Arriva trains changes to their onboard wifi service

transport for wales terriable wifi

I noticed Arriva trains (now Transport for Wales) have changed their policy on board wifi usage. I had problems with it in the past…

Now instead of cutting you off when you hit the shocking amount of 20meg (yes you heard me right – 20meg!) They throttle the internet to your device at 20meg.

Its still not ideal but I do feel its a better compromise that cutting the internet completely. Especially because frankly the signal from tethered phones during the journey through south Wales can be pretty poor for miles and miles.

Worm attacks over unsecured protocals

Philips Elevation Ambilight+hue

Bruce Schneier isn’t the only person worried about this type of attack. I already turned off external access to my Hue lights following the IOT bot net news.

This is exactly the sort of Internet-of-Things attack that has me worried:

“IoT Goes Nuclear: Creating a ZigBee Chain Reaction” by Eyal Ronen, Colin OFlynn, Adi Shamir and Achi-Or Weingarten.

Abstract: Within the next few years, billions of IoT devices will densely populate our cities. In this paper we describe a new type of threat in which adjacent IoT devices will infect each other with a worm that will spread explosively over large areas in a kind of nuclear chain reaction, provided that the density of compatible IoT devices exceeds a certain critical mass. In particular, we developed and verified such an infection using the popular Philips Hue smart lamps as a platform. The worm spreads by jumping directly from one lamp to its neighbors, using only their built-in ZigBee wireless connectivity and their physical proximity. The attack can start by plugging in a single infected bulb anywhere in the city, and then catastrophically spread everywhere within minutes, enabling the attacker to turn all the city lights on or off, permanently brick them, or exploit them in a massive DDOS attack.

Changes to the home network

Just about to make a number of changes to my ageing network.

First up, its time to upgrade my XBMC box in the living room, to something more modern and smaller. Right now I’m using a Lenovo Thinkcentre  A55 mini desktop machine to something smaller and can handle full HD without struggle (specially now I got my new full HD TV). A friend has suggested the Feteko MyGica EnjoyTV 510B, but what puts me off is the 10/100 networking and it runs Android.

My home network backbone is gigabit and most devices are gigabit including the Thinkcentre but after doing some recent reading and tests, I have concluded that the speed of reading data off the hard discs is slower than pushing it around the network. I was using NFS mounts for a while which seemed more efficient but I’ve switched back to Samba after not really understanding how NFS mounts work correctly and installing Plex Home server. Seems my Samba setup isn’t caching as much as I would have liked. This all in all means 10/100 device should be ok to receive media from around the network.

Android? My biggest issue with Android as the background operating system is I’m not certain its as flexible as Ubuntu and XBMC is still in beta on Android. Because this is my main XBMC box, it needs to be super reliable and play everything. I do want to get the live TV functionality in the Frodo release of XBMC working too.

On top of all that… I’m also looking to firmware of the Edimax BR-6574N router I have to the classic DD WRT firmware, mainly because I want to sort out a VPN into my home network.

Yes quite a few changes… luckily I got to use up my holidays before April

I bought a Fitbit twice?

Fitbit Ultra

One of my new year’s resolutions was to Be fitter and heather

Been consistently loosing weight at a slow pace but I do need to do more exercise. I’m hoping to find more of the things I like doing including volleyball in the next year. I’ve been consider a lot of what happens in the QS (quantified self) world and eying up the FitBit Ultra as it seems just open enough to do interesting things and work with my setup. My family got me enough Amazon credits to buy one which is great.

So I bought a Fitbit Ultra… Unfortunately its certainly a pain… More of a pain that I was prepared for originally.

First problem was the fact you need to get it started by using its own proprietary dock and software. I don’t have a spare Virtual Machine on my new laptop and I rather not go through the hassle of running a VM just to setup it up. So I went to my neighbor and he set it up instead.

