Balloon Tales

Here’s just the ticket for your metropolitan event; the Urballoon.

A balloon equipped with a projector and wireless connection enables people to submit content online and broadcast it in public spaces. The ball is tethered and floats at a height of approximately 3 stories. The images and text submitted via this site are projected directly below it.

The balloon is located in the entrance of City Hall Park in New York as part of the Spectropolis event (October 1- 3, 2004).

This isn’t anything like the UFO over Washington DC.

Jukebox + WiFi

A digital media software platform for pay-per-use jukeboxes and other digital media vending devices, will begin offering wireless Internet access through its national network of digital-downloading jukeboxes. Pronto Networks, a leading provider of carrier-class operations support systems will manage the large scale Wi-Fi networks.

Through their new Ecast Unplugged service, which gives jukebox operators the ability to add Wi-Fi to any broadband-enabled Ecast location, patrons will be able to surf the net, access email and send instant messages from thousands of restaurants and taverns throughout U.S.

After pilot testing Ecast Unplugged Wi-Fi in ten jukebox locations for nearly a year, we found that customers stay longer and spend more at venues where they can log on, said Robbie Vann-Adibe, Ecast s chief executive. Thanks to Pronto Networks Wi-Fi solution, our operators will be able to easily convert their Ecast-powered locations into wireless hotspots.

Pronto s software also reports usage and revenue statistics on a chain-wide level, as well as providing the ability to brand a splash page, which is the first page that loads in an Internet browser when someone logs onto the Ecast Unplugged Wi-Fi service.

Adding Wi-Fi is just the first step in providing new digital services to consumers, said Jasbir Singh, president and CEO of Pronto Networks. In the future, wireless gaming, selling audio/video downloads and fantasy sports are all possibilities.

Used to be you put a sign up advertising that you had air conditioning and people came in. Now, you put up a sign that says you have wireless Internet access instead, said Mick, owner of Scobies Sports Bar & Grill in Alameda, California, one of the pilot locations that tested Ecast Unplugged.

Ecast will introduce Ecast Unplugged at the trade at the AMOA International Expo, sponsored by the Amusement & Music Operators Association in Las Vegas, on Sept. 30 through Oct. 2.

SipPhone Ticked Off

Broadband Reports says Vonage has struck deals with both Linksys and Netgear to create routers that integrate telephone adapters specifically designed to work with only with Vonage VoIP service, then pitching those products in retail chain stores.

Upstart VoIP provider SIPphone isn’t happy about this, and has sued both electronics retailer Fry s and Vonage over the deals. SIPphone complains that the deals don’t make it obvious to consumers that the router is “locked” to only work with Vonage VoIP service.

Netgear’s HomePlug Gets G

Netgear today announced the a Wall-Plugged Wireless Range Extender that uses powerlines to link 802.11g access points. The compact kit consists of the new WGX102 54 Mbps Wall-Plugged Wireless Range Extender and the XE102 Wall-Plugged Ethernet Bridge.

It utilizes a combination of HomePlug and 54 Mbps 802.11g wireless technologies. Used in tandem, the products extend the range of a wireless network to any area in the house where an electrical outlet is available, enabling whole-home coverage.

The first step is for the user to connect the NETGEAR Wall-Plugged Ethernet Bridge to an existing router, from any vendor, to activate all of the home’s wall outlets with Internet connectivity.

To complete the network extension, the user plugs the NETGEAR Wall-Plugged Wireless Range Extender into a convenient outlet. A wireless “dead” spot can now gain WiFi net access.

The Wall-Plugged Wireless Range Extender Kit is interoperable with 802.11b and 802.11g, and even wired routers. It incorporates technology from Intellon, whose integrated circuits enable consumers to share Internet connections, stream digital audio and video, and network PC and consumer entertainment devices by simply plugging into existing power outlets. Intellon’s PowerPacket technology was selected by the HomePlug Powerline Alliance as the basis for its industry specification 1.0. HomePlug uses AC power circuits to connect devices at 14 Mbps or so. Tom’s Networking reports Intellon will bump HomePlug speed to 85 Mbps next spring.

The Wall-Plugged Wireless Range Extender will be available in early October at a retail price of $149.99.

