Houseguests, technological literacy, and the goddamned wifi: a single chart

Randal Munroe nails it again in an XKCD installment that expresses the likelihood that your houseguests will be able to connect to your wifi (I confess to having been the "firmware" guide -- but also, having been reminded to do something about my own firmware when other difficult houseguests came to stay). Read the rest

Germany will end copyright liability for open wifi operators

Germany's ruling coalition is modifying the country's legal "Störerhaftung" theory, which currently makes people liable for copyright infringement if they operate an open wifi network that someone else uses for copyright infringement, even if the operator didn't and couldn't know about it. Read the rest

Qantas delays flight because of wifi network named "Detonation Device"

QF481, from Melbourne to Perth, was delayed last week because a passenger spotted a wifi network called "Detonation Device." Read the rest

WiFi ResetPlug power cycles router whenever Wifi fails

Plug your router into it, and the WiFi Reset Plug does just one job: it monitors your Wifi network and resets your router whenever it loses its connection. If you're thinking it's a great idea, maybe… you need a better router? It's $60! [via The Internet of Shit] Read the rest

French Ministry of Interior wants to ban open wifi, Tor

A leaked memo from the Ministry sets out new bills it would like to see introduced into the French Parliament as early as next month, setting out an ambitious plan to block privacy tools, something only technically possible by recreating China's Great Firewall in a European democracy, spying on all networked activity to prevent the use of Tor. Read the rest

How to hack Amazon’s $5 WiFi button to track baby data

Amazon is selling Dash Buttons for $5. They contain a Wi-Fi radio and a battery. You are supposed to stick them to your washing machine, inside a cabinet door, etc, and when you run out of Tide, Gatorade, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, etc., you just push the button and Amazon will ship you more.

Clever people are starting to find moire interesting uses for the Dash Buttons, such as Ted Benson, who has written a guide that shows you "how to hijack and use these buttons for just about anything you want." Read the rest

Outraged that a Taco Bell lacks WiFi, woman pulls knife on teen boys

In Tahlequah, Oklahoma, things escalated quickly at a local Taco Bell when Amber Henson discovered the fast food restaurant's WiFi wasn't working. Read the rest

Audiobook of Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town

Blackstone has adapted my 2005 urban fantasy novel Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town for audiobook, narrated by Bronson Pinchot, who does a stunning job. Read the rest

PSA: Escaping from Gogo's roach-motel business model

Last month, during my many-city book tour, I signed up for Gogo's in-flight wifi service. Today I discovered that it's much harder to get shut of it.

LAX delays flight because someone's wifi network had scary terrorist name

Someone in the waiting area for AA's LAX-London flight created a network called "Al-Quida Free Terror Nettwork," so "out of an abundance of caution," everyone ran around like headless chickens for a while trying to figure out where the network name was coming from (cue horror music: "He's broadcasting from INSIDE THE TERMINAL!" Dun dun DUUUUN!). Read the rest

FCC fines Marriott $600,000 for jamming hotel Wi-Fi

A Nashville convention center figured out how to boost its revenue from selling Internet service: it illegally jammed guests' and exhibitors' Wi-Fi networks. Glenn Fleishman explains the technical scam and why it earned a six-figure smackdown.

Open Wireless Movement's router OS will let you securely share your Internet with the world

Open Wireless Movement, a joint project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Mozilla, Free Press and others, will reveal its sharing-friendly wifi router firmware at the HOPE X conference in NYC next month. The openwireless operating system allows you to portion out some of your bandwidth to share freely with your neighbors and passersby, while providing a high degree of security and privacy for your own communications.

