is all about participation. You can be a participant (a Fonero) and charge or not, but anyone with an active Fon hotspot gets free roaming on the entire network. Fon charges for access regardless of whether someone collects part of the fee (a Bill, not available in Japan, Russia, or the UK) or opts not to (a Linus).

The fee affects Aliens, those who aren't running Fon hotspots, and thus aren't contributing to the network's size. But $5 or €5 is a lot in most countries, and buys you a fair amount of time in an Internet cafe, making VoIP calls, or an hourly or daypass on a Wi-Fi hotspot network. At 5 monetary units, doesn't that push Aliens to finding a free or cheaper alternative?

The only explanation I can find of the price change is on the German Fon blog. That entry explains that they're trying to focus on building a community, and that raising the price should encourage more people to participate in sharing their Internet access. That doesn't square precisely with their goal of making money, though, because there's no monetization outside of Aliens paying fees to use the network. Like airport parking lots, you can only raise prices so far until people find cheaper, even if less convenient, alternatives.

[Thanks to Klaus Ernst for the price increase alert!]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:25 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Free, Hot Spot, International

October 22, 2008

Wee-Fi: More Geolocating with Google, Boingo Ups Count, Nationals-Fi, Free AU Mickey D-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

Google announces update to Geolocation API with Gears: The company's browser engine allows extending JavaScript beyond what's possible by itself, and their library for geolocation (finding oneself through information a Web page can query the browser for, in this case with your permission) now includes Wi-Fi positioning data. This is true for both laptops, where the Geolocation API now works, and mobile devices that support Google applications. Google wouldn't say how they've developed their own Wi-Fi location database. Read my full account at Ars Technica.

Boingo says they've broken 100,000 (103,749, to be exact): The Wi-Fi aggregator signed up 2,600 hotspots from Telefonica in Spain and Argentina, while sharing 7,000 of their locations with customers of the telco networks. The 2,200 Spanish locations are online now; Argentina's 400 follows. Last month, Boingo folded in 1,100 Swisscom locations, typically supremely high priced even in Europe for stand-alone usage.

Baseball team gets lots of coverage for future add-ons: The Washington Nationals installed an 802.11n network from Meru at their ballpark, and I've seen articles all over about both their choice of N as well as their plans to add Wi-Fi-accessible instant reply clips for fans, an ability for fans to send in photos and text messages, as well as internal applications. The installation sounds cheap: $280,000 for 200 access points and all the planning and deployment. So far, the network has been used for wireless ticket scanning to add capacity where needed at gates, and to provide service for reporters and photographers.

McDonald's service goes free in the antipodes: Australian McDonald's stores will offer free Wi-Fi starting in December. By March 2009, 720 outlets will be available for use at no cost through a partnership with Telstra. McDonald's charges for service in the U.S. at its 10,000 equipped company-owned and franchise restaurants, but has a variety of partnerships and bundles that enable many users to access the network at no cost.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:03 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

October 20, 2008

Wee-Fi: Quantenna In Depth, WalkingHotSpot, T-Mobile's 3G Footprint, Devicescape's Easy Wi-Fi. Boingo on Moto Q 11

By Glenn Fleishman

In-depth on Quantenna: For Ars Technica, a great technology site for which I recently started a regular writing relationship, I wrote up a long interview with Quantenna's founder, in which I examine more detail about how they achieve 1 Gbps with standard Wi-Fi. The secret? Lots of radios, lots of antennas, deployed in what they say will be an inexpensive fashion. Could shake up the market, even if Quantenna isn't the winner, but they appear to have a real lead over established chipmakers.

Taproot releases WalkingHotSpot: Yet another software package for turning certain smartphones into Wi-Fi hotspots using the built-in cell data service as backhaul. The $7 per month or $25 per day software license turns on the service on Symbian S60 or Windows Mobile phones. There's a 7-day trial, too. Only WEP security is supported because ad hoc mode is used; infrastructure mode isn't available.

