Buffalo’s DD-WRT Router: Trick or Treat?

Buffalo has announced a new AirStation Wireless-G MIMO Router claims to be the “first commercial wireless router to come with DD-WRT firmware pre-installed,” notes Engadget:

The WHR-HP-G54DD (WHR-HP-G54 pictured) is the first device to emerge from the firm’s partnership with NewMedia-NET (pdf). It features five QoS levels to prioritize traffic, optimized link state routing (OLSR), a data transfer application with VPN functionality, PPTP protocol support, WMM and DDNS, and a bevy of management applications including remote network status logging, remote web management via HTTPS and web-based backup / restore.

DD-WRT firmware (blog), is a free, open source firmware that features captive portal pages and management functions. It is estimated that 1 million DD-WRT based routers are already in use worldwide. Previously, users had to install the firmware at their own risk, thereby nullifying the manufacturer’s warranty. The new Buffalo router will have it built-in.

The new Buffalo “N” router will reportedly cost $86.

In other related news, Buffalo is appealing a US import ban of its WiFi gear. In June, a US court ruled the sale of Wi-Fi equipment from Buffalo Technology infringed on patents held by the Australia-based Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). The injunction does not prohibit sales of pre-existing inventories.

But The Register points out that the CSIRO patent also underlies the 802.11a and g standards, which has been licensed world-wide with the help of the IEEE. Microsoft, 3Com, SMC Networks and Accton Technology, support Buffalo, filing an amicus brief. Intel, Dell, Atheros, Belkin, Consumer Electronics Association, Hewlett-Packard, NETGEAR, Nortel Networks, Nvidia, Oracle, SAP, and Yahoo! have filed a separate brief.

Open source software like CUWIN, DD-WRT, OpenWRT, HyperWRT and Tomato Firmware can be flashed onto $50 Linksys and Buffalo access points without the advertising and revenue sharing requirments of Meraki.

Successful “digital divide” programs include Free Geek, which recycles old computers. They install Linux software after giving hard drives a though cleaning. Volunteers do the work and get a free computer in exchange.

PersonalTelco operates hundreds of free hotspots around the Portland Metro region through an all volunteer force and has unwired a large section of the Mississippi Neighborhood with free WiFi.

One Economy has an influential program that many consider a national model. Walmart’s $199 computer might be a good companion for an inexpensive DD-WRT router. The $199 WalMart computer has a 1.5-gigahertz Via processor, 512 megabytes of memory and an 80-gigabyte hard drive. What makes it stand out, however, is GOS, a version of Linux specially made to run Google applications like GMail and Google Documents, reports the NY Times.

Everex’s director of marketing, clarified that “popular applications such as those from Google are an integral part of our product, however, the g-OS is an entity entirely independent from Google. Furthermore, while we make use of many applications from Google, ‘Google Apps’ is not bundled with this particular system.” Everex studied the Lindows and Microtel PCs and is confident its $198 PC and $299 laptop will succeed, since GOS Linux brings familiar Google icons and applications to users, which earlier PCs didn’t have.

The Wifidog project is an open source captive portal solution, designed primarily for wireless community groups, but caters to various other business models as well. ChilliSpot, an open source captive portal or wireless LAN access point controller, is used by Toronto’s free community network called Wireless Nomad.

The Vancouver BC Wireless Group hoped to establish a free WiFi network by installing Meraki WiFi units around town.

Boingo Expands Airport Coverage

Boingo Wireless, which runs one of the world’s largest networks of Wi-Fi hotspots, today announced that it has acquired seven airport Wi-Fi networks from Sprint. Operations in all seven airports have been successfully converted to Boingo hotspots.

According to Boingo, this acquisition increases their airport hotspot network coverage and its Concourse subsidiary from 16 to 23, covering 37 percent of passenger enplanements in the top 100 North American airports. The new airports include Houston (HOU), Houston George Bush Intercontinental (IAH), Memphis (MEM), Milwaukee (MKE), Oakland (OAK), Louisville (SDF), and Salt Lake City (SLC).

Through its Concourse Communications subsidiary, Boingo also provides Wi-Fi service at: Atlanta (ATL), Kalamazoo (AZO), Nashville (BNA), Baltimore/Washington (BWI), Detroit (DTW), Newark (EWR), John F. Kennedy (JFK), LaGuardia (LGA), Midway (MDW), Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP), Will Rogers (OKC), Chicago O’Hare (ORD), San Juan (SJU), St. Louis (STL), Toronto (YYZ), and Ottawa (YOW).

Boingo’s WiFi access rates provides unlimited access to thousands of North American hotspots for $21.95 per month with worldwide roaming for $39 (€29) per month.North American hotspots can also be accessed on a daily basis for $7.95 per day, while international hotspot access costs $9.95 per day.

Competitor AT&T, in the United States, provides WiFi access through McDonalds restaurants, with the help of Wayport. AT&T’s WiFi service generally costs between $20-$30/month, bundling some packages with their cellular data network, but this summer AT&T announced that its DSL customers can receive WiFi access free. Their network includes nearly 10,000 hot spots including those at McDonalds, airports, Barnes & Noble, coffee shops and popular sporting venues.

