August 20, 2003
Desperately Searching for a Place without Network Connectivity

Daniel Hon desperately searches for a place in Cambridge (UK) with both high-powered caffeine (so he can get some real work done) and with no network connectivity (so that he can get some real work done). He fails: ext|circ: Sigh: Good: I made it to the big Starbucks in Cambridge to get lots of work done today, hopefully away from a network connection. Bad: I reached an impasse and had to look up some documentation that wasn't cached locally. Good: T-mobile appear to have installed a hot-spot here, they just aren't advertising it. Bad: T-Mobile have installed a Hot Spot here. There wasn't supposed to be any network connectivity. Good: I can look up the documentation. Bad: It cost me 14.00 for 120 minutes valid over a 31 day period. That would get me a month's unlimited access in the 'states. Even worse: US T-Mobile Hot Spot accounts aren't valid in the UK. You'll need another one. Good, I suppose: Found the documentation I needed. Happy now, even though I'm 14 out of pocket. Bad: Don't even get me started on the horrible UI that T-Mobile are using here for sign on. It's horrendous. Sample: the connection window that is...

Posted by DeLong at 08:06 AM

July 03, 2003
Does 802.11 Need a "Business Model"?

Does 802.11 ("WiFi") need a "business model"? Dan Bricklin says it does not: instead, it needs user utility--which it has in spades... SATN.org: Comments from Bob Frankston, David Reed, Dan Bricklin, and others : David Weinberger points to an article in today's Boston Globe that talks about the WiFi "Bubble Bursting". Yet another article saying WiFi is in trouble because people won't pay for access at the local coffee shop. Sounds like the old "broadcast" mentality: Something isn't interesting or valuable unless it provides a service that a big company can charge for. It seems the fact that millions of people are buying and installing (at their own expense) WiFi for their own purposes and not just to charge others is completely uninteresting to these pundits. This is like the thinking that P2P could only be used for sharing things that would otherwise be sold mass-market. The fact that we'd want to share our own stuff is of little interest to these people. Of course, the fact that the market for "my own radio" -- i.e., cellular -- is so much bigger than broadcast is missed. The sharing of personal images with non-strangers will be huge, too, as it's been...

Posted by DeLong at 12:11 PM

June 07, 2003
Good News for Cell Phone Competition

Good news for competition among cellular phone companies. Good news for those of us who will want to think about switching carriers without disrupting our network of cellular-phone contacts. So why does the Washington Post's Mike Musgrove say it's a "victory for consumer advocates" rather than a victory for consumers? There's no technological reason why keeping your number needs to be difficult and expensive. And the rule of a well-functioning market economy is that there should be as few pockets of monopoly as possible. Yet Musgrove isn't willing to say that... Cell Users Can Keep Numbers (TechNews.com): Mobile phone users should be able to keep their phone numbers if they switch to other wireless carriers, a federal court ruled yesterday, rejecting an appeal from big U.S. cell phone providers. The decision was a victory for consumer advocates who argued that denying consumers the right to keep their phone numbers inhibits competition by locking in customers who might otherwise change carriers. The companies now have until Nov. 24 to comply with the ruling. The Federal Communications Commission first ordered number portability in 1996, with an initial deadline of June 1999. The deadline was extended three times by the FCC in response...

Posted by DeLong at 09:51 PM

May 30, 2003
Why Is Wireless Better in Wales?

The always-interesting Philip Greenspun draws analogies between bad wireless coverages in the U.S. today and the robber barons of the medieval Rhine: Philip Greenspun's Weblog: ...After two days of touring Wales, a country that apparently has yet to discover the mixing faucet, it has become apparent that there is better mobile phone coverage in the remotest sheep pasture or coastal outcrop than in downtown Boston. How can such an otherwise backward place be so far ahead of the U.S. technologically? Most folks are familiar with the story: in Europe the governments mandated that all cell phone systems be built using the GSM standard. Thus you can make or receive a call any time that you're within range of any antenna from any provider In practice this means nearly 100 percent coverage of the land area of Europe. One of the advantages that the U.S. had over Europe in the days prior to European Union was an absence of trade barriers. In feudal times every local duke or prince was able to levy tariffs on goods traveling through his town. Thus it became cheaper to undertake the hazardous sea voyage round the horn of Africa rather than pay all the toll...

