Tag Archives | Networking

Wi-Fi Alliance To Certify Hotspots

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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Cisco Valet Tries to Make Wi-Fi Drop-Dead Easy

Can setting up a Wi-Fi network ever be drop-dead easy for non-technical folks? Maybe not, but Cisco gives the problem its best shot with a new brand, Valet, that will co-exist with Cisco’s well known Linksys line, now being positioned as “enthusiast” products. Setting setup aside, Cisco has definitely come up with some nice Wi-Fi management software—but I wish there were a way to sell people Wi-Fi gear without removing the technical information that explains how one product differs from another.

At launch, the Valet line consists of three items: the $100 Valet and $150 Valet Plus Wi-Fi routers, and a $100 USB adapter. The somewhat Apple-esque packaging for the Valet router I tried out was covered with aspirational taglines such as “Home wireless made easy” and “Welcome to the new home wireless experience.”

The box was also free of most pesky specs, apart from the Wi-Fi Alliance logo showing certification for 802.11b/g/n. That at least told me that while the Valet does support the fastest Wi-Fi standard, it only supports it on the 2.4ghz band, which in many places is woefully overcrowded by signals from neighboring networks, Bluetooth devices, microwave ovens and some cordless phones.

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Netgear’s Stora: A Terabyte for Your Network and the Web

StoraIt’s been a busy few days for the whole idea of networked hard drives that provide direct Internet connections so you can get to them from everywhere. Last week, Seagate introduced DockStar, a $99 add-on for its FreeAgent Go drives that provides browser-based access to their contents. And today Netgear launched Stora, an all-in-one network drive with Web access.

It’s not a new idea–Western Digital is one of several companies that offer boxes with at least generally similar capabilities–but Stora looks like its specs and features should be appealing for the $229 price. It contains one hot-swappable 1TB drive with room for another (some competitors have no available expansion), has gigabit Ethernet, reads at 280Mbps and writes at 240Mbps, does RAID 1 disk mirroring, and comes with a three-year warranty (one year is more common). It also supports the DLNA and UPnP standards for streaming media around your network to various devices (including game consoles and phones). And Netgear says it’s particularly proud of the Web-based interface for getting at your music, photos, videos, and other files. (I got only a glimpse and haven’t done any hands-on tests, but at first blush it looks slick.)

Stora isn’t as fancy as a true home server like HP’s MediaSmart (which can, among other things, slice-and-dice digital video files for various devices in the background). But the price looks right for the capabilities–your $229 will get you more storage and more features (albeit in a larger, less portable package) than if you spend the same amount on a FreeAgent Go and a DockStar.

Geez, was it less than five years ago that a 1TB network device that had a lot fewer features and sold for $999 felt like a low-cost breakthrough?


Not Quite Sold on iTunes Home Sharing

There were really only two items out of Apple’s “It’s Only Rock & Roll” event earlier this week that managed to capture my attention. First off, where the heck was the iPod Touch camera? Several credible leaks, including compelling imagery, suggested photographic and video functionality was an inevitability. File this one under don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched.

Next up is Home Sharing, introduced within the refreshed iTunes 9. (See Engadget’s brief video overview above.) This feature allows you to copy purchased iTunes content amongst five authorized devices in your home. It’s surely a simpler method of interaction than sneakernet-ing files around. However, Home Sharing does nothing to overcome the single iTunes Store account limitation. And, in fact, now that Apple’s tracks are DRM-free, Home Sharing is actually more restrictive than simply copying music via a USB stick. Perhaps Home Sharing 1.1 will allow Melissa and I to link our iTunes accounts in a ‘family unit’ sort of way.

Another perceived limitation was the implication that other computers must be powered up to access all home media. However, folks with Macs running Snow Leopard and an Airport Extreme or Time Capsule now have Wake on Demand capabilities. In our household, that should allow Melissa to grab tunes from my laptop (when it’s home). But I still wouldn’t be able to access her iTunes library when her Windows 7 machine is shut down.

Ideally, Apple would bring true iTunes server functionality/support to NAS devices. Even if limited to Time Capsule, that’s the sort of hub & spoke model many of us seek: A central home repository of media files, with family members creating their own individual, custom playlists to stream or mirror on demand – not just to computers, but to iPods/iPhones and AppleTV as well. I’ve gone down this path on my own, with limited success. What we really need to succeed are Apple’s philosophical and technological blessings.

(This post republished from Zatz Not Funny.)


Home Storage: Important. Also a Challenge.

HotHardware[A note from Harry: Our Digital Media Central guest posts continue with a few thoughts about storaget from Dave Altavilla of PC enthusiast site HotHardware. It’s not as simple as it used to be.]

These days, the ever-growing library of files, documents and multimedia content for the average home user, family or small office, is not just bulk media that needs to be backed up.  Beyond ensuring redundancy and resiliency for the data itself, file access, file management and file distribution need to have higher levels of sophistication.  Gone are the days where you just mount a NAS (Network Attached Storage) volume as a mapped drive on your client machines and workstations.  Oh no, dear ol’ Dad needs to play around with pics of the kid’s football team and needs to look at them “Flickr style” or he gets confused.  Little Johnny wants to stream his iTunes up to his bedroom.  And Mom, she just wants that QuickBooks data backed up nightly because if she loses it again, Dad is going to be in the dog house for a very long time.  Finally, and actually of primary importance, all of this precious family data needs to be secured and have varying levels of user access rights.

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