iPhone bandwidth: orders of magnitude – 2009

04112009175905[1]I did a bandwidth test the other day with the iPhone SpeedTest tool. I wanted to compare the speed using (standard) GPRS, using 3G and my own Wifi. The results were all a power of ten apart:

  • iPhone on Proximus GPRS: 35 kbps (download & upload)
  • iPhone on Proximus 3G: 350 kbps (download & upload)
  • iPhone via Wifi: 3500 kbps (download – upload is +- 300 kbps)


The real reason is that I wanted to see how fast I would wear out my Proximus data plan (200MB per month). The answer: with GPRS I would need more than 12 hours of continuous downloading, with 3G I could do it in less than 2 hours. So GPRS is pretty safe, it’s also easier on your battery, but you have to live with slow, pre-1996 modem-like performance. The latency – the time it takes to get your first byte after requesting a URL –  is easily 10 to 50 seconds. Not milliseconds, seconds!


As a side note: do not take a time-based data subscription, certainly not with the iPhone. My first post-iPhone Proximus invoice was 800,- euro, which is more than the price of my iPhone! When I contacted them about that, they immediately offered to reimburse it and advised me to switch to a size-based plan. I guess I was not the first one …

Whisher: exchange passwords to share Wifi

There are different scenarios that enable people to share their Wifi. FON uses customer Wifi routers, Wifidog/OpenWRT uses custom server machines (PCs), and Whisher has a an interesting alternative: they aggregate Wifi passwords. You install an local application that you communicate the WEP/WPA key of your Wifi router to. This application will communicate this to the central Whisher service and give it to other clients when required. The other users do not see the actual key, it’s their application that does the login. Their mapping page seems to be broken, so it’s hard to tell how many Whisher-compatible access points there are in Belgium.


(via balencourt.com)

Convergence of the iPod

Using an iPod to see how fast one is running:

With the Nike+ footwear connected to iPod nano through the Nike+iPod Sport Kit, information on time, distance, calories burned and pace is stored on iPod and displayed on the screen; real-time audible feedback also is provided through headphones. The kit includes an in-shoe sensor and a receiver that attaches to iPod. A new Nike Sport Music section on the iTunes® Music Store and a new nikeplus.com personal service site help maximize the Nike+iPod experience.
from apple.com

Interesting move! If one needed to guess a while back the type of device Nike shoes would be connected to, the choice would have been between a PDA or a mobile phone. Just add Bluetooth to the shoe, connect both and off you go. The phone had the clear advantage, since it is something people take along all the time, even when running. A runner takes his MP3 player too, of course, but until recently that was more like a single purpose device. Now Apple is positioning it as a convenient storage and visualisation device you happen to carry on you all the time. Key advantage: ubiquitous!

It also shows why it’s going to be hard to displace the iPod from its dominant market position. Apple is capitalizing on the device’s ubiquity to link it to other products and services. And because it’s a proprietary system, every link-up is another lock-in. As your shoes and your car and your stereo and your clothes become iPod-enabled, it becomes ever more difficult to abandon the little sucker.
from roughtype.com

So now there’s an attack from a less obvious contender to that Holy Grail of Ultimate Mobile Device. Let’s take a look at that crowded space:
Convergence: overview
Continue reading Convergence of the iPod

Double Wifi: municipal wifi with protection

I have written about FON before (they provide a business model for sharing one’s bandwidth through Wifi). They use a custom firmware for the Linksys WRT54G routers. I have the feeling that current Wifi routers (or access points) cannot offer a good balance of security/flexibility. Opening your own network for everyone is currently too dangerous. There’s Wifi trolls that gobble up your bandwidth and there’s hackers that scan your ports for vulnerabilities. My idea is that now you would need 2 Wifi zones, one behind the other, each having different security and different policies. With access points costing as little as 25 euro, that is not a big investment.

