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Are you noticing that hosted services are starting to disappear? Me, too: I haven't launched a new blog in some time, but was motivated to start up ItDied.com recently after receiving about one email a day about a photo gallery, video service, online storage, or other company or division shutting down. It's not related to Wi-Fi, but if you're tracking what's about to go belly up--or worried that a service that stores your data in their cloud is about to disappear--check 'er out.
It's hard for me to believe this, but Wi-Fi Networking News is seven years old on Sunday, 6 April 2008: Folks, there are times when I feel a little bit aged. Turning 40 a couple weeks ago didn't give me that feeling. Have two children (1 and 3 2/3) has a bit (mostly when I'm achey from too much carrying and too little sleep). But finding that my "other child," Wi-Fi Networking News is a grand spanking seven years old has, in fact, made me stoop just a little bit.
I started Wi-Fi Networking News under the less euphonious name 802.11b Networking News back in April 2001 after spending months researching what became a front-cover article in Circuits, the then-separate tech section of The New York Times. The first post is still live, as are all the nearly 4,800 others.
(I had help: Nancy Gohring wrote part-time for WNN for a couple years when we had a bit more traffic; she took a full-time job for and still works for IDG News Service, which I am now slightly affiliated with through my new hardware regular blog at PC World.)
Since starting, I've covered extensively the growth of the hotspot market, the rise and fall and rise again of municipal networks, the change in consumer equipment from expensive and slow to cheap and fast, the growth of the enterprise market, the phoenix-like in-flight calling/broadband market, and, more recently, cellular and WiMax technology.
Enterprise coverage was once a central part of Wi-Fi Networking News, but it became clear a few years ago that as equipment was redesigned to be integral to the enterprise, that my ability cover and test gear was too limited, and the need for true enterprise experience was necessary to write about it. This disappointed a lot of enterprise readers and equipment makers who wanted me to keep writing about corporate hardware.
The focus over the last few years on municipal Wi-Fi was not just necessary--few people besides me were covering it in depth--but also represented the only significant news in the Wi-Fi world outside of the development of 802.11n/Draft N gear. It's only recently that WiMax, cellular data, spectrum auctions, and in-flight broadband have picked back up to become stories that you all want to know about--because they've become real technology you might work with. As the city-wide Wi-Fi arc played itself out, I'm covering it less because there's less of interest; it's going to become routine and the province of city CTOs and CIOs.
While writing this site, I try to have opinions, but not an agenda. I try to keep an open mind, though I do descend into cynicism, often well founded, but perhaps too readily employed. I'll try my best to keep myself honest and cheery in the years to come.
The biggest trends I expect to see develop in 2008 to 2010 are in these key areas:
Appliances. I expected 2007 to be the year that Wi-Fi was in everything: cameras, games, phones, and tchotchkes. Instead, Wi-Fi has only gradually spread, with a few gaming consoles, and many handsets and smartphones gaining or extending their use. It may be that I missed a trend: cameras in phones may become so good by 2009, that we don't need a camera with Wi-Fi at all (Wired reports today on several 5 megapixel cameraphones shown at CTIA this week). It's also likely that if WiMax gets a foothold, we'll get handhelds probably in 2009 that sport high-speed connections for all kinds of high-bandwidth purposes, like live uploading of streaming video.
Video over wireless. I look at this category as not just another instance of broadcast, like Qualcomm's MediaFLO which is really TV to the cell phone; rather, we'll see ways in which Wi-Fi, WiMax, and cellular data are used to push stored and streaming media to all sorts of devices. I look to Starbucks, Apple, and AT&T to lead the way on cached media in stores that can be filled up at local network speeds: download a full-length, HD movie in a few minutes in a Starbucks from the iTunes cache rather than 3 hours at home.
Radio over Wi-Fi. Internet radio via Wi-Fi music players seems like a trend--buying a boombox you can tune in wherever you are, or using a handheld MP3 players--but even with many devices, I don't feel a sense that it's caught on quite yet. If Apple puts Internet radio over Wi-Fi into new iPhone/iPod touch firmware, it'll likely take off; Nokia allows a third-party program for its N series for Internet radio over Wi-Fi already.
Cellular data/mobile broadband. I admit to being wrong about the potential of cell data, due to the overhype from the carriers and the horrible pricing relative to throughput and availability of the 1xRTT and GPRS systems. As cell data networks have matured into true broadband--slow, but broadband--media, the hype has lessened, disclosure has improved (no more "unlimited" usage, eh?), and the value has increased. We'll see more of the same with faster flavors of GSM networking and WiMax's deployment. The networks will become faster and cheaper and less restrictive.