Posted by DeLong at 11:37 AM

Is the Radio Spectrum "Scarce"?

The Economist muses about whether the radio spectrum is "scarce" any more: Economist.com: Economics focus Freeing the airwaves May 29th 2003 From The Economist print editionShould radio spectrum be treated as property, or as a common resource? WHAT is the best analogy for radio spectrum? Is it, as most people intuitively believe, a palpable resource like land, best allocated through property rights that can be bought and sold? Or is it, thanks to technological progress, more like the sea, so vast that it doesn't need to be parcelled out (at least for shipping traffic), in which case general rules on how boats should behave are enough to ensure that it is used efficiently. Wireless folk have been discussing these questions for some time. Now, regulators are starting to take an interest, because increasing demands for wireless services require more efficient use of the spectrum. Earlier this month, America's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided to allow leasing and trading of frequency licences—the property model—as a first step towards establishing a market in radio spectrum. However, when regulators meet for the World Radiocommunication Conference in Geneva, starting on June 9th, they will try to harmonise their plans to expand the part of...

Posted by DeLong at 10:37 AM

May 12, 2003
Yes, Cory, Here the Celestial Harmonies Are Strong...

Scott Rosenberg reports his thoughts on watching two wireless computing gurus trying to figure out where to sit in a conference room. Scott Rosenberg's Links & Comment: ...At one point at the start of a talk I saw Cory Doctorow and Glenn Fleishman wandering the hall, laptops held open at waist level, moving intently, deliberately, up aisles and down rows. I understood on an intellectual level that their orbit somehow involved a hunt for good 802.11b reception; but what my eyes took in seemed more seance-like, a wireless ritual. It was as though they were scouting for the geek music of the spheres. I hope they found it.... What's the wavelength of 802.11b signals anyway? A centimeter? What does that mean for the likely size of dead zones given whatever propensity they have to reflect off stuff? Sigh. I'd know a lot of things I don't know had I been an engineering rather than a social studies major. (But I wouldn't be able to make fluid translations from the Trotskyist.)...

Posted by DeLong at 09:04 PM

March 17, 2003
I Want My Broadband Telecom Competition!

I look out my bedroom window to the northeast. There, a third of a mile away, on top the hill, stands a forest of wireless antennas. Why, oh why, is my only choice for broadband the cable modem? Why, oh why, is no one interested in selling me wireless broadband? I WANT MY BROADBAND TELECOM COMPETITION, DAMMIT!! Broadband competition might still be possible: When anyone asks how to find innovation in technology today, I answer, ``Look where you don't find monopoly control or crushing regulation.'' One such place is in wireless communications, specifically in the open-to-all part of the airwaves, and lately I'm seeing some things that give me hope for the broadband future America so desperately needs to create. Regulatory missteps and marketplace misbehavior are creating a dangerous duopoly in the ``last mile'' of data access to our homes and small businesses. Unless wireless can compete, the regional telephone and cable monopolies will control communications well into the 21st century. I'm beginning to think that wireless can compete, because of enormous recent innovation in what's called the ``unlicensed spectrum.'' That's the part of the airwaves not controlled by government or specific industries and companies. The rise of the 802.11...

Posted by DeLong at 07:52 AM

February 21, 2003
Smart Lawns

The imminent arrival of the artificially-intelligent lawn. Yet more evidence that the future is here already, it's just not evenly distributed. Gizmodo : Wireless sprinkler system: Possibly the weirdest use of wireless technology yet is a new wireless sprinkler system that's coming out in May from a company called Digital Sun. The X.Sense creates a wireless mesh network using moisture sensors strategically inserted into your lawn that keeps track of when and how much to water. Best of all, the wireless network is encrypted, lest anyone try to hack your sprinkler system....

Posted by DeLong at 01:06 PM

February 11, 2003
The Wisdom of Anil Dash

Another sign of the increasing density of wireless access points. Maybe Wired should change its name to Wireless... Note to dumb self: If you still can't connect to the computer that's 10 feet away from you, even after trying fifty million times, you might want to make sure you're logged into your own wifi network, and not one of the 3 neighboring ones that surround you. Note to dumb neighbor: Turn off file sharing. And run a spell-check on that cover letter before you send it, or there's no chance that place is going to hire you....

Posted by DeLong at 03:40 PM