T-Mobile clarifies 3G availability: T-Mobile must have gotten tired of explaining that 21 markets doesn't mean 21 cities. For instance, in Los Angeles, they note via email, that market includes Anaheim, Irvine, Long Beach, and Pasadena. For clarity's sake, they're now saying 92 major cities across 21 markets now; Wednesday, with the G1 with Google smartphone launches, they'll be up to 95 cities. They say by the end of November, 120 major cities.

Devicescape expands platforms, renames software: Devicescape announced its availability on HTC phones, dominate in the Windows Mobile market worldwide; on a Fujitsu phone sold in Japan by DoCoMo; and as part of DeFi, a global VoIP over Wi-Fi calling service that's soft launching. The company also said that it's software will now be named Easy Wi-Fi across the board, and they've split their platform approach into devices, laptops, and handsets, to make it simpler for development and licensing by partners. Easy Wi-Fi is now available on a pretty large selection of smartphones, including those made by Palm, running Windows Mobile or the Nokia E60 platform, the iPhone and iPod touch, among others.

Boingo adds Moto Q 11: Boingo's software for connecting to its aggregated worldwide hotspot network is now available on the Moto Q 11 phone in the Boingo Mobile flavor ($8/month worldwide). All owners of this model can get a free month of service to test it out.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:46 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

October 16, 2008

Boingo Tweaks Rates, Raises Global Price

By Glenn Fleishman

European wholesale prices for Wi-Fi require Boingo to move global plan higher, restrict minutes: Boingo has a few tweaks in the works for its worldwide hotspot plans. The good news first: Their subscriptionless option, Boingo As You Go, will now include all the Americas at $8 per session. Central and South America used to have a higher charge. In neutral news, their unlimited US and Canada offering (Boingo Unlimited) remains $22 per month. Asia-Pacific As You Go pricing also remains the same, at $10 per day pass.

Now for the bad news: Boingo Global shoots up from $39 to $59 per month with a drop in minutes from 3,000 to 2,000; a 24-hour As You Go pass in Europe rises from $10 to $20. Boingo head David Hagan explained to me that the pricing in Europe has required this charge, because European operators charge by the minute for wholesale time. Hagan said that retail prices in European hotels and airports tend to be about 25 to 30 euros a day, far higher than most of the rest of the world.

"Ninety percent of our usage is less than 2,000 minutes per customer," Hagan noted, but that last 10 percent can be a killer. In hotels, "people get connected in a hotel and leave it up all night," which the hotel's Wi-Fi operators passes on as minutes used to Boingo.

As a transitional move, existing Global subscribers will get a year free of Boingo Mobile (normally $8 per month, and thus $96 for a year). They've started to send mailings to their Global customer base.

The Global plan launched about a year ago, and Boingo says that usage has been "extremely high," but that they're upside down in terms of what they're charging. Compared to other in-network plans in Europe, such as that offered by BT, Hagan says Boingo remains highly competitive for cross-network access. iPass, which has a similarly large worldwide footprint, although a broader business model, offers individual global plans for $45 per month, which also includes dial-up and some Ethernet connections.

On other fronts, Boingo software is now available for the top five handset makers' platforms worldwide. The firm is playing a bit of a waiting game with the iPhone, as they see whether Apple makes the necessary hooks available in its developer toolkit for Boingo to build the software package they'd like. Boingo's airport division continues to grow, too, Hagan says, where it provides both direct revenue and a conduit to distribute their software to business travelers.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:29 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot, International, Roaming

Wee-Fi: Broadband Test Fairness, Network Magic 5, Manassas BPL, Wi-Fi Thermostat

By Glenn Fleishman

Virgin Media says broadband speed tests underperform: Sure, an ISP would like to tell you that the numbers produced by speed tests aren't accurate, that they undermeasure, but there's definitely truth in the statement. Virgin claims, via the BBC, that the faster the broadband, the less accurately the tests perform. Tests typically send large files or series of files of different sizes and measure throughput. Right now, Virgin says, the file sizes are too small to be meaningful. They're talking about latency here: latency and bandwidth are related but distinct properties. Bandwidth measures the diameter of the pipe, or its capacity to carry water, say; latency is the measure of how long it takes for water to reach the faucet after you turn on the tap. There's also the issue of congestion between a user's system and the testing location, which can have nothing to do with real-world performance for downloading media files or handling commercial Web sites. With 50 Mbps service on the way in the UK, they're apparently a bit anxious about being told they're slow.