For a good sense of what people are still reading on Wi-Fi Networking News, here are the titles of the top 10 articles since I switched to Google Analytics in Sept. 2006:
A few observations. Security remains key in people's minds: Security articles from 2004 are still being heavily viewed in 2008. Linksys is definitely high in people's minds for particular problems: Change the default password, buy a Linux (not VxWorks) embedded router, report problems with various models. Oddly, the wireless speakers and wireless printers articles are short stubs that are pure blog: they link to longer articles elsewhere. The Best Wi-Fi Signal Finder Yet story is 4 years old and still gets 1,000 page views a month. The invisible hand--nay, the long tail!--works in archives as it does everywhere.
Will I still be pounding away 7 years from now on this site? That seems about as unlikely as the last 7 years, which means it will probably happen. Traffic has dropped off over the years from the time in which Wi-Fi was a great (and expensive) mystery to today when there's more information and less confusion about it. As long as there are any questions to be answered, I'll keep writing.
If you'd like to include our latest headlines, use this widget: The folks at Widgetbox have made it rather simple to distribute the headlines from my site so you can publish it on yours. If you'd like to use this tool, just follow the link below. You can change the size from narrow to wide and modify a few other attributes as well.
Yours truly and his colleagues at Take Control Books have just released the latest updates to our electronic books on Wi-Fi: My two books (one co-authored with Adam Engst) on Wi-Fi are now ready for purchase in their latest updated flavors. Wi-Fi Networking News readers can get 30 percent either or both titles by following the links below, or using coupon code CPN71005WNN. (Discount appears at checkout. You can jump straight to a checkout cart with both books and the discount by clicking here.)
Take Control of Your 802.11n AirPort Extreme Network covers using Apple's latest, fastest AirPort Extreme technology to its best advantage, including mixing older and newer Wi-Fi gear, and designing the best network architecture for homes and small offices. Includes details for Mac OS X 10.4, Windows XP, and Windows Vista setup. This revised edition covers the newer gigabit Ethernet version of the AirPort Extreme with N. This edition includes a new, separate section explaining how to set up a network with multiple base stations either via Ethernet or via wireless using Wireless Distribution System. (171 pages, $10 before 30% discount)
Take Control of Your Wi-Fi Security offers a comprehensive look at securing a Wi-Fi network for homes, home offices, and small businesses. We cover how to evaluate your risk, which security options to choose, and how it all works, including WEP, WPA, WPA2, 802.1X, WPS, and many, many more acronyms. The book guides you to setting up a secure network, and keeping secure on the road with SSL/TLS, SSH, a VPN, and other methods. We also detail how to secure an iPhone, and the ways in which it simply can't be secured for in-transit data. (114 pages, $10.00 before 30% discount)
We've also released the 2004 edition of The Wireless Networking Starter Kit (2nd edition) at no cost as an electronic download. While the information is outdated in places--and the Take Control books refresh those details--we still think it's a good guide to the principles of Wi-Fi, how to set up a network, and how to use hotspot networks safely.
This site launched just about six years ago: I've been writing Wi-Fi Networking News since 2001, launching the site shortly after having spent some weeks researching a story for The New York Times on publicly accessible Wi-Fi hotspots. Hotspots numbered in the hundreds in 2001. HomeRF was a viable technology, but on its inevitable road out, although there was some doubt. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi were in contention. A way faster future standard named 802.11g was around the corner with blazing 22 Mbps speeds. And this site was named 802.11b Networking News.
I assumed six years ago that Wi-Fi would be slowly grow into an essential part of the networking kit. I had no idea that the inflection point would take just two years--in 2003, as 802.11g finally launched and prices plummeted. Since then, cost for the cheapest gear has held steady as newer, faster flavors rotated into view, and then became commoditized. I still laugh over predictions that by 2007 (or even 2005) only a percentage of laptops, like 75 percent, would have Wi-Fi adapters built in. It was clear by 2003 that Wi-Fi would either be in nearly every laptop or a total failure.
Blogging went from a technical niche to mainstream within the first three years of this site's operation, and monetization of a blog through advertising to real viability for high-traffic sites has taken the last three years. While this site is technically profitable (my real hard costs are all my own labor), revenue is nowhere near the level needed to make this either my entire living or to hire a staff. (You need a broader focus like my good colleague Om Malik who launched GigaOm across a spectrum with private investment to jump start it.)