Once that was done, I was able to see the stats on the website and the android apps which I installed. However I wasn’t getting updates…

In the end I saw they launched another Fitbit, titled Fitbit One which synced over Bluetooth 4.0 instead. So I swapped it and paid the difference on Amazon…

Although I still had to do the original setup using a mac or pc. The hope is I will be able to do the syncing from now on over the Bluetooth connection of my ubuntu laptop, or my phone/tablet with the fitbit app. Weirdly I can’t seem to find Ubuntu drivers for Bluetooth 4.0, altought Bluez says they have some support. Frustratingly this “feature” is still coming on Android although it works on iOS devices (as usual)

I’m holding out hope for the OpenYou project. But right now, it seems to be a process of waiting and waiting. During that time I’ll keep using it and hoping it keeps the data till its sorted…

What ever happened to the PAN?

Hooping

I remember ages ago when I was at University the concept of a Personal Area Network was heavily talked about but over the last 10 years I have heard very little about it. Now with the internet of things (IoT) coming into full effect, it seems a very good time to revive it from its dormant sleep?

From Wikipedia

A personal area network (PAN) is a computer network used for communication among computerized devices, including telephones and personal digital assistants. PANs can be used for communication among the personal devices themselves (intrapersonal communication), or for connecting to a higher level network and the Internet (an uplink). A wireless personal area network (WPAN) is a PAN carried over wireless network technologies such as IrDA, Bluetooth, Wireless USB, Z-Wave, ZigBee, or even Body Area Network. The reach of a WPAN varies from a few centimeters to a few meters.

The PAN should always operate in your benefit and not against you. Devices can freely communicate within the PAN but not so easily outwards. I imagine it would work something like a 2 way firewall blocking items within it from communicating out and vice-versa. As devices enter the trusted PAN zone, then permissions will be granted to allow external access, etc.

This does beg the question of how you do these type behaviours on a device with no buttons, screen, etc. But to be honest that’s a lovely interaction design problem to solve.

Fancinating to also see where the PAN is in the greater network topology…

Would be great to be able to specify rules based on the position of the thing/device. For example if an thing is classified/identified itself as needing to be on the BAN (body area network) then you can say its only allowed to talk to the PAN and never the NFC layer for example. Maybe it should come with defaults but they are changeable like the permissions used when trying to connect via OAuth.

Once again I’m not sure how to surface this to the user without some kind of external access like how you configure routers and switches now. But someone is working on it now I’m sure of that…

I quite like the Hula Hoop analogy. You can have multiple, some are bigger than others and some will overlap. You can even hula hoop around certain parts of the body rather than just your hips. Hula hoops are also shareable and I guess you can fit more than one person within them. However it still doesn’t explain how you control the wiring/influence/networking of the devices/things…

The best and worst of Hotel Wifi

Lloyd hotel from the north view

Hotelchatter posted up a list of its best and worst wifi enabled hotels. Its mainly American centric but there is a international version here.

Number one in the international version is the Lloydhotel.

Amsterdam: Lloyd Hotel. Free WiFi. Worked so fast in this large hotel. So fast we downloaded an entire season of The Office on iTunes within two hours.

Even 2 years ago it was flipping fast and effect-less. Every 4 rooms shared a wireless point and there was more that enough through-out the rest of the hotel to get wireless outside, the lobby and beyond. I think the only place you don't get wireless is in the lifts. I also got upgraded to the D level penthouse on the weekend, so I'm a little bias generally towards a simply awesome hotel.

Since joining Backstage, I've spent a lot of time in hotels and always try to pick hotels with Free Wireless. Usually the problem I get is that the wireless is in the lobby not the rooms or its not actually free its pay wireless by someone like Tmobile, BT or much worst Eurospot. The other issue is that most hotels don't care or have no one who actually knows the difference. When trying to book a hotel in Newcastle I phoned up about 12 hotels and at one point had to describe the BT open zone, Tmobile logos over the phone because the reception couldn't tell the difference between free and pay wifi. No lie!

So yes the situation in the UK is pretty dire once you get out there. I'm certainly thinking about submitting some of the hotels I've been to on the international hotelchatter site. I remember a hotel I stayed in during my last trip to Manchester, it costs equivalent to 10p a minute for internet access through a wired connection (there were no bundles or offers available) I believe it was operated by swissport or europort. And thats the biggest problem, you can read the website and find it does have internet access but what kind is unknown by even the staff or management.