The Open Wireless Movement's goals are to both encourage the neighborliness that you get from sharing in your community, and undermining the idea that an IP address can be used to identify a person, establishing a global system of anonymous Internet connectivity. The project includes an excellent FAQ on the myths and facts about your legal liability for things that other people do with your network. Read the rest

FCC adds 100MHz of spectrum to the commons

The FCC has unanimously voted to open up 100MHz of spectrum at the bottom end of the 5GHz band, redesignating them as open spectrum, under rules similar to those that created the original Wifi boom. Previously, the spectrum had been exclusively allocated to a satellite telephony company. Adding more open spectrum is amazingly great news, and even better is the bipartisan support for the move, which was attended by very promising-sounding remarks from commissioners from both parties about the value of open spectrum as a source of innovation and public value. Read the rest

Gigabit wifi isn't

Glenn Fleishman at Tidbits: "Apple’s implementation is technically capable of 1.3 Gbps. But as Apple notes at the bottom of the page, “Actual speeds will be lower.” I’ll say. In practice, I would wager that most home users and some business users will see only modest improvement in net throughput across their networks." Read the rest

Sensing your gestures with WiFi

WiSee is a reasearch project at the University of Washington; as described in this paper, it uses standard WiFi hardware to sense the location and movements of people within range of the signal. Using machine-learning, it maps specific interference patterns to specific gestures, so that it knows that -- for example -- you're waving your hand in the air. This gesture-sensing can be used to control various devices in your home:

WiSee is a novel interaction interface that leverages ongoing wireless transmissions in the environment (e.g., WiFi) to enable whole-home sensing and recognition of human gestures. Since wireless signals do not require line-of-sight and can traverse through walls, WiSee can enable whole-home gesture recognition using few wireless sources (e.g., a Wi-Fi router and a few mobile devices in the living room).

WiSee is the first wireless system that can identify gestures in line-of-sight, non-line-of-sight, and through-the-wall scenarios. Unlike other gesture recognition systems like Kinect, Leap Motion or MYO, WiSee requires neither an infrastructure of cameras nor user instrumentation of devices. We implement a proof-of-concept prototype of WiSee and evaluate it in both an office environment and a two-bedroom apartment. Our results show that WiSee can identify and classify a set of nine gestures with an average accuracy of 94%...

WiSee takes advantage of the technology trend of MIMO, the fact that wireless devices today carry multiple antennas (which are primarily used to improve capacity). A WiSee/WiSee-enabled receiver would use these multiple antennas in a different way to focus only on the user in control, thus eliminating interference from other people.

Read the rest

Amazing wireless whitespace technology bringing free WiFi to SXSW

Elliot Noss sez,

I thought you'd be interested in something we are helping with at SXSW this weekend. a group of folks are taking advantage of unlicensed radio spectrum to provide high-speed backhaul to local WiFi access points all over SXSW. In Austin, there are 14 of these open channels using whitespace that are available. we are leveraging this. on Tuesday, the FCC will close comments on its plan to auction off many of these "whitespaces. the 'We Heart Wifi' initiative is collecting signatures on the following petition. Even if folks aren't at SXSW, they can sign on:

To all FCC Commissioners:

Please follow through on your proposal to open up a large slice of high-quality spectrum for open networks. Doing so would help create the competition necessary to extend more high-speed broadband—including 'super WiFi' and other future innovations—to more people."

We ♥ WiFi - Ting.com Read the rest

Six-strikes US copyright punishments will harm open WiFi

You may have heard Jill Lesser, Executive Director of the Center for Copyright Information, explain that America's six-strikes copyright punishment system would not harm open WiFi. Adi Kamdar explains why Ms Lesser's totally mistaken:

Termination may not be part of the CAS, but that's not the point—the program still uses "protecting copyright" as an excuse to seriously hinder a user's online experience. For example, CAS involves not just "education" but also "Mitigation Measures," such as slowing down Internet speeds to 256 kbps for days—rendering your connection all but unusable in today's era of videochats and Netflix.

Lesser doesn't think that's a problem. As she told the radio show On The Media: "The reduction of speed, which one or more of the ISPs will be using as a mitigation measure, is first of all only 48 hours, which is far from termination."

But that's 48 hours of lower productivity and limited communication across the globe, based on nothing more than a mere allegation of copyright infringement.

Don't Be Fooled: "Six Strikes" Will Undoubtedly Harm Open Wireless Read the rest

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