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The Internet

Wi-Fi Spreading Fast But Lacks Profits 204

clapton_fan writes "The New York Times has a story that details the spread of wireless networks but says the concept has been short on profits thus far. Its growth is mainly attributable to homes and small businesses. Corporations are reluctant to embrace them because of security concerns. Meanwhile, Intel is planning to have every device that uses an Intel chip Wi-Fi enabled which will make it difficult for companies that sell Wi-Fi as an accessory to prosper."
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Wi-Fi Spreading Fast But Lacks Profits

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  • by craenor ( 623901 ) on Monday December 09, 2002 @03:35PM (#4845714) Homepage
    Before this is considered a Utility? Everyone in the city will pay a monthly wi-fi bill, right along with gas, water and electric?

    I give it...twelve years.
    • by goon america ( 536413 ) on Monday December 09, 2002 @04:17PM (#4846070) Homepage Journal
      Won't happen. Unlike power lines, there is no limit to the number of WiFi providers operating in a given area, so competition among different providers is possible and desirable. Think of cellphone access as a model here, not local telephone service.
      • by brain159 ( 113897 ) on Monday December 09, 2002 @04:53PM (#4846394) Journal
        on the contrary, there are only a limited number of 802.11b channels available, and only 3 of those don't mutually interfere. If 3 cellphone companies saturate those channels, there's no room left for community WLAN projects apart from point-to-point high gain pringles-can project. you could, if you really wanted to, run new parallel power lines to sell electricity down - there's not nearly enough available spectrum for wifi to gain massive widespread use. Also, my current wifi network consists of 2 Belkin USB wifi thingies seperated by one wall and 3', and I get a 1-2 second dropout every couple of minutes which makes it pretty much useless for UT2003! Anyone got similar issues?
        • I haven't seen that sort of issue, myself.

          I've got a D-Link WAP (the one with a print server, modem port ,etc), two laptops on Proxim RangeLAN DS NICs and an iPaq on D-Link compact flash NIC. I haven't seen any drops on the laptops inside my apartment, running at 11M.

          The laptops have bad batteries, though, so they don't go too far outside...but with the iPaq, I get across the road, through the parking garage, and all the way to the next block -- and my apartment is in a brick building.

          Not to mension the 6 other WAPs I can see from the parking garage on the iPaq...3 of which are open, and one that hasn't changed the password on the config page (admin! whoo!). Range doesn't seem to be an issue with my components...but then, I've never had a high opinion of Belkin products either...but that's just my opinion, anyway.
    • Before this is considered a Utility? Everyone in the city will pay a monthly wi-fi bill, right along with gas, water and electric?

      I swear it's so simple people...

      802.11 is FREE, all you need to do is buy a lousy wireless NIC and an AP. After that you get 10mbps, instead of crappy unreliable 1.5mbps from your cable/telco. But everyone needs to do this because it's all about peer sharing.

      We have an amazing opportunity staring us in the face right now. But if we don't get the ball rolling and protect our rights, some lame ass company is gonna buy out the airwaves and charge us for NOTHING(I.e. airwaves). Remember in "Space Balls" when they were breathing air out of cans? Seem a little rediculous to you? I hope so, because the same thing could very well happen to wireless internet.

      All that needs to happen is for Dell, Gateway, etc. to start packaging 802.11X ready computers. They won't do that until they are convinced it's a standard component(just like CD-Roms, soundcards, etc). That means people need to start getting a clue, and word needs to get out. Buy one of these things, and set up an AP! Or, if you're a software guy...write a good P2P sharing application.
      • by roseblood ( 631824 ) on Monday December 09, 2002 @05:10PM (#4846528)
        "802.11 is FREE, all you need to do is buy a lousy wireless NIC and an AP. After that you get 10mbps, instead of crappy unreliable 1.5mbps "

        Odd. I just put a 802.11 card in my computer. I got NO BANDWITH. Turns out the only way I'm going to get any connectivity on my wi-fi card is if I connect another node to an old-school source of bandwith (Cable modem, DSL modem, a computer with dial-up.)

        Turns out that 802.11 is just another protocoll, not a magical source of 10mpbs bandwith. If you want to get 10mbps out of the 802.11 hardware, you're going to need 10mbps+ of some other sort of data-pipe. Perhaps 10 of your neighbors have 10 wi-fi cards connected to their "crappy unreiable 1.5mbps" cable modems. 802.11 is all about leeching ALOT from your neighbors while they leech a little back from you.
      • I swear it's so simple people...

        802.11 is FREE, all you need to do is buy a lousy wireless NIC and an AP. After that you get 10mbps, instead of crappy unreliable 1.5mbps from your cable/telco.

        Um...where, exactly, is your Internet access coming from in this allegedly simple scheme? 10 Mbps between your friends is worth bugger-all if nobody has some other connection outside your clique...and unless you're spending big $$$, you're not going to get your mp3z @ 10 Mbps.

        That said, I suppose you could use it to enable sharing of a broadband connection...ten people going in on one 1536/512 cable-modem connection would yield faster access at a lower cost per user than if they all paid for their own 512/128 connections.

        • I'm afraid I don't quite follow what you're saying.

          If I have an unrestricted 10Mbps between myself and my friends (and their friends, and their freinds' friends, and...), you better believe that MP3 will floweth freely amongst the group, without any one person needing to spend a dime.

          Of course, a number of these people will also subscribe to some form of consumer broadband. Not to mention those who rip their own CDs. There's just as many avenues for new material to enter the mix as there is for cross-pollenation of, say, Gnutella and Kazaa.

          And speaking of broadband, I pay ~$50/mo for 2000/384kbps RoadRunner. I can't fathom sharing a paltry 1536kbps amongst 10 of my greediest peers (I like burning ISOs in realtime as they download), nor can I imagine that sharing of such services would be tolerated for very long.

