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Sheraton builds lounge in Central Park with Wi-Fi: It's a publicity stunt, but the hotel chain wants to promote the fact that it's updated its hotel lounges or some nonsense, so they've taken over the famous Sheep Meadow, blanketing it in free Wi-Fi through September, and offering snacks and such next Monday. Central Park already has some Wi-Fi, including at Sheep Meadow.
Regular readers of this site knows that Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil patented the first known description of spread-spectrum communications: Yes, that Hedy Lamarr. Studio 360, a public radio show, looks into Hedy's co-invention.
Insanity in an insole: For some reason, the folks mstrpln (wasn't that one of Superman's pests?) along with Ubiq (a homophone for a Philip K. Dick novel) have released a Nike Dunk add-on that shows you whether a Wi-Fi network is in the vicinity of...your shoes.
They write: "The idea of footwear was pushed further by converging elements of digital culture with fashion and design into a wearble technology. The end product is a sneaker designed to detect Wi-Fi wireless internet hot-spots wherever the user may roam, with every step."
Uh, yeah, because, a shoelace cover that lights up whenever there's Wi-Fi around is some kind of cool. If it were 2003. And a handbag.
This story is a bit cute, but it's true: Alison DeLauzon, Reuters reports, had her camera stolen when left an equipment bag in a restaurant in Florida. The folks who allegedly took the bag also took pictures of themselves, which isn't unusual. But DeLauzon had an Eye-Fi wireless Secure Digital (SD) card in her camera, received as a gift. The thieves apparently wandered by an open access point with the same SSID as one that DeLauzon had configured for use, and pictures of her baby and the thieves were uploaded to her picture-sharing account. Nifty.
This is reminiscent of another recent story in which an Apple Store employee was able to use Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard's Back to My Mac remote access software to connect to a laptop that was stolen from her apartment to grab images and screenshots of the two men alleged to have taken the laptop and other gear.
On a visit with my older son to Port Townsend, Wash., a few days ago, I spotted this odd tower: That's my father and my older boy in the photo, looking at this stack of wireless gear at Fort Worden, a state park and former garrison of democracy. We spotted another one near the water in downtown PT, as the town is known to locals. Any ideas? Post in comments.
Update: Turns out it's a tsunami warning siren with a dish that links it to an activation system. Although Port Townsend is far east of the Pacific Ocean, it's part of a strait that, were a tsunami to hit the Pacific, would likely inundate parts of the town.
Azulstar once pinned its fortunes on city-wide Wi-Fi, but now looks to a special licensed spectrum band to make WiMax work where Wi-Fi failed: Azulstar has been the also-ran in Wi-Fi for some years, I'll just state bluntly and upfront. They built a network in Grand Haven, Mich., in 2003 that's one of--if not the--longest running metro-scale Wi-Fi networks in the world designed for public access. The mayor of Grand Haven since 2003, Roger Bergman, told me, "I got on board personally right away, and I am still on."
Azulstar soon answered several RFPs and partnered up with major firms to bring Wi-Fi to Rio Rancho, N.M., Winston-Salem, N.C., Sacramento, Calif., and most notably Silicon Valley--a set of dozens of cities along with county government and private enterprise all wanting some kind of tiered Wi-Fi across 1,500 sq mi.
While EarthLink, MetroFi, and even Kite Networks (with their extensive Arizona buildout in Tempe launched a bit before any other large competiting network) seized the headlines, and later made news about their stalls, failures, and exits, Azulstar seemed quietly to sink into the sand. The Wireless Silicon Valley deal fell apart, as did Sacramento after efforts to get stakeholder and outside investment seemed to fail to materialize, and the marquee partners--Cisco, IBM, and Intel--just wouldn't step up to the plate to make the project move forward. Azulstar was the lead techology firm, but the money just didn't come. (Both California projects are moving forward with a different set of partners and expectations now.)
Rio Rancho was perhaps one of the biggest letdowns. City manager Jim Payne explained in an interview a few weeks ago, "They had a number of things that were going against them from the start, and they did make an attempt to meet the requirements of the contract." But Rio Rancho voted to not just terminate the contract after years of attempts to make the network work, but rejected a proposal from Azulstar a few weeks ago to switch over equipment on the poles. Azulstar now has to remove all its devices.
All of this might make the typical company head a bit depressed about his firm's future, and less than sanguine about the potential for wireless broadband to work at all. Not so for Tyler van Houwelingen, Azulstar's chief, and I have to admit that he convinced me that the wireless provider has a fighting chance, due to a good combination of timing, spectrum policy, and a large dollop of can-do spirit.
The Ricochet network had continued to operate in Denver, passing through multiple hands, until its death March 28: I feel like playing taps. The Ricochet network, started up by Metricom, which spent billions and sold some assets for pennies on the dollar, was closed by Civitas, a company formed by the president of then-owner Terabeam's Ricochet division. The Ricochet site notes service halted on March 28.
