Technologizer posts about Wi-Fi

You Have a Strange Definition of “Unlimited,” Republic Wireless

By  |  Posted at 6:45 pm on Tuesday, November 8, 2011

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A stealthy startup named Republic Wireless has launched, based on a concept that’s enough to grab anyone’s attention, at least momentarily: unlimited voice, data, and texting for $19 a month. The company says it’s going to make that possible by routing as much stuff as possible over Wi-Fi networks, and utilizing Sprint’s cellular network where necessary.

There are several catches. For one thing, Republic will only support one phone at first: LG’s Android-based Optimus, running Republic’s custom software. (The first-month fee of $199 gets you the Optimus.) For another, the service won’t offer international calling for now. Republic cheerfully concedes these points.

But there’s another gotcha which the company’s site tapdances around: It claims it’s offering unlimited service, but also says that it’s possible to use the service in a manner that isn’t “reasonable” and which violates a “fair use threshold.”

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Happy Wi-Fi Day!

If you thought 802.11n Wi-Fi was fast, you'll probably love 802.11ac--if you can wait for it.

By  |  Posted at 6:04 pm on Tuesday, August 2, 2011

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Qualcomm Atheros created this art to celebrate 802.11 day, a holiday it invented.

I bet you didn’t know it, but today is 802.11 day. (I didn’t know it either until a PR person for Qualcomm Atheros–the Qualcomm division formed after Qualcomm acquired Wi-Fi chipmaker Atheros–e-mailed me.) Not because of any scientific milestone involved in creating the IEEE standard more commonly known as Wi-Fi, but because, well, it’s really 8.02.11. Get it?

The folks at Qualcomm Atheros seized upon the tech equivalent of a bad pun to update a group of journalists about what’s next for the popular connectivity technology–and although the excuse may have been lame, what they had to say was interesting. The last big upgrade, 802.11n, delivered speeds on the order of 100mbps Ethernet, so the standard now in the works is going for the next speed hurdle–1 gigabit.

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This sounds neat: HP has announced a wireless mouse that uses Wi-Fi, so it works with any Wi-Fi-equipped computer–no dongle or Bluetooth required.

Posted by Harry at 9:41 am

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Wi-Fi Alliance To Certify Hotspots

By  |  Posted at 5:00 am on Tuesday, March 22, 2011

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How many hotspots do you use on a regular or semi-regular basis? At this point in my wanderings I’ve amassed so many Wi-Fi hotspot log-ins that I don’t really remember them all–to the point where I try to create new accounts for services that I already have patronized. And when I’m in an area with multiple hotspots, I’m not always sure which one I want to hop on. Is one going to cost me more than another?

Hang in there–the Wi-Fi Alliance is working on a cure for hotspot overload. Sometime in the first half of next year, if the current timetable stands, the Alliance–the trade group that certifies Wi-Fi networking gear from different vendors for interoperability–will start certifying hotspots, along with the devices that access them.

Among the benefits of the program for consumers will be streamlined network discovery, account setup and login: Your device will automatically figure out which hotspots you already have accounts with and log you in based on your preferences. Certification will also require use of the strongest available Wi-Fi encryption, WPA2.

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Twitter and Southwest Need to Check Their Security

By  |  Posted at 11:28 am on Saturday, January 15, 2011

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At every available opportunity, I partake in airborne WiFi services. Yeah, I know public wireless isn’t the most secure form of connectivity. But, at the same time, I haven’t been bothered to set up a personal tunnel. And I’ll do just about anything to pass the time on a cross country flight… as I did when returning from CES last week. Southwest’s wireless service runs a mere $5 during testing and linking up on my LAS>BWI flight (3140, 1/8) was a no brainer – especially as I hadn’t loaded up my iPhone with content and my Kindle was left at home.

Unfortunately, there’s something not quite right with their Internet connection in relation to Twitter. As you can see, I wasn’t the only one in my account:

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If you attend as many tech conferences as I do, today’s biggest hazard isn’t rubber chicken or pricey parking–it’s Wi-Fi that just doesn’t work. Wi-Fi expert Glenn Fleishman explains why it’s difficult–but not impossible–to deliver fast, reliable wireless Internet to large crowds.

Posted by Harry at 3:24 pm

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I’m grateful for the Google Chrome promotion that involves free Wi-Fi service on several airlines this holiday season. But when I flew between San Francisco and Boston last week, I noticed that the free Wi-Fi on Virgin America wasn’t as good as for-pay Wi-Fi I’m accustomed to–I kept getting disconnected. Gizmodo’s Jason Chen theorizes that the Gogo in-flight Internet service isn’t prepared to deal with the onslaught of freebie lovers.

Posted by Harry at 6:48 pm

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Make Yourself Invisible to Wi-Fi Hackers

By  |  Posted at 9:11 am on Wednesday, November 10, 2010

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You’re at Starbucks, busy working on your Facebook page. Bad news: The guy at the next table is a hacker, and he’s also working on your Facebook page. Sit tight, I have a few ways for you to make yourself invisible to hackers.

One Very Serious Threat

There’s a pervasive, serious Facebook and Twitter exploit that leaves you wide open to any and every hacker who can download a simple-to-use, free tool called Firesheep. It’s a threat if you’re using an unsecured, public Wi-Fi network, typically available at an Internet cafe, airport, hotel, or RV campground.

Last week TechBite paid subscribers got the first dispatch about this in the Extra newsletter; here’s a more detailed version.