          • This poster said everything I wanted to say, and he said it much better than I did. So disregard my post and remember his please.
          • That would be a terrible network. If it takes 10000 hops for a packet to get across the country, and half of them need to be resent because they get lost along the way, your bandwidth and ping times are going to be very poor.
            • No, it actually improves network efficiency by creating local "mirrors" for content. 23 hops to a website to California vs. 2 hops to a friend of a friend. Which do you think is more effecient?

              If 6 degrees of social separation cover such a massive percentage of the human population, why wouldn't the same be true of wireless nodes?
              • Your effecient example is not a common case. I rarely get more than a few kb from friends in the form of email, while i receive a lot more data from commercial sites in the form of downloads. Your siz degree of separation using wireless gets you less than a mile from your node, BTW, so your friends better live close by.
    • My hope is that the adoption of wi-fi happens quick enough that attempts to outlawing it as a terrorist threat are thwarted by wide-spread common sense.

      Planet P [planetp.cc] - Liberation with Technology.
  • by Alric ( 58756 ) <slashdot AT tenhundfeld DOT org> on Monday December 09, 2002 @03:37PM (#4845723) Homepage Journal
    I hope Intel does not gain a position from which it can push its own wifi standards. Compatibility is nice, but I would hate to see the large number of wifi gear manufacturers reduced to two or three, as is the case with cpu's.

    • As the article says, "It's not an industry that is going to create the next Netscape or the next Microsoft."

      Since this is known to be a future market, many companies will try hard to become players. Most know that they only way to do that is to follow standards. As long as there is a standard, this will allow for more companies to compete.

      After all, you don't see 3com or cisco making it impossible to compete in ethernet networks.
    • 802.11(a/b) are open standards, with published docs. Intel could try a MS move to "embrace and extened" it, but I'm sure that would fail. The most propritery systems I've heard of are encrytion schemes that use dynamic keys (instead of incredibly stupid static keys, currently specified by WEP). This is a trade off for companies, they get secure wireless systems but are tied to a single vendor. A new WEP standared is needed (anyone know if one exists/in the works?) so wireless can really explode in the enterprise market.
  • by gpinzone ( 531794 ) on Monday December 09, 2002 @03:38PM (#4845738) Homepage Journal
    Why is everyone concerned about these companies being profitable? Let's get Wifi into as many hands as possible. The faster wireless networks can grow, the faster we can shit-can cable and phone companies and their arbitrary caps.
    • Exactly. If people put up 802.11 networks this offers them benefits, and others get benefits as well. The fact that big carriers can't make $ off it is actually GOOD for consumers, as there isn't additional cost being added.
      • You're both wrong and I'll tell you why: I work for a local ISP; wi-fi is (perhaps) the only available high-speed option for us that doesn't involve reselling DSL from the phone company. We *need* that to be profitable. If it isn't, we're going to go under because dial-up is a dying market. No profit == screwed small ISPs (and I lose my job).
    • Where have we heard that before?

      These days, although it hasn't always been the case, investors are much more likely to require at least a hope of profitability.

      Also, I personally would like wi-fi to be profitable so that my vendor doesn't die, and I have a chance that my card and AP will be supported in the not too distant future
      • Where have we heard what before? Are you talking about The Bubble?

        Of course companies seek to profit.

        As history dictates, the health of a company is not related to the long-term support of its products. Support gets killed in the interest of profitability as much as it does for the lack of it. It doesn't take much of a beancounter to realize these few things:

        Products which are no longer produced generate zero revenue, but cost money to support. The longer you support old products, the longer your users will postpone buying your new products.

        Thus, the more poorly you support your old products, the more likely people are to be in the market for something new. If all companies operated like this (they do), it'd be a goldmine (it is).

        Since we're thusly assured to have zero support from the vendor in the not-distance future, I submit that the only way to ensure any future usefulness from the products you buy is to make an effort to get the same thing everyone else seems to have. Or at least something built from the same, or compatibile, component parts.

        Think NE2000 (and clones), 3c509, DEC Tulip (and clones), HP LaserJet (and clones). Think Oxford 911 firewire/ATAPI bridges, NCR/Symbios/LSI/whoevertheyarenow 53c87x SCSI chipsets, and VESA BIOS.

        If you've got the NE2000 or Tulip of 802.11a, you won't have any problems keeping your gear working with current software -- Microsoft and a dedicated team of rodent-like OSS hackers will keep it alive for as long as it remains useful, plus a few years.

    • exactly same reason why electric companies should be profitable, and not unprofitable by law.

      they'll go under and then the users are fscked.
    • Okay, I run a small home network of about a dozen computers. I like to play around with clustering and I'm working on a small web site. I have a nice DSL connection that connects my little network to the hostile wide-open internet. I also have a small WIFI network running, but I have it closed as best I can so that only approved PC's or devices can access my (wireless) network. Why? Well for the same reason I have a firewall between my network and the internet. Sure, given my location, I doubt I would have many people connecting to the WIFI network, but that still no reason for lax security.

      Besides, I pay for my DSL bandwidth. Why should I let some stranger passing by or neighbor down the street get free internet access while I'm paying good money for it? I don't get these free WIFI networks. They seem insecure and leech of those who offer them. Someone has to provide the gateway to the internet, which means someone's paying for the bandwidth. It can't be free. So if there's going to be some great open WIFI network, it's got to have some sort of business model (ie- be profitable) or it's going to die eventually -- just like "free" websites which eventually become popular, have increasing bandwidth costs, and finally turn to some ad or subscription model to cover the costs.

      The only other solution I can think of is if these WIFI networks simply don't offer internet connectivity and exist as a network outside the traditional DNS and internet infastructure. In this case you are limited to only those services that exisit within the WIFI "cloud" or region. And even if all the services you could ever need were there, you still have security issues, especially if the WIFI service is being offered by average households who may not completely appriciate or understand network and computer security.

      I'll admit that I don't understand these WIFI networks very well or the goals of those who want to have large free WIFI access. How do such advocates plan to solve these problems? And moreover, how to do it in a sustainable way that can return the cost of investment to the providers? Please, I'm really interested in understanding how this is supposed to work. Thanks.
    • Excuse me?