The company claimed 6,000 users as of last August, but it seemed like a hard row to hoe competing as it was essentially against 2G/2.5G cellular data service that can be had for a pittance through embedded devices and cards. I tried to reach the company, and while its phones still work, the Civitas voice tree hangs up when you try to reach a real person, and Ricochet's tells you the network is shut down, and directs you to their Web site.
When I wrote about the sale in August 2007, I noted that Civitas was claiming "a decade of experience operating large-scale wireless deployments," which was specious. I noted, "That’s only true if you count some of the equipment mounted in Denver as continuous employees of the company."
Goodbye, Ricochet, an idea first way ahead of its time, and then way, way behind it.
Two from the ecological files today: In Costa Rica, a UCLA group is using Wi-Fi and fiber optic to provide canopy-level monitoring of microclimates that are typically hard to track. The top of the rain-forest canopy--in the La Selva Biological Station in this case--has a very different set of conditions than at the base. One measurement particularly of interest is the rate of CO2 leakage from the rain forest to see how the gas is passed in different areas, especially where there gaps due to tree falls.
Meanwhile, back in the U.S., solar-gear maker Xantrex has added a Wi-Fi-based gateway to relay information about solar-panel performance in home installations. An embedded Web server provides information, or it can be retrieved and logged on a networked PC. It seems like the power draw from this device shouldn't be very high, but it's not noted.
ThinkGeek to release Wi-Fi detection shirt: I had to check today's date, despite the autumnal crispness in the air, because this is the kind of thing that ThinkGeek routinely offers up on April 1. But it appears to be real. It's a Wi-Fi detector with battery-pack that displays via a decal on a T-shirt front. It's $30, comes in S to XXL, and detects 802.11b and 802.11g. Requires three AAA batteries (not included). The washing instructions are particularly amusing; I have had silk shirts that required less care. The shirt ships later this month. And, no, I'm not looking for a gift. [via Gizmodo]
Wireless power coming closer to reality (abstract of paper, Wall Street Journal story): Researchers at MIT demonstrate lighting a 60-watt bulb (dimly) from over two meters. True, 40 percent power loss, but that's over open space. Commercial products might be a few years away. The short story is that they use a pair of copper coils tuned to the same magnetic resonance so that power is targeted in one place. The technology will work only over short distances, but that might make it possible to charge battery-powered devices by having them just in rough proximity to resonance chargers, or to have battery-free, wireless devices that work only in the vicinity.
For those who want no electromagnetic radiation in their homes, perhaps this new window film would help: CPFilms Llumar Signal Defense--the latest in EMF-blocking paints and covers--is designed to pass light but not signals. The idea is that by putting this film over windows, companies can keep their networks more fully enclosed. (Walls might need special paint, or might have enough material already blocking transmission.) The company says it's been making the film for several years for government purposes, protecting over 200 federal agency buildings. The film is also blast-resistent, and reduces fragmentation in case of an explosion or break-in.
Ostensibly, someone attempting to prevent signals from entering their homes, could apply this to their windows, too, serving the opposite intent.
What has six antennas, 4 GB of Compact Flash, and costs €999? I don't know, but it's crawling up your network. The rather crazy people at Geek Technique have built a strange box capable of attaching to six separate Wi-Fi networks and aggregating the results into a single stream of broadband. Of course, to actually bond two or more networks, you need to have support on the server side and the receiving side, so it's more likely that this box round-robins requests (image request one to that network, Web page request two to that network) than anything fancier. Still! And remember: more and more people are being arrested for using free or unprotected networks. This might get you arrested six times in one day.
Steve Jobs directly confirmed to one questioner that Apple would charge for its 802.11n enabler for existing Macintoshes: A reader who prefers to remain anonymous forwarded me the mail he sent to Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO, and the reply he received. He included mail headers so that I can confirm the mail is legitimate. The reader asked Jobs whether press reports were in error that Apple would charge $5 for an "enabler" that would turn on the 802.11n functions in most Core 2 Duo and Xeon systems shipped in 2006. (The 17-inch 1.83 GHz iMac with Core 2 Duo lacks the necessary chip.)
Jobs replied, simply, "It's the law," which would confirm that the Sarbanes-Oxley requirement that seemed bizarre to me is, in fact, correct. In several reports, the law is cited as requiring different accounting for earnings on products that are shipped and later provide new functionality that wasn't initially advertised. Charging for the updater means that the functionality didn't come for free. I still hope to hear some better analysis about why the law requires this kind of product update micromanagement.
In any case, the email is legitimate, and Jobs's reply is unambiguous.
My earlier post on this was titled, "Apple Won't Charge $5 for 802.11n," but what I said--not so clearly--was that Apple would only tacitly charge that if they charged anything. The company isn't discussing releasing a locked, serialized enabler that works only with laptops and desktops that have been approved for update. Rather, they may charge $5 for an enabler, but the enabler will quickly be distributed for free, however informally, until the millions of older machines are patched.