I can't believe I've been running this site for six years, and I expect that means I'll find myself here in another six.
digitalculturebooks is looking for nominations for the best technology writing of 2006: The venture between the University of Michigan Press and Library is looking for articles, essays, and blog posts that are "engagingly written for a mass audience," no longer than 5,000 words, and published in 2006. I wrote a million billion words in 2006, and if anyone thinks something I wrote stands out, I won't object to being nominated.
The folks at Microsoft's on10 invited me on to talk about Wi-Fi and myself: Very flattering offer. We talked quite a lot of about the frustrations of Wi-Fi and some current developments, and host Laura Foy also touched on the issues of being a journalist blogger. Laura and co-host Tina Wood are both great sports, as you'll see in a segment that was filmed before mine and not yet posted. I can't reveal what's in it; you'll have to check back for a combination of a kitchen product and technology.
on10 is a venture of Microsoft filmed at their spectacular Redmond studios. That sounds like I'm kidding. I've been in television studios before, and on10 and related ventures are quite well set up. The interview had two floor cameras and a remote, as you can tell from the editing.
Several months ago, I partnered with Federated Media (FM) to handle ads on this site: I knew that John Battelle was a good star onto which to hook this ship of bloggy commerce, as I trusted his editorial instincts but knew he had the publisher genes as well. I've been showing FM's banner ads on this site since late last year, and the group launched its self-service advertising system today, which has something slightly in common with Google AdWords and other methods of launching one's own ads without a salesperson directly involved.
The FM system lets an advertiser target sites in the FM network by demographics, or just browse available inventories. GigaOm, Fark, BoingBoing, and almost four dozen other sites that have the same author-driven or editorial-driven focus as Wi-Fi Networking News are also available.
I've already bought my first banner on another site for my book-comparison service, isbn.nu. If you've been looking for short or long ad runs on Wi-Fi Network News, check out FM's new system.
Wi-Fi Networking News has received a nomination for The Webby Awards: The site is one of five finalists in the telecommunications category. The Webbies have an interesting history, having come out of the highly financed dotcom days, dimmed a little during the crash, and then re-emerged as an interesting and separate force, part of a group that's promoting the notion of good design, good technology, and good content. If you look at the membership, it's a signal honor that judges chose this site among the finalists.
The Webby Awards have both a judged and a vox populi component: You can vote for my fine site, if you believe it's the best of the five in its category, by visiting the People's Voice Webby Awards site.
Thanks for the support of readers! I do this for you, honestly. This is a business venture, certainly (although it didn't start as one), but it's the fun of writing, of talking to people, of helping advance knowledge that keeps me blogging daily.
Our site's top stories viewed during 2005 are mostly from previous years: It's the irony of a blog that your traffic is either on your home page or in the archives. Stories that age well tend to continue to receive high traffic.
1. WPA Cracking Proof of Concept Available (Nov. 2004)
2. Weakness in Passphrase Choice in WPA Interface (Nov. 2003)
3. Coffeeshop Turns off Wi-Fi on Weekends (May 2005)
4. WPA for Free under Windows 2000 (Feb. 2004)
5. Municipal: Texas Fights; Indiana Bill Dies; NYT Covers; Philly Councilman Shills; Colorado Suppresses (Feb. 2005)
6. Change Your Linksys WRT54G Admin Password Right Now! (June 2004)
7. The Path to 802.11i (Nov. 2003)
8. GoogleWiFi (Apr. 2005)
9. Most Wireless Speakers Don't Live Up to Goal (Sept. 2004)
10. WPA's Little Secret (Nov. 2003)
You'll notice a trend here: Six of the top 10 stories are about security, four about Wi-Fi Protected Access. Only three stories in the top ten ran in 2005, while three date back to security issues first written about in 2003! And the 2nd most popular story was a white paper written by a security expert that we were given permission to post. Top story number 9 is quite curious in that it's just a one-paragraph pointer to a David Pogue column.
Wi-Fi Alliance picks JiWire to manage Wi-Fi Zone directory: I hadn't heard much in recent months and even years about the Wi-Fi Alliance's continued work to brand Wi-Fi hotspots that meet certain standards with the Wi-Fi Zone moniker. In fact, there are nearly 2,500 locations in the U.S. out of many thousands more that meet those requirements. JiWire will manage their database of locations, found at wi-fi.jiwire.com and also marked within JiWire's own directory.