I see 2 scenario’s:
Scenario 1: first the public
Double Wifi: first the public

The first router is connected to your broadband and serves the PUBLIC zone (e.g. SSID “FREEWIFI”). On one of the wired Ethernet connections (the Linksys has 4 of those) the other router is connected, that serves the PRIVATE zone (e.g. SSID “PROTECTED”). Both are in a different IP range. The PUBLIC one requires no login, the PRIVATE one requires WPA + maybe MAC address checking.
* both the Internet and the PUBLIC zone are outside your PRIVATE network, so you can have the same firewall settings for both, and ‘dangerous’ traffic never passes over your INTERNAL network.
* the first router can be configured to prioritize traffic from the fixed ports i.e. the PRIVATE network.
* If the PUBLIC router does not support QoS (Quality of Service) or bandwidth shaping, then a wifi troll can consume all the available bandwidth, and the PRIVATE network is left without anything.
* if the PUBLIC router is broken (or switched off) no one has Internet connection.

Continue reading Double Wifi: municipal wifi with protection

Google files patents for contextual wifi advertising

registration patent
Google has filed and published the following patent applications:

(1) Method and system to provide wireless access at a reduced rate:
Methods and system for providing wireless access at a reduced rate. In one embodiment, access to a WAP is provided to an end-user at a rate subsidized by a first entity. The first entity includes advertisements in an end-user view.
which sounds like a Google (secure) proxy that modifies passing-though HTML

(2) Method and system to provide advertisements based on wireless access points:
Methods and system to provide advertisements in a view of an end user accessing a wireless access point. The advertisements are related to the WAP based on a predetermined criterion.
aka contextual advertising for Wifi

(3) Method and system for dynamically modifying the appearance of browser screens on a client device:
In one embodiment, a connection of a client device to a wireless access point is identified. Further, the appearance of a screen presented on the client device is modified to reflect the brand associated with a provider of the wireless access point.
aka the ‘captive portal’

on cre8asiteforums.com via seroundtable.com

Continue reading Google files patents for contextual wifi advertising

REQ: more “BEING SPACES” in Brussels

Anyone who often works at home is probably familiar with this: sometimes you would like to work somewhere else to finish something undisturbed, to see some people while you work instead of just the PC and the refrigerator, to have a meeting in a pleasant location, to be in another environment. I often do some work at the Recyclart or the AB Café, and almost always I’m the only nomadic worker there. Both places are cosy and have free Wifi, but they’re not real offices: there is no printer, no meeting room, no water cooler. And since I don’t pay for the accommodation, I feel obliged to order stuff. When I’m hungry, that’s OK, when I’m not, drinking 3 coffees in a row transforms my ADD into ADHD .
I would be glad to pay something between €50 to 100 per month to have a place in Brussels where I can drop by anytime, get some work done (wifi, printer, fax, meeting room, beamer) and maybe have some stimulating conversation with other people present. So when I read about “BEING SPACES”, it really struck home:

(…) urban dwellers are trading their lonely, cramped living rooms for the real-life buzz of BEING SPACES: commercial living-room-like settings, where catering and entertainment aren’t just the main attraction, but are there to facilitate small office/living room activities like watching a movie, reading a book, meeting friends and colleagues, or doing your admin.
from trendwatching

Continue reading REQ: more “BEING SPACES” in Brussels

Ancienne Belgique rocks

I’m in the restaurant of the Ancienne Belgique and it’s only a few steps away from heaven:

  • I just had a wonderful dinner (fish – sea bass, I believe)
  • I was waited upon by the lovely Marie
  • The AB cafe & restaurant are smoke-free and that makes a big difference
  • there is an open Wifi-spot here (“Petra Netzwerk” – on Plazes)

All four things add up to a splendid evening!


FON and the art of nuances

It started with a juicy announcement for FON, Martin Varsavsky new venture: “FON can now count Google, Skype, Sequoia Capital and Index Ventures as investors and backers” (for almost $22-million). Good news for any company. He continues the announcement as follows:

Also I am pleased to announced today that we have obtained the support of two significant ISPs for FON. In America Speakeasy has said that they welcome FON and in Europe, Glocalnet and FON have signed an agreement so Glocalnet sells its services FON ready and the Swedish foneros will soon be able move around Stockholm and other cities with their WiFi enabled gadgets.
from blog.fon.com @ Feb 5

So the terms are “support” and “welcome“. That does not sounds as a signed contract but more like a “OK, we won’t make life hard for one another”.
In an interview with Reuters, Martin changes the wording:

Toward that end, Fon has signed up GlocoNet, the second largest ISP in Sweden, and U.S.-based Speakeasy of Seattle.
Varsavsky said he also holds out hope of convincing potential adversaries among established ISPs such as Telefonica, Deutsche Telekom AG, AT&T Inc. and Time Warner Inc. of working with his “foneros.”
from today.reuters.com @ Feb 5

Now it’s “signed up”. That’s a different issue, it means that there should be a bunch of papers with signatures. Onfortunately, Speakeasy does not recall signing anything:

Speakeasy is the only national ISP I am aware of in the U.S. that encourages sharing their connections. (Update: Speakeasy says there�s no deal.)
from wifinetnews.com @ Feb 5

With a follow-up story the next day:

On the other hand, he mentions several times in his blog and in news stories the word agreement, support, bargain, revenue sharing. Speakeasy has no agreement of any kind with Fon, which would tend to contradict any sense that Fon was sharing revenue with them (unilaterally?) and thus argues that Varsavsky was trying to broaden his appeal by mentioning a U.S. ISP.
Question for Google, Skype, Sequoia, and Index: Did Varsavsky claim a Speakeasy contract? If so, did you do due diligence? If not, will he disclaim his statements?
from wifinetnews.com @ Feb 6

Which leads Om Malik to comment the following:

Seems to me that FoN made a bone-headed move on day one of their very public life.

and Mark Evans to something along the same lines:

In fact, Speakeasy claims FON is replicating its strategy called NetShare in which individuals could generate revenue by sharing their wireless connections. Looks like a big P.R. fiasco for FON.

So, in the first week of being a solidly funded company, supported by some really big names, FON can start to explain that they claimed something that was not really there. I can only hope that the SpeakEasy ‘deal’ did not play a role in the FON valuation process.

I think Martin needs a good PR/Communications manager sitting next to him in interviews, to avoid him of getting carried away.


Municipal WiFi: requirements for success

Double Wifi: prototype
Municipal Wifi is gaining speed. Some of the efforts are institutional (Joy Ito joins the FON advisory board, networks are being installed in San Francisco and New Orleans) and some are grassroots (John is setting up a Wifi cloud in Rio …)

I’ve looked at the models and tools of providers like FON and WifiDog/OpenWRT (any Linux), and I’ve done some testing as a provider myself. We’re not there yet.

Wifi checklist

For grass-roots municipal WiFi to really take off, we need the following:

– separate VLANs for internal and external PCs,
– standard firewall profiles (e.g. allow web, mail; disallow audio streaming, BitTorrent)
– accountability: some kind of authentication
– protection from other (rogue) clients
– preferably some kind of VPN (no sniffing)
– indication of connection security
– guaranteed personal bandwidth
– traffic shaping for each connection (e.g. each PC
– guaranteed minimum bandwidth
– clear info on what is allowed (BitTorrent or not)
– cross-platform (e.g. not Linksys only)
– wizard install (Next-Next-Finish)
– outsourced authentication (like FON)
– uptime tracking and ‘customer’ feedback – to distinguish between live, working access points and dead ones (e.g. Plazes)
– single sign-on (same password everywhere)
– easy connect, log-on and surf away
– easy detection of ‘friendly’ access points
– global coverage
– map overview of all available points (like WifiDog/Plazes)


Oakland installs free municipal Wifi

The goal of Wireless Oakland is to prepare Oakland County and its workforce for the jobs and technology of tomorrow. In conjunction with the Emerging Sectors Initiative, it will enhance Oakland County’s ability to attract and retain high-tech and nanotechnology corporations.
The seven Pilot Projects (Royal Oak, Pontiac, Troy, Birmingham, Madison Heights, Oak Park, and Wixom) will be started by the end of 2005 and should be completed during the first quarter of 2006. County-wide wireless internet coverage is expected in mid to late 2007.
from co.oakland.mi.us

The county insists private companies will provide wireless Internet access for free, but participating companies will be able to charge fees for certain services, such as faster connections. Oakland officials also said providers could sell advertising on the system as a way to make it profitable.
from detnews.com

from Mike Thompson – Detroit Free Press