      The faster wireless networks can grow, the faster we can shit-can cable and phone companies and their arbitrary caps.

      I don't know about you, but around here, *someone* is STILL going to have to have some kind of connection to the internet for that to work. We can have all of the WiFi we want - but if we can't get to the sites we want to because A) there IS no connection (because everyone shit-canned their ISP) or B) the ONE connection that we DO still have has exceeded their bandwidth cap, we've got NOTHING.

      I'm sorry, but WiFi is NOT just so that some people can get free war3z and unlimited bandwidth. To get, you have to give. Keep your cable connection, network in your WiFi as a public node. Connect up to a few buddies with cable/DSL as well. If you do it right, you'll ALL share that bandwidth.

      Sharing. It's about SHARING. Not getting it ALL for nothing.
  • Wi-Fi as accessory? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cornjchob ( 514035 ) <thisiswherejunkgoes@gmail.com> on Monday December 09, 2002 @03:38PM (#4845739)
    So, let me get this straight: because Intel packs wi-fi onto each intel chip, wi-fi won't sell as an accessory? Ah, yes, I see...just like how motherboard venders include sound and video, and as such, the video card and sound card industries flail in lack of funds.

    Oh wait, that's right...

    The gain from a chip and antennae embedded on a chip isn't going to be that great. Intel's mainly doing it for internal purposes. If you want any sort of range, add-ons and accessories are the only way to go, and I foresee absolutely no change in that.
    • by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Monday December 09, 2002 @03:48PM (#4845826) Journal
      >> and as such, the video card and sound card industries flail in lack of funds.

      You're being sarcastic, but they have suffered.

      We're down to NVidia and ATI for video, Creative Labs and Santa Cruz for audio. And both are pretty much stuck to producing 'higher end' cards geared at gamers or audiophiles, respectively.

      For the average office type desktop box, what's onboard is more than adequate. 6 channel AC97 and 64 megs shared-ram agp video is pretty hefty when you're just making up excel spreadsheets all day.

      Remember the cirrus logic, trident, savage, et al 2 meg workstation cards? Fire up the original dos version of Doom and look at all the different sound cards you had to choose from. All gone, all obsolete.

      Also, I don't think this is just internal usage. They're after integrated 802.11 just like one has integrated ethernet on the mobo. I envision a place to screw your antenna in on the rear IO panel.

      Which I'm all for. PCI cards take up too much room. We need to pave the way for smaller form factors.
      • Valid points, I'll more than give you that. But the average desktop user usually has some kids involved--beit themselves children or having kids. Kids like to play games, and usually will install a 3d one or two. That'll still tax a card, and even without good graphics, 3d games are getting larger and larger, and the cpu needs more power just to keep up. That's not even terribly high-end. I hate average users, but I don't think that most give them enough credit--I don't--and this is a good example of where. They know when something doesn't look good, and Quake III Arena on a built-in SiS video chip doesn't look good. Almost no gain from a built-in Wi-Fi chip won't look good.

        But valid visions on just some place to screw in an antennae on the back. That wouldn't surprise me in the least. But most built-ins will be--just as they are now--inaddequate for all but the most trivial uses. And with Wi-Fi becoming more and more accepted and used, the more power will be needed. Joe Schmoe won't be able to get good reception from his desktop in the bedroom of his 3 room apartment from his kitchen computer unless he gets an add-on card. And that's going to be a lot of add-on cards.
      • by nenolod ( 546272 )
        We're down to NVidia and ATI for video, Creative Labs and Santa Cruz for audio. And both are pretty much stuck to producing 'higher end' cards geared at gamers or audiophiles, respectively.

        You forgot Matrox, you insensitive clod.

        Also, I don't think this is just internal usage. They're after integrated 802.11 just like one has integrated ethernet on the mobo. I envision a place to screw your antenna in on the rear IO panel.

        Which I'm all for. PCI cards take up too much room. We need to pave the way for smaller form factors.


        Uh huh, and when everything's integrated, everything's proprietary. This means you havent a choice. So, yeah PCI might be a pain to you, but it does offer choices that integration of hardware cant provide.

        Remember the cirrus logic, trident, savage, et al 2 meg workstation cards? Fire up the original dos version of Doom and look at all the different sound cards you had to choose from. All gone, all obsolete.

        The original S3 Savage is 4MB and has 3D acceleration, __and__ they're still used in laptops (an updated version, i.e. more RAM).

        For the average office type desktop box, what's onboard is more than adequate. 6 channel AC97 and 64 megs shared-ram agp video is pretty hefty when you're just making up excel spreadsheets all day.

        I actually agree with you on that point. You are also right, many of the companies such as Aureal, S3 and many others have had to cut back operations, some even having to go out of business, but this is because they didnt have the balls to actually run their company where it actually was profitable.
    • Ah, yes, I see...just like how motherboard venders include sound and video, and as such, the video card and sound card industries flail in lack of funds.

      Your sarcasm is misplaced. The road of progress is littered with failed graphics card companies, and the big two (ATI and Nvidia) get by on sales of their chips, not their video cards. And a quick search for sound cards at OfficeMax showed only two cards. Doesn't exactly sound like a growning industry huh?

      Thats not to say that video and sound cards don't have their nitches (for example, gaming), but you simply can't make money marketing to a nitch (and especially not at 100 bucks a pop).

      When millons of computers are shipped with built in wi-fi, the same thing will happen to the wireless market. Why would a large corporation buy any cards or add-ons when the 2000 PCs it just purchased can handle wi-fi just fine?
    • by fetta ( 141344 )
      " So, let me get this straight: because Intel packs wi-fi onto each intel chip, wi-fi won't sell as an accessory? Ah, yes, I see...just like how motherboard venders include sound and video, and as such, the video card and sound card industries flail in lack of funds."