Is there a qualitative or even quantitative difference between Wi-Fi Zone hotspots and those without? Hard to say without performing one's own taste test. Just as the Intel Centrino Verified hotspot program helped hotspot operators to troubleshoot problems and produce more consistent results for Wi-Fi users, I expect the Wi-Fi Zone program has some similar benefits. Wi-Fi Zones have to use genuine Wi-Fi-certified equipment and have a relationship with the Wi-Fi Alliance to use the trademark.
(JiWire is an ongoing editorial partner with Wi-Fi Networking News, but we don't collaborate on directory partnerships.)
We're curious about our readers: Please fill out this survey in conjunction with our partners at Federated Media Publishing, who now handle our display advertising. We'd like to know a little bit about you: it helps us focus editorial and lets the ad folks figure out who might like to bring you a fresh basket of goods and services.
Starting today, we're moving advertising (but not editorial) partners, and we'd like to know more about you: Since fall 2003, Wi-Fi Networking News has partnered with JiWire on advertising, marketing, and editorial. They're a great group of people with a terrifically focused and exhaustive directory and set of associated how-tos and articles. The partnership has worked out terrifically on both sides.
However, as a niche content site, it's been tricky to sell the right kind of targeted ads that fit into both JiWire's niche and my own. To that end, my editorial partnership with JiWire will continue: we talk about big picture issues, I write for them, they feed me information, and the usual sort of interchange.
On the advertising side, my new representative is Federated Media Publishing (FM Publishing), a venture founded by John Battelle, the founder of Industry Standard and the author of a result book on Google, The Search. FM Publishing has started with a small array of niche sites like mine that are exhaustive in the areas we cover and have enough traffic to warrant selling advertising. (You can contact FM Publishing about advertising on this site.)
FM Publishing and I would like to know more about the current readership. To that end, we hope you'd take a moment to fill out this survey.
JiWire's Wi-Fi toolbar shows the status of networks, security: JiWire released a free Firefox toolbar that promotes their SpotLock VPN service, but also provides a large variety of useful information, including network status and signal strength as well as the security of Web sites (it notes when SSL is active for a given page). It's a hotspot finder using JiWire's directory, and the "i" (info) button shows you a large amount of information about your adapter and the access point to which you're connected.
The toolbar is for Windows Firefox only for now, but JiWire promises versions for Mac Firefox and Safari and Windows IE.
Take Control of Your Wi-Fi Security and Take Control of Your AirPort Network released: I co-wrote the former, Take Control of Your Wi-Fi Security, which offers extensive, hands-on, step-by-step coverage and detailed explanations of how to set up Wi-Fi security for home and small office networks for Mac and Windows. This is version 1.0 of this ebook ($10, downloadable, 161 pages), but it's an adaptation with extensive revision and new material of a section of The Wireless Networking Starter Kit. The book covers WEP weakness, WPA and WPA2, using 802.1X, and a host of other security issues. It's appropriate for someone setting up a small home network, but has sections devoted to networks ranging from about 5 to 50 users.
This is version 1.0 of this particular book, but it's adapted from two editions of The Wireless Networking Starter Kit, co-written by Adam Engst and myself. That book is now out of date, and that prompted us to release this part, extensively revised and with piles of new material.
Take Control of Your AirPort Network, written by yours truly, is now at version 1.2 ($10, 155 pages, downloadable), updated to cover Tiger, and re-organized from its previous release. It's targeted at Mac users who may be using AirPort equipment or other popular gear, and explains how to connect Mac OS 9, X, and Windows XP systems to AirPort networks, and how to create the most suitable network settings for a Mac.
Both books have large downloadable excerpts so you can see if you like our style, approach, and depth before purchasing.
The two books together may be purchased for $17.50. It's a delight to write ebooks because it's a simple matter to add material and release updates over time. So far, the AirPort book has had several minor and two major updates, but purchasers of the 1.0 edition have received each update at no cost.
JiWire's discussion forums should be a lively place to ask questions: JiWire's new KnowldegeSpot forums, currently in beta, should be a great place to learn more about Wi-Fi. I've been frustrated in finding and building forums in the past because you have to have thousands of interested people who regularly read and post to build a rich knowledge base. JiWire has that kind of traffic--and I hope that Wi-Fi Networking News readers check out the forums as well. I'll be answering questions there as I have time.