T-Mobile offers nationwide WiFi access inside Starbucks coffee shops. T-Mobile’s WiFi service plans cost $20-$40/month.

Related DailyWireless stories include; AT&T: Free WiFi with DSL, McSignage, Boingo Goes Flat Rate, Hotspots are Hot, Skype on The Cloud, UK Unwires 12 Cities, Belair: Live in London, The Cloud Talks, Downtown London Cloud, Free TrainFi in UK, Statewide/Nationwide Wireless Broadband, Urban WiMAX in the UK and Mobilizing WiFi on Trains & Cars.

Miners Get Mandated Mesh Nets

A US Congressional committee voted today to add wireless mesh technology as a benchmark for underground communication and tracking systems, as part of amendments to new federal mine safety legislation.

The U.S. House of Representatives’ Education & Labor Committee voted to amend the S-MINER Act of 2007 to include wireless mesh technology as a communications and tracking system for post-accident communications and to locate trapped underground miners.

Active Control, which uses 100% wireless mesh technology in ActiveMine, a two-way voice communications, data and locating system for mines, has been a strong proponent of this change.

“We’re glad to see that US policy makers have recognized wireless mesh technology as they seek to improve mine safety,” said ACT President and CEO Steve Barrett. “We believe our system provides significant benefits for locating and communicating with miners in both emergency situations and day-to-day operations.”

Active Control Technology designs and markets wireless network control and communication systems for buildings and extreme environments.

Loral Buys Telesat Canada

Loral Space & Communications today announced the 3.25 billion acquisition of Telesat Canada by Loral and the Canadian-run Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP Investments) has been completed.

“Loral has transformed its regional fixed satellite services business into a 64 percent interest in the fourth largest FSS operator in the world,” said Michael Targoff, chief executive officer of Loral Space & Communications. “Loral’s international satellite services, combined with Telesat’s large North American presence, will offer customers a broad array of global satellite based video and data services.

Loral and PSP Investments acquired 100 percent of the stock of Telesat Canada from BCE for 3.25 billion (CAD) and the assumption of CAD 160 million of Telesat debt. PSP Investments is a Canadian crown corporation established in September 1999 by Parliament by the Public Sector Pension Investment Board Act.

Loral and PSP Investments will hold a 64 percent and 36 percent economic interest, respectively, in the new company. Consistent with Canadian law, Loral’s total voting equity will be 33.3 percent, with PSP Investments and other Canadian investors having 66.7 percent. Effective November 1st, 2007, Loral’s 64 percent economic interest in Telesat Canada will be reflected under equity income in affiliates.

The Public Sector Pension Investment Board Loral designs and manufactures satellites for commercial and government applications through its Space Systems/Loral subsidiary.

Created in 1969, Telesat launched the world’s first commercial geostationary satellite in 1972. Their newest, Anik F3, provides broadcasting and telecommunications throughout North America and carries a Ka-band payload to supplement services now being carried on Anik F2, which also carries Wild Blue’s 2-way internet service.

The top tier of satellite manufacturers worldwide, reports the San Francisco Chronicle, include Loral, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Orbital Sciences. Two European firms, Alcatel Alenia and EADS Astrium, round out the top tier, says Marco Caceres, a senior space analyst for the Teal Group in Fairfax, Va.

Figures from the Satellite Industry Association show that satellite manufacturing has had a bumpy ride, with worldwide sales ranging from $11.5 billion in 2000 to $7.8 billion in 2005, the most recent year for which data are available. But sales for big satellites has seen a significant uptick, according to news reports.

Loral does not launch rockets but instead contracts with one of a handful of commercial firms such as Arianespace, a European consortium, or Sea Launch, an international consortium managed by Boeing.

Meanwhile, the Odyssey Launch Platform and the Sea Launch Commander have departed Long Beach, for the launch of the Thuraya-3 satellite. Liftoff is scheduled for November 13. Thuraya is NOT a dual-use surveillence satellite.

Garmin Spooks TeleAtlas/TomTom Deal

Navigation devices maker Garmin spooked investors Wednesday with an unsolicited 2.3 billion euro ($3.3 billion) bid for Tele Atlas, the Dutch mapping company, currently considering an offer from rival device maker TomTom.

Garmin said it will offer $35.31 for a share of Tele Altas, 15% higher than the $30.63 TomTom offered in July and a 48% premium to Tele Atlas’ share price before TomTom’s bid.

Garmin said it expects a counter-bid from its Netherlands-based rival TomTom.

Reik Read, an analyst with Robert W. Baird, took a dim view of the bid because of the possibility of a “bidding war as TomTom and Garmin have similar purchasing capability”.

Garmin’s aggressive move comes nearly a month after cell phones maker Nokia offered to buy digital mapmaker Navteq for $8.1 billion. Nokia’s acquisition is expected to close in first quarter fiscal 2008.