Cisco releases Network Magic 5 for simplified network setup: The software's designed to take the frustration out of increasingly complicated home networking setups, where users don't want to take IT classes to get devices to talk to each other. Versions from from $30 to $50, with Mac support adding $25.

Manassas, Virg., takes over broadband over powerline network: The previous operator was unable to sell its network as planned, and about 700 customers would have lost service. The city wants to use the network to test automated meter reading, and thus makes sense to continue running. Manassas was the site of several complaints by amateur radio operators who found varying levels of interference from BPL gear. While the FCC wasn't highly sympathetic to the hams, BPL just hasn't played out as a viable, competitive technology. Every major use of BPL has been scaled back or dropped; smaller networks are starting to disappear, too.

Ecobee pairs thermostat with Wi-Fi: The Ecobee Smart Thermostat doesn't rely on a powerline network connection, but uses Wi-Fi to communicate. This lets the thermostat be programmed and controlled from a computer instead of through a mystifying front panel. I have a decent touchscreen thermostat installed last year, and even with my decades of programming and electronics background, I'm still confused at times about what button to push. The unit costs $385 and ships in 2009, but could be distributed by utilities, which could provide remote management and messaging through the units. The company claims the cost could be recovered through intelligent use within 12 to 18 months.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:51 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

Exhaustive Summary of In-Flight Filtering

By Glenn Fleishman

Hats off to Harrit Baskas, MSNBC travel writer, for this thorough examination of in-flight filtering: Baskas didn't just make a couple calls, she did the footwork (uh, by phone) to find out precisely how each airline that's offering or planning in-flight full or partial Internet access will or won't filter content. Tremendously good work here, and the illustration is just perfect.

Let me just bloggishly crib from her, while suggesting you read the whole run down. American and Delta, as we already know, plan to engage in some limited filtering, seemingly to prevent egregious and obvious Web sites from being viewed. Given that there are a million billion porn sites, I'm not sure how that will work.

Southwest will filter, "much like you have a filter at work," which probably means excessively.

Continental will only offer email and messaging, so they don't need to yet.

Virgin doesn't currently filter any entertainment content, and isn't planning Internet filtering. That does not surprise me. The various Virgin airlines treat their passengers like capable adults, possibly too much so.

Air Canada and Alaska are both examining the options.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:03 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel

October 15, 2008

Wee-Fi: Cablevision Expands, Burbank May Go Free

By Glenn Fleishman

Cablevision doubles Wi-Fi network area: Cablevision continues its inexorable march to install Wi-Fi for its cable customers across its territory. The company said this morning that they had installed Optimum WiFi in more areas, including Connecticut and Westchester/Dutchess counties in New York. Cablevision's plan calls for them to spend $300m to install thousands of Wi-Fi nodes for outdoor use only by their current cable data customers at no additional charge.

Burbank airport might go free: The local paper says that the airport authority might switch to free Wi-Fi to attract more passengers. But the paper gets the details wrong on the finance side. The three cellular providers who pay the authority a fee of about $30,000 per year would remain, operating their cellular voice and data services. Rather, T-Mobile is the Wi-Fi provider, and the regional authority would have to work out a deal with them, ostensibly. No other airport authority in Southern California provides free Wi-Fi, but it's an increasingly common option among 2nd and 3rd tier airports that attracts hundreds of thousands to millions of passengers a year, such as Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Sacramento.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:24 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

October 14, 2008

Quantenna: Radical New Design or Great PR?

By Glenn Fleishman

The folks at Quantenna made a splash with their "1 Gbps" Wi-Fi announcement today: Venture-backed chipmaker Quantenna says that they have a tiny chip that should make it easier and cheaper to push high throughput Wi-Fi around a home using wall-outlet adapters. The company claims 450 Mbps of throughput from the highest-end Draft N standard (600 Mbps raw), and that it has a 1 Gbps wireless offering that uses multiple bands and channels to achieve throughput. There's not enough detail to know how proprietary that is, or if it's a form of channel bonding.

