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Hardware Hacking

OpenWrt Turns a $14 Card Reader Into the Smallest Wireless AP ( 43

An anonymous reader writes: The Zsun Wifi card reader is a tiny micro SD card reader with WiFi connectivity. While people managed to access the device's serial console a few months ago, the plan was to eventually run OpenWrt since it's based on the popular Atheros AR9331 WiSoC combined with 64MB RAM and 16MB SPI Flash. A team of Polish hackers have managed this feat, and have now posted instructions to install OpenWrt, as well as other documentation: for example, a description of the board's GPIOs.
Wireless Networking

Netgear Nighthawk X8 AC5300 Router With Active Antennas Tested ( 85

MojoKid writes: Netgear recently launched the Nighthawk X8 router, which is part of a new round of second-gen wireless AC devices dubbed "Wave 2", carrying the AC5300 moniker. Instead of using a 3x3 configuration with six antennae, this router offers a 4x4 configuration, with four internal antennae and four active external antennae, each with their own blue LEDs to signal their active state. The actual amplifiers are on the antennae themselves, rather than down on the main board, helping to boost the signal and minimize crosstalk and loss associated with modern PCB circuitry. Each 5GHz radio is able to broadcast at 2.1Gbps compared to 1.3Gbps on Gen 1 devices, and the bandwidth on the 2.4GHz channel is also increased from 600Mb/s on Gen 1 devices to 1GB/s. When you take both 5GHz channels at 2,100Mb/s and add it to the 1,000Mb/s on the 2.4GHz channel, you end up with a number around 5,300Mb/s, hence the branding. Performance-wise, the Nighthawk X8 is one of the fastest Wi-Fi routers on the market currently. However, its hefty price point might be hard to justify for most mainstream users. Enthusiasts and small office/home office users looking for ultimate range on a 5GHz channel with lots of clients connected will appreciate this routers throughput and power, however.

AT&T Brings Back Unlimited Mobile Data To Lure TV Subscribers ( 68

An anonymous reader writes: Five years after AT&T discontinued its unlimited mobile data plan, the company is bringing it back with a catch: users must be subscribed to DirecTV or U-verse TV as well. The service will start at $100/month for a single subscriber. Two additional users can be added for $40/month each, and the fourth is free. There's also one more caveat: "Customers that exceed 22 gigabytes of data use in one month will have their speed throttled during peak network traffic periods." AT&T looks to do battle with T-Mobile, who has a similar four-person plan. This is one of the first major consequences of AT&T's acquisition of DirecTV last year for $48.5 billion. The company says it will soon roll out other plans to combine the services.
The Internet

New York Begins Public Gigabit Wi-Fi Rollout ( 107

An anonymous reader writes: Workers in New York City have begun installing the city's first LinkNYC kiosks. The kiosks are free, public Wi-Fi access points, which are taking the spots formerly occupied by phone booths. 500 more of these hubs will be installed by mid-July, and the full network will eventually include over 7,500 of them. "Once completed, the hubs will also include USB device charging ports, touchscreen web browsing, and two 55-inch advertising displays." The displays are expected to bring the city $500 million in revenue over the next 12 years. When the project was announced in 2014, officials said construction would start "next year." They sure cut it close.
The Internet

French Legislation Would Block Tor and Restrict Free Wi-Fi ( 115

Several readers sent word that French newspaper Le Monde got its hands on documents showing the French government is debating two new pieces of legislation that are unfriendly to internet users. The first would ban people from sharing Wi-Fi connections during a state of emergency. "This comes from a police opinion included in the document: the reason being that it is apparently difficult to track individuals who use public Wi-Fi networks." The second would forbid the use of Tor within France's borders. "The main problem with such a ban on Tor is that it wouldn't achieve a whole lot. Would-be terrorists could still access Tor from outside the country, and if they did manage to access Tor from within France I doubt they're concerned about being arrested for illegal use of the network."
United Kingdom