On the upside, GNER trains have wireless through-out the trains and although it costs about 10 pounds for 24hours, its certainly worth it for a 6 hour journey to Scotland. Recently I heard the Cloud have covered the City of London (business square mile) in rich wifi. I don't think its free but at 11.99 per month for unlimited (yes what does unlimited really mean) data its not a bad deal if your wanting wireless in the UK. The cloud has also been pretty good about inter-operating with BT and I think you can even interop with Tmobile hotspots. There's no douht where ever you go now in London at least, there is some kind of wireless and its usually operated by one of the big 3. Sometimes I do see Orange hotspots, but I can't seem to get Orange to just add it to my existing mobile bill.

Generally its all a big mess but soon I'm sure like the Marriot adverts I keep seeing, hotels will wise up and start highlighting the fact they have free wireless (although I'm sure it will just get added into the room bill).

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Personal storage servers are back in fashion

Seagate D.A.V.E

Found on Engadget. Seagate D.A.V.E /images/emoticons/laugh.gifigital Audio Video Experience ) is simply a mobile hard drive with USB2, Bluetooth and Wireless. Its got a server built in so you can connect over wifi or bluetooth with almost any device. Currently it comes with 10-20gig of space, but there expecting much more in the near future. Oh and it launches in May.

My thoughts, on this very nice device which I can certainly see myself buying one. Does anyone remember the Toshiba Hopbit? Yes it didn't support Wireless and USB2 but the principle was the same. To be fair I wanted one of those a back in 2002 too.

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Phones on a plane and Free Wifi on GNER Train

ishida's seat from London to Edinburgh

Our good friend Rachel Clarke who now lives in New York (the movie piracy capital says the MPAA) asks Phones on Planes?

No. Please no. At least put them in a booth or something so the rest of us don’t have to hear them say ‘guess where i am, on a plane’.

I have to say, I don't quite think this is such a bad thing. Ideally there would be a restriction on high volume talking not mobile phones. Yes they seem to induce high volume chatter but if your using your mobile for Data then thats a whole different story right? I just look forward to the day when I can finally text my friends to say I'll be arriving at Chicago O'hare in 30mins rather than waiting till I'm through customs. Although, like most people I also turn on my phone the moment I get off the plane. Another reason for mobiles on a plane is the fact that airplane phones already exist. They hardly used because once you swip your card, you can feel the timer eating through your money. The cost aspect as applies to in the air wireless which has stupid prices attached. I think having the ability to use your own dataplan/phone will finally break those stupid in the air monoploies.

Talking about Wireless. I thought I'd give a big thumbs up to GNER's Free Wireless onboard the train between Leeds and London Kings Cross. This is how I'm currently replying to all my emails and blogging. Its also pretty damm fast, the upload speed is bad (ping times of 1000 to my network) but general browsing and IM are good. From what I'm reading the Wifi shouldn't be free but trust me it is and there's no blocked ports or anything. I was able to VPN into my network using Hamachi and VPN into the BBC. Oh I also forget to mention there is power on some of the carriages in GNER and it also seems First Trains in the North of England. So from now, when traveling up to Northern England, I'll be traveling by train! This is great because I've been meaning to cut down on my air travel and I end up feeling terriable after flying. It may take longer on the train but its comfitable and you can actually relax with a reasonable amount of leg room.

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Ultra Wifi is coming

11.99 pounds unlimited wifi

This arrived in my inbox today.

Thank you for registering your interest in Ultra WiFi. We've been thrilled by the response to the offer and we are pleased to announce that Ultra WiFi will go on sale July 4th. It's a big step forward for WiFi in the UK as Ultra WiFi will finally bring people the great value, always on, internet access on the move they have been asking for.

Ultra WiFi is unlimited low-cost WiFi for just £11.99 per month. You commit to a 12 month contract and we commit to bring you low cost all-you-can-eat WiFi at Cloud hotspots and Hotzones across the UK.