Quantenna announced three chipsets and a reference design: simultaneous dual band at raw rates up to 1 Gbps, 5 GHz at up to 600 Mbps, and 2.4 GHz at up to 450 Mbps. The reference design is for a compact wall outlet Wi-Fi extender.

The company said it's using a proprietary version of the 802.11s mesh protocol to allow devices to interact with each other. Quantenna's focus appears to be on spreading signals across a house, such as with streaming high-definition, where lots of bandwidth will be needed as telcos, satellite operators, and cable firms deliver HDTV into homes today, but plan much more in the future. Storing HD and then being able to have multiple live streams sent among devices is apparently the wet dream of those involved in home entertainment.

You can be clever about pushing HD around a home (like Ruckus) or brute force it by flooding an area with high throughput like Quantenna, which isn't a bad strategy, but it's an interesting one. The fact is that there are already market solutions that don't require 450 Mbps of net throughput. The segment they're looking at seems too well developed and small for them to capture a sizeable chunk when products based on their design are released in mid-2009. And as a startup, their ability to sign deals with firms that sometimes take 1 to 2 years to negotiate and sign makes me wonder; their investors might be brokering those deals to make them conclude faster.

Small, integrated chips make a big splash because they reduce the battery drain on mobile devices, allow the use of these chips in handhelds, and can dramatically drop the cost of manufacture both through a reduced bill of materials and reduced assembly costs. Quantenna told several sources that they expect to charge $20 for a single-band chipset and $40 for a dual-band chipset in quantity. For chipmakers these days, that can mean from 100,000 to 1m before the price drop happens. (It used to mean much more, but efficiencies have improved in smaller lots of chipmaking, apparently.)

I've followed chip announcements in the Wi-Fi space for years, and small startups that have unique offerings tend to either get swallowed up in short order (Airgo into Qualcomm) or disappear (the very promising Engim\). Atheros, Broadcom, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, Marvell, CSR, and a few others own the market, and that's just how that is. Chipmakers in this industry segment needs millions and then tens of millions of sales to make it possible to recover their R&D costs while sinking money into future R&D for the inevitable next generation.

(Airgo, I might note, was sucked into Qualcomm and sunk without a trace, although it's likely their patents were part of what was of interest; their approach to building MIMO systems was probably integrated into other product lines and multi-standard chips.)

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:48 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: 802.11n, Chips, Future

October 10, 2008

Wee-Fi: Mass. Train-Fi, iPhone App Location Awareness

By Glenn Fleishman

Massachusetts expands trial of train-Fi: The state's train authority will spend $1.4m to expand a trial program for Wi-Fi on certain state commuter lines to all 258 coaches. The program's formal launch is Wednesday. The annual cost is estimated at $300,000, but the authority didn't try to estimate savings or other expenses involved in shifting people from cars to trains as a result of the service.

Skyhook says 300 iPhone apps access location: Location guru Brady Forrest breaks down the data about how many iPhone applications are aware of their surroundings. No numbers here about the number of queries per day Skyhook is handling from iPhones, which we would all love to know, but is certainly proprietary to their deal with Apple. Forrest doesn't mention another interesting sidenote: Skyhook corrects their database of Wi-Fi locations with every query sent by an iPhone, which as a highly mobile device, must have a dramatic effect on extending and enhancing their routine truck-based scanning.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:34 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

October 9, 2008

Commercial WPA/WPA2 Cracking Software Accelerated by GPUs

By Glenn Fleishman

ElcomSoft accelerates cracking WPA/WPA2 keys: The Russian firm offers what it delicately terms password recovery software. They've now paired their WPA/WPA2 key crackin with the power of graphic processing units (GPUs), the brains that drive video cards, and which can carry out certain kinds of calculations vastly faster than CPUs, a computer's main processor. (Apple plans to tap GPUs for Snow Leopard, Mac OS X 10.6, due out next year.)