      The companies that used to make "Super I/O cards" may turn out to be a better comparison. The market for separate cards for IDE controllers, serial ports, and parallel ports, hasn't disappeared (after all, Promise makes some money selling their IDE controllers), but it's tiny compared to what it was before these features became standard as an integrated part of the motherboard.

      With sound and video, there are clear gradations of quality. Wireless network access is more of a binary quality - it either works or it doesn't. There will probably always be a niche market for external wireless adapters with special features (longer range, etc), but I suspect that integrated wireless access devices will become the norm.
    • The gain from a chip and antennae embedded on a chip isn't going to be that great. Intel's mainly doing it for internal purposes. If you want any sort of range, add-ons and accessories are the only way to go, and I foresee absolutely no change in that.

      Well, not exactly. What they are working on is the capability to seamlessly integrate wifi (and other radio) functions into any chip without any added cost.

      From this article [thefeature.com]:

      Integrating radios into chips is more than just an engineering accomplishment. It has profound consequences for the devices and services that make use of those chips. The most obvious advantage is price. When the addition of wireless communications to a device adds negligible cost to the device, there's no reason not to do so. Eventually, predicts Kahn, "communications is going to become essentially free." Another advantage of building RF capabilities into CPUs is that wireless devices will have newfound smarts, because they will be able to take advantage of the computational power of the microprocessor. They will be able to sense and adapt to whatever wireless networks are within range. Such flexibility initially adds costs. If the goal is to build a radio that handles one frequency band and protocol, the best solution may be a hard-wired, special-purpose chip. Move to two radios, then three, and the advantage begins to dissipate. At some point, the flexible solution always wins. And not just because there isn't space in a handset for four radio chipsets. Volume is everything in chip production, because fabs and equipment represent the bulk of the costs. A chip that goes into 100 million devices may be cheaper than one built for only 10 million, even though it's more complex inside.
    • The story says every DEVICE using an Intel CHIP will have WiFi. This threatens small players who want to sell you a plug-in card for your device (such as a PDA) since you already have it built in.
  • by Positive Charge ( 592093 ) on Monday December 09, 2002 @03:40PM (#4845754) Homepage
    What's the matter? There isn't a single link to a graph or a chart. What am I supposed to do, read it or what?
  • by EverlastingPhelps ( 568113 ) on Monday December 09, 2002 @03:41PM (#4845755) Homepage
    Meanwhile, Intel is planning to have every device that uses an Intel chip Wi-Fi enabled which will make it difficult for companies that sell Wi-Fi as an accessory to prosper.
    Does this mean that they are going to put Wi-Fi in stuff that has imbedded processors, or just computers? Are they going to try to make it a requirement for people who buying bare processors?

    I think that a lot of that is over-reaction anyway. Airport hasn't killed Wi-Fi in the Apple market. Airport cards and base stations are great, but I know lots of people who use aftermarket cards and third-party base stations. Intel is going to be a strong competetor, but that doesn't mean that they can M$ the other makers out.

  • about information wanting to be free, but that would simply be stupid. Instead, I'll simply say that big business likes to try to charge for anything and everything, expecting to make a profit. This doesn't mean it's feasable or reasonable, even if it's something the public wants. Wifi as a utility? perhaps. Wifi as a profitmaker? I doubt it. Personally, I think if it were a nonprofit deal like PBS, it'd be more feasable. However, the trick is getting people interested enough to pay for it, and enough people to consistently pay for it to keep it up.
  • Oh Really? (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by warpSpeed ( 67927 )
    Wi-Fi Spreading Fast But Lacks Profits

    Sounds like the internet....

    :-P

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 09, 2002 @03:43PM (#4845788)
    Wi-Fi Internet Access Is Hot, but Its Profit Potential Is Tepid
    By BARNABY J. FEDER

    With the Wi-Fi wireless Internet access standard becoming a bandwagon that even big players like AT&T, I.B.M. and Intel are joining, equipment companies big and small are hoping to ride along. But many industry analysts say it could be hard to make money in Wi-Fi, which is unlikely to represent more than a tiny fraction of the overall telecommunications equipment market for at least several years.

    Many of the early leaders in Wi-Fi are obscure companies like Proxim, Buffalo, Linksys and Dlink. And those that do not sell gear directly to consumers must rely on selling to Wi-Fi service providers that are themselves start-ups still trying to find their way, companies like Boingo Wireless, HereUAre Communications, FatPort and Surf and Sip. The service providers set up "hot spots" at places like airport lounges or Starbucks coffee shops, where anyone with a laptop computer or other device equipped for Wi-Fi can go online.

    While analysts hesitate to predict that any of these companies will survive to become widely recognized brands like Netscape, the resemblance to the Internet craze of the 1990's has been widely noted.
    "There is a bit of a bubble here," said Dylan Brooks, a wireless communications analyst at Jupiter Research. "We've had more than $2 billion in venture capital money flowing in, more than total revenues."

    Most of those ventures are destined to flop, analysts say. Even established technology companies -- like Cisco Systems, the leading seller of Wi-Fi gear; Symbol Technologies; and the Hewlett-Packard Company -- face an uphill battle to earn profits with Wi-Fi because competition is driving prices down so rapidly.

    Meanwhile, specialty chip makers like Intersil, Broadcom and Agere have been facing growing competition in the Wi-Fi market from their counterparts in Asia. And with Intel leading the charge to make Wi-Fi part of every device that carries an Intel processor, business may be tough for companies like Intermec Technologies and Linksys, which have been making some of their money from Wi-Fi adapter cards sold separately to computer owners.

    With prices of Wi-Fi chips and networking equipment plummeting even as unit sales are soaring, the industry's revenues are not expected to top $3 billion -- 1 percent of the worldwide market for telecommunications equipment -- before 2006, according to Synergy Research.

    Wi-Fi received perhaps its biggest publicity push yet when Cometa Networks, a new company whose backers include Intel, AT&T and International Business Machines, said last week that it would roll out a nationwide wireless network for Internet access based on Wi-Fi.