Mother Blames Wi-Fi Allergy For Daughter's Suicide ( 503

An anonymous reader sends news that a UK woman named Debra Fry has begun a campaign to raise awareness for "electro-hypersensitivity" (EHS) after the suicide of her daughter, Jenny, earlier this year. Fry says her daughter was allergic to Wi-Fi, and blames Jenny's school for not removing wireless routers and other networking equipment. A 2005 report from the World Health Organization said, "EHS has no clear diagnostic criteria and there is no scientific basis to link EHS symptoms to EMF exposure. Further, EHS is not a medical diagnosis, nor is it clear that it represents a single medical problem." School officials were firm in declining to remove the equipment without solid evidence supporting Fry's claims. A public health official said, "The overall scientific evidence does not support the suggestion that such exposure causes acute symptoms or that some people are able to detect radiofrequency fields. Nevertheless effective treatments need to be found for these symptoms."
The Internet

No Such Thing As 'Unlimited' Data ( 622

An anonymous reader writes: According to an article at Wired, the era of 'unlimited' data services is coming to an end. Carriers don't give them out anymore unless they're hobbled, and they're even increasing the prices of grandfathered plans. Comcast's data caps are spreading, and Time Warner has been testing them for years as well. It's not even just about internet access — Microsoft recently decided to eliminate its unlimited cloud storage plan. The big question now is: were these companies cynical, or just naive? We have no way of evaluating their claims that a small number of users who abused the system caused it to be unprofitable for them. (A recent leaked memo from Comcast suggests it's about extracting more money, rather than network congestion.) But it's certainly true that limited plans make costs and revenue much easier to predict. Another question: were we, as consumers, naive in expecting these plans to last? As the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Unlimited data plans clearly won't work too well if everybody uses huge amounts. So did we let ourselves get suckered by clever marketing? T-Mobile plans may also be dropping unlimited data in 2016.
Wireless Networking

LA's Smart LED Street Lights Boost Wireless Connectivity ( 75

An anonymous reader writes: Los Angeles will introduce a smart street lighting system, featuring connected LEDs and fully-integrated 4G LTE wireless technology. In a collaboration between Dutch tech firm Philips and Swedish telco Ericsson, the SmartPole project aims to deliver LA citizens public lighting which is energy efficient and improves network performance in urban areas. By the close of this week, a total of 24 SmartPoles will be installed across the Hollywood area. The city plans to place 100 poles over the coming year, with a further 500 to follow.

Apple Faces Class Action Lawsuit Over iOS Wi-Fi Assist ( 212

An anonymous reader writes: A class-action suit has been filed against Apple in U.S. District Court over Wi-Fi Assist being turned on by default in iOS 9. Wi-Fi Assist is designed to switch to cellular data when a user is trying to perform an action over the internet on a poor Wi-Fi signal. This has the natural side effect of using cellular data. Since iOS 9 turned it on for many users, they weren't necessarily expecting that extra use, causing some of them to exceed their data caps. A former Apple employee who was in a leadership position for Mac OS X Wi-Fi software has commented on the issue, saying that the Wi-Fi Assist mess was unavoidable given how Apple's management treats that part of the business.

Quoting :"[O]ne particular directorial edict which I pushed back against at the end of my tenure sticks out as not just particularly telling, but deeply misguided: 'Make it self-healing.' Self healing in this context meaning that the networking system, Wi-Fi in particular, should try to correct problems that caused the network to fail, which, if you have spent any time trying to diagnose networking issues is a clear misunderstanding of the issues involved. ... Asking the devices which connect to this vast complex network of networks to detect, and then transparently fix problems in the infrastructure without the permission of the administrators is, well, it's absolutely the pinnacle of buzzword driven product management. Real pointy-haired boss territory."


Tattling Kettles Help Researchers Crack WiFi Networks In London ( 162

New submitter campuscodi writes: Security researchers at Pen Test Partners have found a security vulnerability in the iKettle Wi-Fi Electric Kettle that allows attackers to crack the password of the WiFi network to which the kettle is connected. Researchers say that using this simple trick and information about iKettles, they drove around London, cracked home WiFi networks, and created a map of insecure WiFi networks across the city. The same researchers cracked a Samsung smart-fridge this summer to disclose Gmail passwords. If you have 6 minutes, there's a YouTube video you can watch.