ElcomSoft claims a 100fold increase in the ability to brute force extract a WPA or WPA2 key. Further, their software can be used in a distributed fashion. A network of computers with fast graphics cards could provide the equivalent of multiple supercomputers' worth of focused cracking power.

Short WPA/WPA2 passphrases (which are hashed into keys) have long been known to be at risk to cracking and dictionary attacks. Five years ago, Robert Moskowitz let me publish his paper on weak passphrase choice, which showed how words in dictionaries used for passphrases could be broken if the phrase was overall less than 20 characters. Passphrases are hashed using a formula that includes the SSID (network name). Crackers have precompiled large dictionaries that use common SSIDs.

ElcomSoft uses brute force, which require untold billions of attempts. Shorter keys, even with high degrees of entropy, could fall very fast.

But longer keys increase the difficulty of cracking inordinately. An 8-character WPA/WPA2 passphrase might fall in hours or even minutes, but a 9-character key would take some factor longer; a 16-character key might still need thousands of years to crack even with government-grade effort.

WPA/WPA2 Enterprise shouldn't suffer from this weakness, because these systems generate long keys that aren't derived from passphrases.

ElcomSoft's Distributed Password Recovery starts at $599 for up to 20 clients, and scales to 10,000 clients.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 5:53 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Security

October 8, 2008

Wee-Fi: Firefox Geolocation; Apple's Starbucks Page Missing; American Filters

By Glenn Fleishman

Mozilla releases early version of geolocator technology: Geode, an add-on for Firefox 3.0 from Mozilla Labs, uses Skyhook Wireless's Wi-Fi positioning system to provide approximate coordinates for your current location. A more full-blown geolocation service will be built into Firefox 3.1, allowing choice among providers, use of GPS, and other extensions. Firefox 3.0 with this add-on supports a Web site querying a user's location; the browser prompts the surfer for whether they want to reveal this and at what granularity (exact, neighborhood, or city). Mozilla is supporting the W3C Geolocation spec in both this add-on and the full 3.1 implementation.

Starbucks page gone missing from Apple, Engadget discovers: Apple's had a page up about its partnership with Starbucks, one that's stalled in expansion the last year, where the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store is available via iPhones, iPod touch players, and laptops. I speculated back in February that the move from T-Mobile to AT&T for Starbucks signaled a closer partnership with Apple, but that hasn't materialized yet. (The full iTunes Store requires a laptop with a "real" Wi-Fi connection via AT&T or T-Mobile, depending on which firm operates the store, instead of the limited free Wi-Fi used for the music-only iTunes subset.)

American Airlines joins the in-flight filtering club: Passengers aren't viewing inappropriate content, apparently, but the possibility of it--and perhaps flight attendants being able to use that to their advantage in negotiations--appear to be leading to filtering. Delta also said recently that they would provide minimal filtering when they launched trials. Knowing Virgin, they'll add 18-plus seating sections where pornography is encouraged.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:49 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

Different Interpretation of Buffalo, CSIRO Patent Appeal

By Glenn Fleishman

A few days ago, I wrote that CSIRO had come out on top in an appeal by Buffalo of a district court decision: CSIRO, the Australian technology agent, has a broad patent that appears to cover aspects of OFDM, a technique for improving throughput in multi-path (reflective) signal environments. OFDM is used in 802.11a, g, and n, as well as in WiMax, and other wireless technologies. CSIRO has Cisco signed as a licensee, as Cisco bought an Australian firm a few years ago (this covers Linksys as well), but other makers are fighting. Buffalo lost a district court decision and has an injunction preventing the import of Wi-Fi gear, which has likely cost them tens of millions of dollars. They're a leading seller in their founding country of Japan.

A few weeks ago, I picked up an item from ZDnet's Australian branch stating that CSIRO had won an appeal.