    The term Wi-Fi is shorthand for wireless fidelity. Wi-Fi covers a set of design rules formally known as 802.11, which were developed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a nonprofit group.

    The 802.11 standards differ from another fast-growing new wireless standard called Bluetooth in that they are best suited for transmitting data over distances of up to a few hundred feet instead of just a few feet. The most popular Wi-Fi variant at the moment, 802.11b, is also much faster than Bluetooth, operating at up to 11 million bits per second -- or about eight times the speed of D.S.L. and cable modems. Still reading this lame post? Get a life and go read it yourself. But today's Wi-Fi chips are power-hungry, making them less practical for small devices like hand-held computers or cellphones.
  • really? (Score:2, Insightful)

    Corporations are reluctant to embrace them because of security concerns
    well they sure embraced MS windows and thats a much bigger 'security concern' IMHO. This isn't just a microsoft flame, im serious. I would be much more comfortable running some linux distro with wifi than I would be with running MS over wifi. I feel the same about copper too I suppose.
    • True Story:
      Boss insists on getting wireless base station for the office for visitors, people that come in and out with laptops. I'm fine with that, I think, "No problem, I can turn on the encryption, require a password to connect to the wifi network, and we're good".
      Boss tells me "That's too much trouble, I want to just come in and have it work"
      I'm like, ok, no problem. You get internet access then. So I hook the WAP up so that it doesn't have access to our internal network, just to the internet. What do I hear next? "Why can't I print? Why can't I see the shared drives?!" A 45 minute explanation on why we shouldn't have our network browsable by every college kid drinking coffee downtown and he stops ranting. Only to come in a week later asking why he can't print. So now, whenever he is here, I have the WAP plugged in to the whole network, so anyone could just wander by and join our network, browse it, check out the shared drives.... Luckily the important stuff is a bit more secure. But not much. Once you get onto our network half of the defense is gone anways... Drives me crazy, because if our network gets compromised I'm the one who gets the blame.

      Kintanon
    • A wifi network that broadcasts to the point where outsiders can sniff packets must be treated like it's directly on the internet, rather than behind a firewall. An ms network behind a firewall is easier to secure. In the end, the sysadmin maintaining a network is the more likely the weak or strong point in maintaining security, not linux vs windows.
  • Some entrepreneurs say the potential market includes apartment buildings and small office buildings.

    You bet! Companies like DirectTV went after that (satellite TV) market and they seemed to be very successful. It makes a lot of sense to go this route with wireless internet as well. There is an apartment community in San Jose, California that has already went this route. But that place was built within the last year, so it was pretty easy for them to add the infrastructure while building.

    --

    Yersex on the internet [tilegarden.com]
  • to mandate that all computers be wireless enabled in five years... get the industry moving in the right direction. --Me

    My meatgrinder is bigger than yours. [hazardfactory.org]

    • to mandate that all computers be wireless enabled in five years... get the industry moving in the right direction.

      No, we fucking don't. It's not the gov't job to mandate technology changes unless it benefits people as a whole. And even then, it's questionable. I'm perfectly happy paying $10 for a cheap-o NIC. I have no use for wireless whatsoever. I don't want to have to pay $50 for a NIC just because the gov't mandates it.
  • I put WiFi in my house in July of 2000. By January 2001 my wife's law school had it in the library. By May 2001 it was in a few buildings at work. By August 2001 the aforementioned law school had it in all the classrooms.

    The problem with a distributed wireless network is that you need distributed electrical power -- when your electricity goes out, having battery power or even generated power in your own house doesn't do much for the WiFi network in the neighborhood, since everybody is out of power -- leaving you with no network to speak of.

    Of course, by that time you're probably more worried about ice-coated tree limbs smashing through the roof than lack of internet access.
    • The problem with a distributed wireless network is that you need distributed electrical power -- when your electricity goes out, having battery power or even generated power in your own house doesn't do much for the WiFi network in the neighborhood, since everybody is out of power -- leaving you with no network to speak of.


      ******bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz**********

      wrong!

      That is why you need a *nice* UPS attached to the network equipment (an APC 1000 or APC 1200 would do nicely here). The equipment should have a UPS to help protect it from surges and drops in power anyway, so this is a trivial matter if the network is set up properly. Even though the "power" may be out, your laptop still has batteries, and your home Internet connection should still be able to work (provided you have your router(s)/modem(s) plugged into the UPS. Routers and modems, especially the home versions (so lets call them sudo-routers) don't take much power.

      Example: My company uses Time Warner's Road Runner service for bandwidth. Now given, we don't have a wireless network their, but all of our routers/modems/switches are on their own UPS. After the power went out one night due to severe weather, I heard a TON of beeping, but to the suprise of everyone else in the office, my machine was still able to contine the game of War Craft that I was playing, even with the power out. The power stayed off for 1/2 hour, during which time I finished my game and laughed at everone else that didn't have a laptop or a UPS attached to their machine (and because their battle.net account took a loss after they had basically won the game)

      Moral of the story: Power can be out, but the 'net will go on! (and so will the games!!!)

      WiFi would have worked even better in this case because I wouldn't have had to power the switches, just the modem and the wireless box (which means the batteries would have lasted longer!) Doh!
      • Yep. My wife and I have our WAP plugged into the UPS that once gave us 10 minutes (shut down time) for two desktops. Now the UPS only needs to power a cable modem and the WAP. It's good for at least two hours, and that's as long as the laptop batteries will last anyway.

        - Robin
  • You mean it's actually,

    1) Collect wi-fi
    2) ???
    3) Don't profit?!
  • Oh, wonderful: Inter will include Wifi in everything, and Micro$oft will enable it by default. Malicious hackers will have a field day.
  • by Toy G ( 533867 )
    Ask Titanium owners [osopinion.com] what it means to have a wireless device built deep into a metal-case pc... obviously the signal is less powerful and reliable. So who really wants a good wi-fi net will buy other hardware anyway.