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Wi-Fi Direct Hits Smartphones, Samsung Galaxy S

By  |  Posted at 11:51 am on Thursday, November 4, 2010

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The Wi-Fi Alliance announced just over a week ago that it would begin certifying products under the new Wi-Fi Direct standard. Now, according to the organization’s own certification list, the first smartphone has qualified for new point-to-point Wi-Fi communications. The Samsung GT-I9000, aka the Galaxy S, received Wi-Fi Direct certification on November 1st. It’s eighth in a list of certified devices, but the first smartphone to make the cut. As a reminder, Wi-Fi Direct facilitates device-to-device wireless 802.11 communication without requiring a wireless access point or going out to the web. Best of all, only one device has to be Wi-Fi Direct certified to enable wireless networking with any other Wi-Fi gadget. That means Galaxy S owners will, in theory, be able to share photos, music, video, and other files over a localized network. It’s like Bluetooth, only you probably have a few more Wi-Fi devices lying around.

(This post republished from Zatz Not Funny.)



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The End of In-Flight Wi-Fi? Oh, Come On

By  |  Posted at 8:50 am on Wednesday, November 3, 2010

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Aircraft bomb finds may spell end for in-flight Wi-Fi.” That’s the headline on a New Scientist story about last week’s discovery of bombs packed into laser-printer cartridges which were sent from Yemen and apparently intended to blow up airplanes. The point of the story is that terrorists might use in-flight Wi-Fi to communicate from the ground with a cell phone that had been rigged to trigger a bomb aboard a plane, a possibility so risky that it might lead to the abolishing of in-flight Wi-Fi, period.

The article doesn’t really live up to the headline: The closest it gets to evidence that Wi-Fi “may” be banned is a reference to an alarmed explosives expert saying it might be too dangerous.

Seems like a ludicrous overreaction to me. The in-air Wi-Fi I’ve used–Gogo–requires the user to log in and enter a CAPTCHA, and while I don’t discount the possibility of terrorists being smart enough to build a Wi-Fi-based bomb triggering device that can autonomously log into an in-flight network designed to be accessed by humans, it seems like it would require an awful lot of work on their part. Wouldn’t a plain old-fashioned timer produce much the same results with far less effort and technical knowledge required, and less likelihood that the device would fail or be detected?

Remember when a bunch of news organizations suggested that laptops might be banned from airplanes, period? Let’s hope this theory is just as solid as that one…



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Instead of Shunning Wi-Fi, Starbucks Sweetens the Deal

By  |  Posted at 1:56 pm on Wednesday, October 20, 2010

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While I don’t buy the idea that there’s a movement afoot to oust free Wi-Fi from coffee shops, there is certainly a niche of businesses who don’t want their customers staring at screens all day.

Not Starbucks. The coffee chain, which began giving away unlimited, free Wi-Fi last June, is taking the offer a step further with the Starbucks Digital Network, a content portal that’s only available through the in-shop Wi-Fi.

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Hotel Wi-Fi: Still Not a Given

By  |  Posted at 9:25 am on Tuesday, September 21, 2010

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USA Today has a trend story about upscale hotels hawking two price tiers for wi-fi, with the lower tier sufficient for e-mail and web browsing, and the higher one suitable for video and other high-bandwidth services.

As with the recurring story of wi-fi-free coffee shops, i’m not sure this one is fresh. In my experience, two-tiered wi-fi dates back at least a couple years, and the story presents only anecdotal evidence that the trend is growing: One upscale hotel chain, InterContinental, is testing the concept in three locations, and another, Four Seasons, has expanded two-tier Wi-Fi after testing began last year. InterContinental charges $10 per day for basic access and $15 for higher speeds.

The more surprising part of the story, I think, is that hotels, especially upscale ones, are still charging for wi-fi in the first place.

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Enough With the Coffeehouse Wi-Fi Ban Stories, Already

By  |  Posted at 8:35 am on Tuesday, August 10, 2010

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Full disclosure: Sometimes I blog from the coffee shop near my apartment, one that is supposedly bucking the trend of skimping on free Wi-Fi.

At least you’d think coffee shops sans Wi-Fi were the latest fad after reading a recent Los Angeles Times story on the subject. Shop owners want to reconnect with their customers, says the Times, or they want to give customers a place to unplug. Or more likely, they want to keep out the moochers who buy one cup of coffee before claiming an entire corner of the cafe for hours of laptop work (guilty!).

I don’t doubt that these places exist. The problem is that they’ve existed for years, and the only trend staler than coffee shops banning or restricting Wi-Fi is newspaper trend stories about these businesses.

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Why Tech Conferences are Now the Worst Place to Demo Tech Products

More and more, they mostly demonstrate that wireless Internet access isn't very reliable.

By  |  Posted at 4:51 pm on Tuesday, July 13, 2010

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Back in May, I attended Google’s I|O conference at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. It was an eminently worthwhile event, but wireless connectivity issues were a persistent problem–demos during both of the show’s keynotes were messed up by the difficulty of establishing a reliable connection in a room packed with geeks brandishing smartphones, notebooks., and MiFis.

A few weeks later, Apple’s WWDC convened in the same conference hall. Nobody knows how to orchestrate a demo like Steve Jobs, but when he attempted to show off the iPhone 4, he couldn’t get Safari to load Web pages. The poor guy was reduced to pleading with attendees to shut down their Wi-Fi and said there were 527 MiFi-type wireless routers in the room.

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Looks like the general trend at U.S. airports is to stop charging for Wi-Fi. Good. Now they just need to start offering more than one AC outlet per terminal…

Posted by Harry at 8:40 am

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Looks like Starbucks is finally getting with the program and offering truly free Wi-Fi, starting July 1st in partnership with Yahoo. (Until now it’s offered two free hours a day to Starbucks cardholders.) I don’t even drink coffee, and I have a Verizon Wireless MiFi mobile router that radically reduces my interest in free hotspots–but I’m pleased by the news.

Posted by Harry at 9:54 am

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