Sprint Will Start Throttling Customers Who Exceed 23GB Monthly ( 153

CNET reports (and CTO John Saw explains on the company's blog) that Sprint has decided to taper access to a slice of its "unlimited" wireless data customers, by throttling access (not curtailing it, at least) to those who slurp down more than 23 gigabytes per month -- the same cap that T-Mobile has imposed. If you think "throttled" and "unlimited" don't quite jibe to describe the same service, you're not the only one to quibble: CNET notes that regulators have "begun scrutinizing the carriers' practice [of slowing access past a cap]. In June, the Federal Communications Commission threatened to fine AT&T $100 million for deceiving its customers by mislabeling its service as unlimited. The FCC also challenged Verizon when the company planned to expand its data throttling policy to its 4G customers. The company retracted that policy last fall. In June, Verizon also stopped slowing unlimited-data traffic for 3G customers."

FCC's WiFi Rule-Making: Making It Fair For Both Open Source and Proprietary ( 173

Bruce Perens writes: The FCC wants to be sure that WiFi drivers don't cause interference with airport weather radars, but their proposal to lock down WiFi firmware, won't fly. Many commenters in the proceeding have made it clear that Open Source firmware for WiFi devices must remain legal. While an "alternative" proposal to the FCC that would require that all WiFi routers be Open Source is getting most of the publicity today, I have proposed another alternative that would be fair for both Open Source and proprietary software. It requires approval of the source code of a WiFi driver by a person with a technical license from FCC, the GROL+Radar, if that driver is to be mass-distributed in binary form for use by RF-naïve users by either the manufacturer or Open Source. The license assures that the responsible person actually understands how to protect radar systems in a WiFi driver. It's pretty easy for someone competent in radio engineering to pass the license test, and many thousands of people hold the license today. Vendors and Open Source are treated the same. It doesn't place restrictions on testing and development, or conversion of WiFi equipment to other radio services. And it includes an explanation of the problem, for those of you who don't know what the uproar is about.

802.11ac WiFi Router Round-Up Tests Broadcom XStream Platform Performance ( 77

MojoKid writes: Wireless routers are going through somewhat of a renaissance right now, thanks to the arrival of the 802.11ac standard that is "three times as fast as wireless-N" and the proliferation of Internet-connected devices in our homes and pockets. AC is backward compatible with all previous standards, and whereas 802.11n was only able to pump out 450Mb/s of total bandwidth, 802.11ac is capable of transmitting at up to 1,300Mbps on a 5GHz channel. AC capability is only available on the 5GHz channel, which has fewer devices on it than a typical 2.4GHz channel. The trade-off is that 5GHz signals typically don't travel as far as those on the 2.4GHz channel.

However, 802.11ac makes up for it with a technology named Beamforming, which allows it to figure out where devices are located and amplify the signal in their direction instead of just broadcasting in all directions like 802.11n. Also, while 802.11n supports only four streams of data, 802.11ac supports up to eight streams on channels that are twice as wide. HotHardware's AC Router round-up takes a look at four flagship AC routers from ASUS, TRENDnet, D-Link and Netgear. All are AC3200 routers that use the new Broadcom XStream 5G platform. Netgear's Nighthawk X6 tends to offer the best balance of performance in various use cases. However, all models performed similarly, with subtle variances in design, features and pricing left to differentiate them from one another.


iOS 9 'Wi-Fi Assist' Could Lead To Huge Wireless Bills 182

Dave Knott writes: One of the new features introduced in iOS9 is "Wi-Fi Assist." This enables your phone to automatically switch from Wi-Fi to a cellular connection when the Wi-Fi signal is poor. That's helpful if you're in the middle of watching a video or some other task on the internet that you don't want interrupted by spotty Wi-Fi service. Unfortunately, Wi-Fi Assist is enabled by default, which means that users may exceed their data cap without knowing it because their phone is silently switching their data connection from Wi-Fi to cellular.
Wireless Networking

25 Years Ago, a Meeting Spawned Wi-Fi 75

alphadogg writes: It was retail remodeling that spurred NCR, a venerable cash-register company, to find out how it could use newly opened frequencies to link registers and mainframes without wires. Its customers wanted to stop drilling new holes in their marble floors for cabling every time they changed a store layout. In 1985, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted to leave large blocks of spectrum unlicensed and let vendors build any kind of network they wanted as long as they didn't keep anyone else from using the frequencies. NCR jumped at the chance to develop a wireless LAN, something that didn't exist at the time, according to Vic Hayes, a former engineer at the company who's been called the Father of Wi-Fi.

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