    802.11 isn't ethernet ;)
  • Reminds me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by XNormal ( 8617 ) on Monday December 09, 2002 @03:48PM (#4845835) Homepage
    The internet was also another technology that was spreading fast but failed to bring lots of profits. Most of the money moving around was investments, not actual revenue. There are no easy profits. There are always competitors, margins are razor-thin and even if you are doing well you need to watch your back for the one that will bring you down. In other words - business as usual.

    That is, of course, unless you found some way to create a monopoly and maintain it. Monopolists are the only ones that get the goose that lays golden eggs. WiFi is not going to be that goose.
  • by strobexii ( 601986 ) on Monday December 09, 2002 @04:01PM (#4845932)
    It seems that Cometa networks, formed by tech giants AT&T, Intel, and IBM, will be the company to turn nationwide Wi-Fi into a reality. They plan on unrolling 20,000 access points across the top 50 U.S. metropolitan areas in two years. The service will be sold wholesale, and it's estimated that consumers will be able to access the network for between $10-$20 per month. The Times article mentions Cometa, but this Wireless NewsFactor article [wirelessnewsfactor.com] goes into more detail. And of course there is the company's own website [cometanetworks.com] as well.
  • by TVmisGuided ( 151197 ) <alan@jump.gmail@com> on Monday December 09, 2002 @04:02PM (#4845943) Homepage

    Okay, let's make this plain off the top...this post is probably at least 75% pure, unadulterated flamebait. Having said that...

    What is so hot about WiFi, anyway? I mean, I can see it for corporate and educational campuses, letting Joe or Jane User pop a card into their laptop, tablet, etc. and access the 'Net from wherever they happen to plop their arses. Email between colleagues, data-sharing for study groups and all that...those are the benefits of WiFi in those places. Beyond that, what's wrong with tried-and-true copper? Does everyone really need a wireless Ethernet adapter for their desktop box? I know I don't; I get along fabulously with a 10/100 switch feeding packets to the various boxen in the house, and it's good enough for server testing, print sharing and the occasional fragfest.

    My own position on the matter: For the 40% (my own estimate) of the American populace that has two or more boxen in the home and wants to network them, the best means is Cat5 in the walls. No interference from such sources as lightning, mercury lamps, microwave ovens, cordless phones and so on, no security risks with someone wardriving by and trying to crack in (yes, it's a remote concern here, but according to some "experts" it's also a valid concern), and in the long run it's a damn sight cheaper. So someone wants to plug a laptop into the network...what's so hard about leaving a length of cable dangling off the hub? 100baseT, 16-port hubs are well within the financial reach of anyone who can afford to run three computers in the home.

    Don't get me wrong here...I think the technology for 802.11b is a Very Good Thing Indeed. But Average Keyboard Pounders don't need it for most applications. Copper's cheaper, more reliable and keeps the snoops at bay.

    These are all my own, personal and (probably) minority views on the matter...YMMV.
    'Nuff said.

    • One aspect you overlook for home users are those of us not in new construction. I have a home thats 100 years old. Try snaking cable from the basement to my server closet on the 2nd floor. Not happening. In contrast, throw an 802.11b (in this case linksys) AP in the closet and you are up and running. In many cases, copper is much more expensive then a PCMCIA card and an AP.
      • Don't the walls in old homes (ie, balloon frame construction) have no intervening "firewall" horizontals (unless added during a renovation)? If that is the case, then the only "problem" areas would be the baseboard/ceiling joists to drill through - other than that you should be able to drop cable straight down the walls (hanging a weight off the end to help). If not, I am certain there are other ways to wire it - older houses tend to filled with funky nooks and crannies stuff can be hidden behind/in (maybe an old knob/post electrical run? Also, some old houses hid electrical wires behind baseboard/door molding "conduits" - check those).

        I am also not so sure copper is more expensive - unless you are one of those "my time is money" kinda guys (in which event I wonder if you lose sleep over sleeping) - I can see the expense of buying cable - but don't buy new, buy surplus (I recently managed to snag a 1/3 spool of fiber for $10.00 - spools of CAT5E were going for $5.00-10.00 for an almost whole box/spool - approx 8-900 feet). End connectors are cheap, so is the crimp tool (might as well get one as you will need it for other smaller cables later).

        Your only real expense is the time spent planning and installing. I suppose that time could be used in other ways (and hey, in a 100 year old house, there are several more important, and fun, things to worry about than a network).

      • I can relate to the old-construction thing, living in a house that's rapidly pushing 150 years old (and having recently remodeled a room). And 802.11b makes sense for people doing the laptop thing, especially if one or more of the residents is a student.

        My particular aversion comes with trying to do the wireless thing on a desktop box. It's a whole lot easier, for me anyway, to use the 10/100 card already there (or in one box's case, built onto the mobo) and run the Cat5. (Granted, I have an advantage in running all the boxen in the same room, so I haven't had to drill.) Perhaps if one or more laptops were involved I'd consider it, but not for desktop-to-desktop(/server) connections.

      • You're not creative enough.

        I used to live in a 100-year-old house. It had modern, 200-amp electricity and indoor plumbing. Those must've been pretty serious installation projects compared to the little stuff I did with it.

        It's had RG-58 installed for 10base-2, replaced by Cat5 for 10/100. The ISDN demarc was on the back of the house; the ISDN TA was at the front, upstairs, fed by a new run of Cat5. It's had cable TV, Primestar, and DirecTV. Along with a rooftop TV antenna and an FM antenna up in the attic. Telephones in every room without a toilet, with up to four live lines coming in at a given time.

        It's just not that hard to do with old wooden houses. They've all got complete crawlspaces or basements, and are topped with capacious attics - you can get anywhere on either floor from one of these places. The walls frequently contain completely disused chimneys, which make fine vertical conduit. If you're worried about water and chimney cruft harming your precious Cat5, just buy some that's Teflon insulated (read: "plenum").