It appears that's inaccurate. While extremely technical in only a way that a court decision about patents can be, Buffalo won the appeal on a very narrow argument about the obviousness of the combination of two IEEE papers related to the CSIRO patent. Another issue, about how the original patent application covered 10 GHz and higher but was amended to covers the entire range of radio frequencies, appears to be set aside. Buffalo issued a press release.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:21 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Legal

October 6, 2008

Wee-Fi: Delta Filters, Smart-Fi, Abandonment

By Glenn Fleishman

Delta has mid-air reversal on filtering Web content: Delta said it wouldn't filter its in-flight Internet system (not yet launched), but now says it will have a short list of inappropriate sites that no one would disagree were inappropriate. That might work. While filtering is impossible to enforce on a broad scale, choosing a small list of sites the airline feels are off limits, that might balance some basic interests.

Wi-Fi attraction for students: Nearly half of students surveyed would prefer Wi-Fi over beer at school. Three-quarters think Wi-Fi makes helps them get better grades. Take that, Lakehead University!

MetroFi antennas won't fall like autumn leaves: Portland, Ore., must wait until April 2009 to declare MetroFi's Wi-Fi nodes abandoned and take them down. While MetroFi gave the city a deposit, it will cost the Oregon metropolis $36,000 of its own cash to remove them, although the city's wireless go-to guy says they'll try to recover cash from MetroFi. To my knowledge, MetroFi has not filed for bankruptcy, even though the company no longer has working phone lines and hasn't returned comments.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:37 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

October 2, 2008

New Credit Card Processing Rules Kill off WEP (in 2009)

By Glenn Fleishman

The credit-card industry has finally revised rules to make WEP persona non grata: The PCI Security Standards Council was founded by Amex, Discover, JCB, Visa, and MasterCard, and each organization agreed to adopt the standards that the group decides on. The latest update of the Data Security Standard (DSS), drafted early this year, was adopted and released yesterday, and profoundly alters Wi-Fi security practices for any company that accepts any of major credit card. A summary can be downloaded under PCI DSS Summary of Changes.

The new rules prohibit the use of the highly broken WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) standard as part of any credit-card processing--such as from a store terminal to a server--after 30-June-2010, and prohibit any new system from being installed that uses WEP after 31-March-2009. In practice, WEP has remained in relatively wide use among retailers as of last year because many individual and chain stores continue to use ancient point-of-sale gear. The supplier side changed slowly, too, with WEP still included as a standard feature long after WPA was widely available starting in 2004 in business and consumer Wi-Fi gear and computers. The use of WEP is what led to the TJ Maxx parent company network invasion.

The DSS sets both security and audit standards: Merchants must conform to the document's guidelines, and if examined by their merchant card issuer, must be found to conform. If not, they could have the ability to process cards turned off, which makes it hard to be a retailer of any kind.

An analysis of the changes in SearchSecurity states that 802.1X as being required, but I believe that may have been a typo. The SearchSecurity article notes that "802.1x" and "802.11x" are cited as examples of industry best practices in the summary document. However, in both the summary and full version of the DSS, I see "802.11i" listed, which is a generic way to refer to WPA2 with TKIP and AES keys.

This would seem to indicate that the DSS would allow the use of WPA and WPA2 Personal, as is noted in Section 2.1.1. That same section, however, recommends the use of AES, which is only available in WPA2 compliant hardware. There doesn't seem to be any mention of 802.1X or WPA/WPA2 Enterprise elsewhere in the document or its summary.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:27 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Security

Wee-Fi: Phila-Fi Developments, Cablevision Hires

By Glenn Fleishman

Philadelphia network has 100,000 monthly sessions: NAC, which took over Phila.'s network from EarthLink, has assumed full control at the end of a 3-month transition period, Wi-Fi Planet reports. The company said that sessions average 4 hours. The new owners are looking to entice Phila. to have them build a wireless public-safety network and offer business services as well. While NAC's head Derek Pew say that EarthLink didn't focus on "municipal and commercial usage," I'd argue that the statement is half right: EarthLink's plan was to offer such service, and their networks were built with that in mind; they just didn't get enough traction, such as a complete and well-functioning network, that would have allowed them to take the next step. NAC estimates a full best-effort Wi-Fi network will be finished in 12 to 18 months.