ABI Research says annual sales of GPS-enabled devices will climb from $15 billion annually to $22 billion by 2008. Web sites like Amazon A-9, Yahoo and Google are making digital maps a part of their strategy.

Tele Atlas and its chief rival Navteq have essentially a duopoly in mapping data, explains Newsweek.

Nightmare or Reality?

George Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, painted a picture of a world without privacy, in
which government authorities, using a wide array of technologies, continuously monitored human
activity. The loss of privacy shaped society, enabling government to control all aspects of
people’s lives. — ACLU: Under a Watchful Eye

Video surveillance has doubled in the last five years: It is now a $9.2-billion industry, and J. P. Freeman, a security industry consultant, estimates that it will grow to $21 billion by 2010. He
predicts that “pretty soon, cameras will be like smoke detectors: They’ll be everywhere.”

Bay Area Rapid Transit will spend $5.4 million to upgrade and expand its security camera system in stations, on the trains, along tracks, in the Transbay Tube, in parking lots and at other facilities. Software automatically alert authorities of suspicious activity as an unattended backpack or trespassers in areas off limits to the public.

The BART camera program is endorsed by California’s director of homeland security.

“One of the things we know in terms of threat is that our mass transit systems are very much at risk. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out when you look at the history of some of the attacks that al Qaeda has engaged in,” said Matthew Bettenhausen, the governor’s homeland security chief.

The money is part of a $19.9 billion transportation bond California voters approved last fall – $1 billion of which is earmarked for security enhancements.

The state bond money covers just a sliver of the $50 million camera project. The agency will implement the upgrades in phases when funding becomes available. Officials declined to offer more specifics on where the new cameras will be deployed or how many there will be.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have criticized the growing use of public cameras – mounted on patrol cars, traffic signals, freeway overpasses and utility poles and in buses, trains and airports – as an invasion of personal privacy. But advocates say that in an era of heightened awareness of terrorist threats, the security that cameras offer is worth the loss of privacy.

More than four million cameras being used and operated throughout Great Britain —- one for every 14 people. In London the average person is now captured on video camera 300 times a day.

By combining video footage with face recognition software, the government could quickly identify individuals walking down a street, participating in a political rally, or entering a doctor’s office, says the ACLU.

The State Department has already embedded RFID tags in all new U.S. passports and the Department of Homeland Security is considering its use in other travel documents and identification cards. With RF ID tags embedded in identity cards and machines to read them integrated into public surveillance cameras, government would be able to collect and compile an immense amount of information about individuals and their private lives.

The federal Real ID Act will establish such files—a nationwide database of information on every U.S. citizen—in the next few years. It will establish national standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and non-driver’s identification cards.

There is disagreement about whether the Real ID Act institutes a “national identification card” system, says Wikipedia. The new law only sets forth national standards, but leaves the issuance of cards and the maintenance of databases in state hands; therefore, the Department of Homeland Security claims it is not a true “national ID” system. Organizations such as NO2REALID.org, UNREALID.com, and REALNIGHTMARE.org argue that this is a trivial distinction.

Super RFID technology uses long-range radar responsive (RR) tags.

Originally, the active 430 MHz tags were designed using technology derived from a radar device requiring line-of-sight for reading. Since then, Sandia has modified the technology to its current form, which employs RFID to transmit ID numbers instead of radar.

New images of the NRO’s Lacrosse satellite, acquired by British amateur observer John Locker, reportedly show the secret craft in unprecedented detail. Whether space radar like Lacrosse could interrogate an RF-ID card is unknown.

DARPA’s ISIS program puts a radar antenna as big as a football field on an stratospheric airship. Raytheon plans to bond the largest X-band antenna ever built — 1000 feet long — to the hull of an unmanned airship. But it needs batteries ten times lighter than today’s cells.

Last year, a prototype airship was positioned over Akron, Ohio. It will become part of the Ballistic Missile Defense System Test Bed following the successful demonstration in 2007. Sky Sentry (below) has contracts with the NRO, Ballistic Missile Defense and other agencies.

Northrop Grumman’s new operations center in Maryland utilizes their airborne multifunction sensor expertise to develop high-power, large-aperture, multi-function applications involving very large active electronically scanned array (AESA) systems.

Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) sensors will be bonded directly to the hull material of the airship. Actively scanned arrays use many “active” transmit/receive elements.

UCSD engineers have developed the world’s most complex “phased array” integrated circuit, reports SpaceDaily today. The new UCSD chip packs 16 channels onto the tiny chip. The phase and gain of each of the 16 channels is controlled electronically to direct the antenna pattern (beam) into a specific direction. This DARPA-funded advance is expected to find its way into U.S. defense satellite communication and radar systems.

The architecture of a Big Brother state now seems clear. The semantic web will flag questionable call records, business transactions or behavior. Commercial databases and surveillance archives will be searched for incriminating evidence, and 24/7 surveillance will be enabled by RF-ID tracking and literally millions of government (and commercial) cameras. Image recognition handles automatic handoff between cameras. “Gunshot mikes“, with larger arrays, will filter out background noise, to enable eavesdropping at a distance.