        And since they've had plumbing and electricity added, all of these internal spaces are very likely to be easily accessible (unlike a modern buttoned-down house).

        If you're lucky, the structure might even be balloon-framed, with studs made of -long- lumber stretching from the roof to the foundation without interruption.

        And since the walls are either uninsulated or blown (unless it's been on fire in the past), you can shove wires down these stud cavities with a rod anywhere you want, without accumulating a snowball of fiberglass on the end of the rod.

        If it has forced-air heat, it's usually really, really easy to get wires from Point A to point B by way of ductwork.

        There's always a plethora of open passages left over at different times from the installation of indoor plumbing, centralized heating, knob-and-tube wiring, and then jacketed wiring.

        You've got it easy, running your skinny little Cat5 around, compared to the efforts of those who've lived there before to install modern utilities.

    • by richieb ( 3277 ) <richieb&gmail,com> on Monday December 09, 2002 @04:16PM (#4846062) Homepage Journal
      What is so hot about WiFi, anyway?

      Imagine a wireless mesh network covering the whole continent. Now you can get your data from one of the country to the other without going through any wires at all!

      If the routers are simply devices that everyone owns, and if enough of them are on all the time, you have a free connection between any of those devices.

      If you need more bandwidth we only need to allocate a large part of the spectrum (after all the spectrum belongs to the public and corps just rent it - let's evict them).

      Now throw in voice over IP and you have free telephone connections everywhere (just buy the right kind of hand set).

      I can think of whole bunch of other uses, and I'm sure there are people with better imagination than me.

    • What is so hot about WiFi, anyway?

      Convenience.

      It doesn't matter that it may lead to a lower quality end product, the fact is consumers *love* convenience, and are willing to trade off all sorts of other sources of value to get it.

      Of course cat5 is better. Everyone knows that. I use it. But it could take countless hours to put it in the walls, install wall plates, cut the patch cables to length, set up the hubs and routers in the basement.... and with WiFi all you need is one or two access points and an uplink and you'e all set. No assembly required.

      • It doesn't matter that it may lead to a lower quality end product, the fact is consumers *love* convenience, and are willing to trade off all sorts of other sources of value to get it.

        To lots of people, convenience means less time worrying about something. Lots of people just *won't* do something unless it's convenient, simply becuase they don't have the time.

        Why do you think people don't vote, or write their congresscritter about important topics? Why is it that McD can sell warmed up shit for $4? Why is it that people can't be bothered to figure out Linux and put up with the shite that M$ deliver?

        Simple, they don't have time to deal with it.

        [OBWIFI] it's my opinion that any technology (ie, WiFi) that increases convenience for the average user is good, as it increases their time to exercise other freedoms. Likewise, any technology (ie, proprietary .doc format) that reduces conveniance is a hindrance to society, and therefore evil.

    • Well, here's why:

      1. Copper/WiFi: Buildout of copper (or fiber!) is expensive as hell... several dollars a FOOT. Think about that, and compare to spending maybe a few hundred dollars on some point-to-point antennae and covering a few miles with higher throughput than a T1.

      2. CAT5 in the wall: I rent. I sure as hell can't drill holes in the wall or floor. What if I want to use a computer in a different room than the cable drop? What if I have roommates, and we don't want to or can't run CAT5 all over the friggin house? Don't get me wrong, the room with the cable-drop has CAT5 all over it... switches, routers, servers... I'm a geek. But I still want to jack in on the first floor of my house.

      3. This has become my new kick: community networks: Say I wanna share my cable modem and set up a small neighborhood network with my friends a few houses over? Am I supposed to run CAT5 over there? I don't think so.

      Don't get me wrong, I'm not slamming you. I'm just trying to answer your question of "why bother".
    • by yack0 ( 2832 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (lemiek)> on Monday December 09, 2002 @04:43PM (#4846294) Homepage
      > What is so hot about WiFi, anyway?

      I can go home and open my laptop and be on the net.
      I can come to the office, open my laptop and I'm on the net.
      I can go to three of my friends houses with wifi, open my laptop and I'm on the net.
      I don't need to run cable.
      I dont need to worry about finding the hub.
      I dont need to worry about reconfiguring anything.
      It just plain works for me.

      It's changed my work habits vastly. I don't sit at a linux X machine anymore, I just use my iBook and do things on the couch, the dining room table, the office, the bedroom, the toilet, even outside on the deck - I'm not tied into my desk with wires.

      And on top of that, I can walk around any major city and get internet access from people who allow me to have free access (I ask for IP's and they implicitly allow me in by granting me an IP - this isn't flame bait - just how I see it). It's nice.

      Wireless has changed the way I use computers. No longer am I tied to one place in my office or my home, I can work or play in comfort.

      HTH

      • Are all your networks set up in Ad-Hoc mode without encryption?

        They all have the same SSID?

        Or do you have (that is maintain) a lot of profiles, you can switch between?
        • > Are all your networks set up in Ad-Hoc mode without encryption?

          Nope, they all have WEP (not encryption, Wireless Equivalent Privacy) turned on. I have keys for all of them saved.

          > They all have the same SSID?

          Nope, all unique. I think that perhaps I might have trouble with it if there were similar SSID's - not knowing which key to use. I'll have to experiment with that.

          > Or do you have (that is maintain) a lot of profiles, you can switch between?

          I suppose that's the most accurate answer, but I don't have to worry about the switching of the profiles. I primarily use my iBook with OS 10.2. It sees the familiar SSID, tries the key I have stored and if it works, I'm online. If it doesn't, it prompts me for a password/key for that AP.

          Yes, saving the WEP keys and allowing access to them without me authenticating in any way is a little dangerous, but I consider my laptop sacred ground and 'secure'. More secure than most of my computers. Nobody ever borrows it and I always lock the session when I'm AFK. So, I generally consider it safe. Sure, a physical intrusion (theft and then disk work) would allow someone some access to things, but I think anyone going to steal my iBook won't care about the intellectual property, but the value of the iBook on ebay. ;)

          OS 10.2 makes jumping from AP to AP very very easy. It's nice not to have to worry about it, so I can concentrate on things like why the POP server isn't responding again ;)

          HTH

          j

    • Do you have a cell phone? Hasn't it changed the way you do your work and keep in touch with friends and family?
  • Intel is planning to have every device that uses an Intel chip Wi-Fi enabled...