JiWire has released a public beta of its latest software package: offline hotspot finder, Wi-Fi profile manager, and VPN client: JiWire and Wi-Fi Networking News have an editorial and advertising partnership, so I won't pretend to be unbiased here. You'll note under category below that "self-promotion" is one of the items checked.
Nonetheless, I like SpotLock, their new free software package. Windows XP even with Service Pack 2 is a bit frustrating to use for managing connections to Wi-Fi networks when you work in many different places with the same machine. SP2 is a big improvement over prior releases, of course, but SpotLock offers the kind of granularity and configuration control that one would hope Microsoft could have baked in.
SpotLock handles WEP, WEP + 802.1X, and WPA-Personal, but doesn't yet have WPA + 802.1X (WPA-Enterprise) support, which should only affect a very small number of users who would use WPA-Enterprise but not have VPN support.
SpotLock also incorporates JiWire's hotspot directory, putting the database on your Windows machine. The directory can be updated when you're online and used without an Internet connection. There's a button that lets you restrict results to free locations.
The VPN client uses IPsec, a method that's harder to implement but is more secure that PPTP. By contrast, newer VPN-for-rent services have switched to SSL-based VPNs that tunnel all traffic but use encryption as strong as that found IPsec.
The software is free to use and the VPN client is enabled for a trial period. After that point, it costs $4.95 per month for $49.95 per year.
We've launched another three Weblogs on wireless: We're committed here at Wi-Fi Networking News, otherwise known as WNN, to cover and offer the widest array of reporting on wireless networking, whatever the standard. Several weeks ago, we added WiMax Networking News and WNN Europe to the mix to better separate the increasing number of stories in that area.
Today, we've started the engine on three new topics that are of high interest to our readers. As with our other new blogs, you can see the most recent headlines at the right side of any page on any of our sites.
Cell Data News will cover developments in 2G, 2.5G, 3G, and beyond in the U.S. and around the world.
Voice over WLAN is voice over IP (VoIP) over wireless LAN, but VoWLAN is the most common abbreviation. Many enterprises, schools, and homes are adopting different forms of VoWLAN to make roaming with voice as seamless as roaming with data without the issues and costs of interior cellular voice coverage.
MIMO + N News is the central point for details on the coming IEEE 802.11n standard for increasing wireless network throughput through the use of MIMO (multiple-in, multiple-out) antenna arrays alongside a variety of other technical improvements. MIMO devices have hit the market, but 802.11n is as long as two years away. We'll chart the course of both the market and the standard.
Regular readers will notice a few changes: It's been months in the making and weeks in the finalizing, but Nancy Gohring and I would like to introduce you to our new design and two new sites. You'll notice that our new site design is a little cleaner. We lost our unmanageable blog roll of other sites that we like and related information, but those seemed increasingly dated and hard to maintain in a world of Google headlines and search results.
With Nancy off in Dublin, Ireland, for the foreseeable future, we saw an opportunity to focus more closely on the increasing flurry of news about wireless networking and hotspots in Europe and parts east. Nancy will be heading up coverage at WNN Europe.
WiMax Networking News will siphon off the ever-larger percentage of our reporting that has focused on the upcoming WiMax standard, and existing and future wireless broadband. Nancy will also be taking the lead on this site, but I'll be contributing regularly, especially on municipal projects.
For ease of navigation, every page on all three sites will show you the newest headlines from the other two so you can avoid having to load each page separately. RSS/Atom feeds in several formats as well as separate email lists are available for each site. Look to the left navigation bar to subscribe or syndicate the news feed.
Most of all, we'd love your feedback about the design, our new coverage plans, or suggestions for the future. We're doing it all for you, after all.
JiWire tops 50,000 hotspots in its worldwide directory: I file this one under Self-Promotion because JiWire is my editorial and advertising partner. Although WNN is run independently, we work together on several fronts, and I'm just as excited as they are that their worldwide directory of hotspots has exceeded 50,000--more than 55,000 in actuality. London, surprisingly, has the largest number of hotspots of any city in the world, which is partly explained by the city's large metropolitan area under the same name, and partly by the incredible overlap of providers: BT OpenZone, The Cloud, Surf and Sip, T-Mobile UK, and others.
When I first met the JiWire folks in July 2003, I was impressed that they had brought together proximity, mapping, and hotspots. I like to be able to type in a street address, Zip code, or city, and then find out what's there, rather than reviewing lists. Lists become unwieldly, even though they're easier to scan, as the hotspot market grows.