Meanwhile, competitor Belkin has a different approach to house-wide, high speed wireless. Belkin is about to release a “pre 802.11n” solution with multiple input/multiple output antennas. Their Wireless Pre-N Router ($159) and Pre “N” network card ($109) claims to increase range (and/or speed) up to 4 times. Ordinary WiFi cards aren’t likely to benefit much from a MIMO access point, but the combination of MIMO clients and APs may have advantages for some applications.

Atheros has also announced MIMO chipsets.

Atheros claims that their dual-band (11a/b/g) AR5005VA chipset will support “multiple DVD-quality links (6-8 Mbps each) or a combination of HDTV (19-24 Mbps each) and DVD-quality links throughout homes of up to 6,000 square feet (550 square meters)”.

Belkin and Atheros use different (and incompatible) “pre-N” “standards”. (Gosh, I’m wearing out my “quote” key).

Captive Portal & 802.1X

Search results for Wi-Fi captive portal turns up lots of interesting and useful links but David Cook, over at Tom’s Networking, may have the best tutorial: How To: Using m0n0wall to create a Wireless Captive Portal.

The m0n0wall [reviewed here] implementation of a Captive Portal was introduced in one of the early betas of m0n0wall v1.1 earlier this year. This was largely the work of Dinesh Nair with assistance from Manuel Kasper and the other m0n0wall developers.

Basically, the Captive Portal is a web page that users/clients are forced to visit before they are granted access to the Internet. This web page can have a number of purposes, but primarily it allows you to:

  • Notify users of your Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) which they have to agree to before they are granted access to the Internet.
  • Tell users anything else relevant to the access they are being granted, ports and services that are restricted, details of sponsors, who they should buy beer for in thanks 🙂 etc.

Alternatively, the Captive Portal can configured to authenticate users with a UserID and Password against a RADIUS server before they are granted Internet access. RADIUS is a standard protocol for remote user authentication and accounting used in “enterprise” grade networks and by some ISPs.

This has given rise to widespread support for RADIUS by most Unixes and Unix-like operating systems. MS Windows Server also has an implementation called Internet Authentication Services which authenticates against both local accounts and a centralised NT4 Domain or Active Directory.

User Authentication is of more relevance on a private network as a way of controlling access to the Internet. So for this article, I will concentrate on configuring the Captive Portal for unauthenticated access.

WiFiNetNews also points out an excellent article on Open Source 802.1x Deployment by Matthew Gast who interviews two of the principals of the open-source 802.1X project called Open1X.

Gast, who tests 802.1X systems, is also the author of O Reilly s 802.11 Wireless Networks. He interviews Chris Hessing and Terry Simons about their use of 802.1X at the University of Utah.

Other free 802.1X software is available from Radiuz, which combines WPA security with Free Access 802.1X clients, Funk software clients, Microsoft and others.

In relate news, Extreme Tech explains how to Build a Wi-Fi Antenna Out of a Tin Can.

Nokia LifeBlog Turns 1.0

Lifeblog 1.0 is Alive and available for purchase from Nokia’s Lifeblog website. It plays well with Nokia’s megapixel 7610 camphone. All about Symbian also has a review.

Lifeblog is described as an Automatic Multimedia Diary

What do we mean by that?

  • Automatic = there’s not much for you to do
  • Multimedia = pictures, text, video
  • Diary = a daily record

In short, we mean that there’s not much for you to do to get the best out of it; just go about your normal day taking photos and videos with your phone, sending and receiving messages. Then, just press ‘synch’ and all the multimedia items are laid out in a diary format. Then, enjoy!

You can download the software as a free trial version or full commercial version (EUR $29.95). It also works with Six Apart blogging software.

Ken Wood (above), describes some of the research Microsoft is doing in MyLifeBits.

At the photo sharing site Flickr photos identified as 7610 are generally associated with the Nokia 7610, which has a good quality megapixel camera. Snap stills with the Nokia then create narrated photo stories using Microsoft’s Photo Story or Serious Magic Visual Communicator. Finished multi-media stories can then be uploaded to TextAmerica for broad distribution over phones, handhelds or home computers – like this report on Gay Marriage. Stills were shot with a camera phone while supers and narration were added later.

Be Ken Burns.