    Will this be before or after they release the Octium 4 with its built-in modem?
  • And companies will continue to wait until this technology matures, gets secure, or gets useful. Where I work we're lucky to get 30 feet of reception, we're completely aware of most of the security issues and it's completely not worth it.

    I'd rather have fiber/speed to my nodes than them being able to take a laptop out in the rain, anyday, but perhaps that's just the geek/sun-fearer in me. Give me a tech like the potty robots that can replace all my cat5 with 10,000 Base-T fiber for under a grand and I'm there!
  • Speaking from the perspective as an Intel contractor who does product development/QA on wireless gear....I would NOT buy an Intel wireless device.
    They often develop gear in a joint venture with GemTek of Taiwan.

    Most slashdotters probably know that nearly all the wirless cracking/sniffing/snooping tools require the Prism chipset. Intersil/Prism makes some of the best 802.11 gear, and that is what is used by Cisco Aironet, and Orinoco (Lucent) gear. If Intel starts using a better wireless chipset...I would see this as a good thing.

    Until they do..i repeat. I WILL NOT buy the gear my own employer develops.
  • I would rather have just the antenna, so I can change my wireless ways as things get better and develop, and still maintain the sleekness and utility of a built in antenna.

    At at a minimum, PLEASE don't put the wifi chip on the mobo. make it user replaceable, like ram, so I can swap it with something better then that time comes. No? Maybe certain frequencies all need their own antenna design, and I need to get a clue... I just LOVE built in antennas etc on notebooks though.

  • by emptybody ( 12341 ) on Monday December 09, 2002 @04:49PM (#4846349) Homepage Journal
    If all WiFi clients were also repeaters/bridges, the network would be supported and built by the users.

    The wired internet was not a for profit system.
    Why do people insist that WiFi must be for profit?

    public open WPOPs should be all over the place. The more a pop is used, and the more pops/users there are, the more the infrastructure supporting it will grow.

    By virtue of using the system you would add to it's range and capacity.

    Just think if all cars had a WiFi repeater installed in them. the Highway becomes a true information highway. Packets jumping from car to car to get from anywhere to anywhere.

    A previous slashdot article talked about doing this with Cell Phones. The logic is sound. There just has to be enough supporting users.
  • There's all this talk about Wi-Fi, but have we really given IR networking a chance? I'm thinking giant lighthouses, sprinkled throughout our cities, shooting infra red beams in every direction. Not only will this give everyone 4 Mbps, but it'll keep us warm during the winter months.
  • I keep hearing about the 802.11b security concerns, but even ad-hoc security with SSH tunnels doesn't seem that difficult. Put the access point on its own Ethernet card, with only port 22 (or wherever you want to put SSH) open. WEP or no WEP, the only thing that you can connect to is SSH, and all transmissions are encrypted.

    Sure, people might be able to connect to the wireless network segment when war driving, but they can't access anything, and they can't see anything but the encrypted tunnel. That gets boring really fast.

    Am I missing something (I don't have 802.11 wireless yet), or is this just not that hard to secure?

    I consider 802.11b wireless to be the equivalent of an Ethernet cable. If you don't want people to see what's going on, encrypt. If you don't want people to be able to access services, shutdown the ports and firewall it. Right?
  • by Maul ( 83993 ) on Monday December 09, 2002 @05:32PM (#4846733) Journal
    According to our glorious department of homeland security, anyone who uses 802.11 is a TERRORIST, plain and simple. This article prooves it! [slashdot.org]

    It appears that the fast spread of 802.11 networks only prooves that terrorist cells are everywhere. All patriotic Americans should turn in ANYONE they see that appears to be accessing the internet with their laptop, as this is a sure sign that they are using the 802.11 terrorist network! They might be communicating directly with Osama himself!
  • What are the odds that NSA sattelites do (or soon will have) the capability to eavesdrop on 802.11 type communications? If WiFi really does become widespread, especially outside of the US of A, either through the efforts of Intel or others, I can imagine that this would be a boon for the NSA. After all, what's easier? Eavesdropping on data packets that don't route anywhere convinient to bug (and that route unpredictably in any case) or eavesdropping from space on the subject of interest's wireless LAN?

  • 1. Wifi Spreads fast
    2. Lack profits...
    3. ???
    4. Profit!
  • Adoption vs. Profit (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Infonaut ( 96956 ) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Monday December 09, 2002 @09:26PM (#4849707) Homepage Journal
    It's amazing to me that the technolgy and business press continually miss this obvious fact. Just because a technology is becoming widespread does not mean that it will instantly translate into profits.

    Part of the problem is that so many commentators treat the profitability part of the equation as an afterthought. "Ah, this technology is *so* great, someone will doubtless come up with a way to make a ton of money off it!"

    Unfortunately, that's not the way it works. Solid, profitable businesses generally backwards plan from profitability to execution to technology. The excellent book Good to Great [goodtogreat.com] by Jim Collins reveals that the truly long-lasting, best companies never specify particular technologies as the keys to their growth and success. Rather, the technology serves the larger goals of the company.

    We've become so enamored with technology as the spearhead of the New Economy that even after the Dot-Bomb implosion, we still tend to regard new technologies as economic saviors. But every evolutionary step in computer technology isn't a revolution, either of technology or of economics.

  • ...Intel will also have palladium or TCPA on those chips. So it's a kinda useless gesture.
  • Take the headline, "Wi-Fi Spreading Fast But Lacks Profit," replace [Wi-Fi] with [any Internet business idea], and you pretty much have the history of the net in a nutshell.

    When else in history have so many geeks been given so much money to have so much fun? Gotta love it!

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