Cablevision announces Wi-Fi executives: I normally don't cover routine press releases that note that so-and-so has joined or left a certain company. But with Craig Plunkett, that's different. Craig has been doggedly building and running Wi-Fi networks in Long Island, Fire Island, and elsewhere in New York for several years, and co-developed the Wi-Fi on wheels system Wi-RAN. He's joining Cablevision, the folks with a $300m budget to build outdoor network for their cable data customers, as the VP of Wireless Market Development. Cablevision also snagged Tim Farrell (VP, Wireless Product Development), who had a similar role at Boingo Wireless. Craig and I have corresponded an enormous amount over the years, and he's the best person who could hired for this position, given his experience, especially specific to Long Island.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:07 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

October 1, 2008

Devicescape Releases iPhone Connection Tool

By Glenn Fleishman

Devicescape has gone legit on the iPhone, iPod touch: I was tired of entering hotspot passwords 15 months ago, a few days after I bought the first-generation (2.5G) iPhone. I've been waiting ever since for Devicescape to bring their Wi-Fi connection software to the iPhone, even at one point jailbreaking my iPhone--rendering it able to install any software, not just that approved by Apple--in order to use an early package they'd developed.

Devicescape has finally wended its way through Apple's tortuous application release process for the App Store, and its Easy Wi-Fi program can be yours for $1.99. (The application release date is 13-Aug-2008, but the press release about its availability showed up in my mailbox last night.)


I purchased Easy Wi-Fi, entered my Boingo account, cleaned up some personal passwords, and tried it out. Works like a charm. I'm about to head out on a trip (posting will be light, for those paying attention), and not having to enter passwords in airports will be a great pleasure.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:36 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Hot Spot

Southwest Unveils Internet Trials

By Glenn Fleishman

Southwest Airlines will try out Row 44's satellite-backed Internet service on one plane this year: The discount carrier plans to equip one 737-700 with Row 44's Ku-band satellite Internet service by the end of the year for a 2-to-3 month trial. In first quarter 2009, FlightGlobal reports, other 737-700s will be added, and a variety of flight durations will be tested.

Row 44 continues to claim what seems to me to be an impossibly high speed: here, Southwest is saying 31 Mbps downstream. I will believe this when I see it. Ku-band transponders are capable of very high speed data transmissions, but I'm not convinced that this rate is sustainable to each plane and represents actual net throughput. We'll see. (The only other speed I've heard for Ku-band was 12 Mbps from Panasonic Avionics, when they were considering firing back up a network similar to Connexion by Boeing.)

Southwest plans to filter. Yeah, let me know how that works out for you guys.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:27 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Air Travel

Atheros Frees Up Low-Level Driver Software

By Glenn Fleishman

Atheros has released an open-source version of the driver software that talks directly to its chips: The company has long maintained that it required a closed HAL (hardware abstraction layer) to prevent rogue developers from changing settings in its Wi-Fi chips that would cause the chips to perform activities that were against its interest. For instance, it's a/b/g chips can use the 4.9 GHz band, which is illegal in the U.S. and many other countries, but allowed in Japan.

Those objections must have been overcome, as the firm is providing a full, ISC-licensed free software code base for their HAL for 802.11a/b/g chipsets. This should allow the ath5k project to create a fully Linux kernel integrated driver for Atheros chips with no reverse engineering or licensing issues.

This opening up of the HAL allows laptops and handhelds running versions of Linux to have more effective use of the Wi-Fi adapters built in or that can be added on. Note that Atheros hasn't opened up its 802.11n chips yet.

This HAL isn't the same as the one used by the Madwifi project, headed for several years by Sam Leffler. Leffler was able to start Madwifi up by signing an agreement with Atheros that let him write a binary HAL that could be released alongside open-source or free drivers. Leffler reiterated a few days ago on a mailing list that his HAL still wasn't available for release. And, at this point, the Madwifi project appears to be deferring to the ath5k folks. (Confusingly, information about ath5k is all noted at and accessed via links on the Madwifi site, but it's a separate project.) [news via Thomas Gee, Canard WiFi]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:16 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Chips, Hardware

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