I suspect based on Jobs's response, too, that Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard), which will be a paid operating system update shipping in second quarter 2007, could include the enabler, too, since that's a separate fee. The AirPort Extreme Base Station with 802.11n will include the enabler, and I'm extending the logic from there.
Wired reports on the gas pump with extra octane--I mean, octal: The Ovation iX has a touchscreen, speakers, and Wi-Fi built in. It shows commercials, but can also transfer music files to equipment in a car that's appropriately configured. Microsoft's Automotive Business Unit was involved in the development. Of course, I totally want to be waiting for gas while somebody fiddles with settings to buy music from a pump. Pump rage could be 2008's road rage.
Wired News published this interesting round up of beaches with Wi-Fi: Florida's Haulover Beach is perhaps the only clothing-optional beach that features Internet access. Sans clothes, sans wires: It's a theme.
The head of EarthLink had taken a leave of absence just a few weeks ago for treatment of a "serious form of cancer": Garry Betty had run EarthLink since 1996, when he took over several roles from founder Sky Dayton, who remained chairman. Betty kept EarthLink a vital ISP, growing subscribers from 500,000 to 5m over his tenure, while other firms collapsed under the weight of competition first from AOL and MSN and then from incumbent telecom and cable firms.
EarthLink has also been the largest player in city-wide Wi-Fi, a move Betty directed as the company's traditional dial-up customer base shrunk, and court and regulatory decisions made wireline resale of DSL and cable access ever more difficult.
My condolences to Betty's family, friends, and his colleagues at EarthLink.
The city of St. Louis Park, Minn., considers solar-powered Wi-Fi network: The service would be deployed by ARINC in the current plan, using 400 solar panels paired with batteries and Wi-Fi nodes. A city official estimates savings of $40,000 to $50,000 per year in electricity. Not noted is a comparison of upfront costs for solar deployment versus what are often highly variable costs in wiring nodes into utility pole power supplies. The power at poles and other locations can be of varying voltage, only in operation certain hours of the day, or taxed to the limit, requiring substantial rework to obtain additional juice.
The Wi-Fi service is currently being tested by 300 residents in the 10-square-mile town of about 45,000 and 20,000 households. The service would be fee-based, and the city will pay $3.3m upfront to have ARINC design, build, and operate the network, with the investment expected to span five years of upgrades and maintenance. It's described as a public/private partnership, but with the city paying the costs, it's unclear precisely where the ownership lies. Service would bafflingly range from $15 per month for 128 Kbps to $20 for 1 Mbps. That's a strange range.
I love the smell of Bakelite in the morning: The fine people at ThinkGeek have taken their USB-corded retro handset and cut the cord. This Bluetooth handset has the charm of the old AT&T telephones, with the flexibility of Bluetooth. For $40, it's an easy sell for the stylish and those that like that full-sized effect. (They continue to sell their USB-only version for $30; this Bluetooth version includes a USB connector for charging.) [link via Gizmodo]
Aruba thinks it may be part of the creation of the world's largest wireless local area network (WLAN): I'm not quite sure if they're right, but they make a good case. The network will require between 3,000 and 10,000 APs. On the short end of that range, there are plenty of campus-wide (academic and business) networks in that scale. But on the higher end, I'm unaware of anything that large. Even city-wide networks like Philadelphia should employ only the mid-thousands of nodes, although they're not providing the same kind of high-availabily, in-building overage that Ohio State will have.
The stats: 50,000 students, 27,000 faculty/staff, 25 million square feet across 400 buildings, and 1,700 acres. In three weeks, they've lit up 1,700 APs in 28 buildings. I assumed that was the time to get the network running, not both physically stringing APs and logically activating the network--but I'm apparently wrong. Read the comment below. [link via Engadget]
Nokia introduces Wibree, a low-power alternative to Bluetooth: No, no, no, no. We don't need another wireless standard with a silly name. Wibree supposedly uses one-tenth the power of Bluetooth to deliver 1 Mbps (1/3 of Bluetooth's current radio speed) over 10 meters. With Zigbee (extremely low bandwidth, extremely low power, short distances), ultrawideband (high bandwidth, low power, short distances), Bluetooth (low-to-medium bandwidth, low power, short distances), and Wi-Fi (medium bandwidth, medium power, medium distances), it's really hard to see how Wibree fits into this ecosystem.
Bluetooth has a billion embedded chips now, and is still growing, despite reports of its death every few weeks since before its actual first shipment. Bluetooth is morphing from an application plus radio standard into an application standard that can be overlaid with minimal effort onto many radio standards. In that sense, perhaps Bluetooth would be a layer over Wibree, which would be just radio technology.
Still, Nokia should have a hard time of it introducing yet-another-technology that appears to have a single unique attribute--lower power than Bluetooth. They will try to get it introduced into a standards process.