With over 7,000 Cloud hotspots across the UK, including 9 city centre hotzones and hundreds of new sites every month, we are confident that no other WiFi provider can match this offer in terms of price and coverage.

We will email you next week so you can sign up for Ultra WiFi directly from The Cloud website.

Kind Regards

The Cloud Networks
Your wireless route to the Internet

Please see www.thecloud.net/ultrawifi for details.

Well like I said previously, its tempting. I mean its far off most broadband costs and everything mobile device I own, supports wifi including my phone. I like the idea of running Skype on my phone, specially now I know it works thanks to David. Yes I understand the cloud isn't everywhere and there are others like Fon arriving on the scene everyday. But to be honest, everywhere I tend to go has the cloud. Hummm, I might wait this one out a little and see what happens.

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The cloud finally becomes a real alternative?

The Cloud

I actually saw this in Tom's blog. Mobile operators face wi-fi challenge. The crux of the article is here

The UK's mobile phone networks will come under attack today as wireless internet provider The Cloud announces a low-cost tariff for unlimited web access, making it easier for people to make free calls through the web from big cities, rather than use their mobile phones.

The Cloud is Europe's biggest operator of wireless technology, commonly called wi-fi, and its network is used by companies including BT, O2 and Nintendo. It is offering an £11.99 a month “all you can eat” internet deal covering 7,000 hotspots in Britain.

That will allow low-cost internet telephony in cities including London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham. Using the internet to make calls has already disrupted the business models of fixed-line telecoms operators such as France Télécom.

And my feelings are, that this is a good thing. Competition is great for the market and this may shake the hold Orange, O2, Vodafone, 3 and Tmobile currently have on the wireless/mobile space. Yes I'll still be paying some other corp for the access but hey I don't mind paying for Wifi if its in 75 percent of the places I go in London. And to be honest 11.99 per month isn't bad if your out and about a lot. Compare it to GPRS or even 3G data costs and 11.99 for a months worth of unlimited data is a bargin. Even compared to a broadband connection of say 20 pounds per month its actually not that bad. Some people may beable to even dump there broandband connection if they live close enough to a hotspot and the service is reliable (big question that).

Theres no douht in my mind that central London is pretty much covered with Wifi but funny enough even out in SE18 there is a selection of wifi near myself. One of those pubs is only 2mins away from my house.

Hey there is a reason why I picked a phone which supports Wifi out of the box. Skype may not run well on it yet, but give it time, plus lets not forget theres other VOIP solutions and always online instant messenger sounds great to myself. Once there is a symbian version of Skype the required cpu speed will drop and my phone will run skype like a dream. Till then I still have my wifi ipaq which runs Skype right now.

Don't forget to sign up if your interested in 11.99 pound unlimited wifi.

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Geeking the difference between San Fran and London

San Francisco skyline

Ben's been doing a comparison between London and San Francisco and honestly it sounds like heaven for a geek like myself.

Sure, in London we have geek dinners and there’s lots of opportunities to meet up with other peeps who work at BBC (lunch in the White City canteen, in the local BBC bars, etc). But it’s not every night…

I mean can you imagine hanging out with geeks most of the time when going out? Geez, sounds like good to me, no offense to anyone in London of course but its good to be around like minded people sometimes. Moving on…

The other great thing about San Francisco is the coffee shop culture. It’s 18:30 on a Sunday evening and we’re in Ritual Roasters with our laptops out sipping on large cups of extremely tasty java. And of course there is free WiFi (every coffee shop has wifi). Looking around me there must be at least a third of the café’s cliental using laptops. Having your laptop out in a coffee shop in the UK would not only be slightly unusual but also pretty fruitless – or expensive — as most coffee shops either have no wifi or wifi paid for by the hour.

Wow, if only. Now I hear London has more wireless that anyone else but I swear most of it is owned by BT, McDonalds, Tmobile and the Cloud. Usually if you look around you can find coffee shops near wireless points but its rare. Electricity isn't so much of a problem but yeah connectivity is usual left to your 3G or GPRS phone. On the plus side there is tons of pubs and bars across London, some more laptop friendly than others and they shut about 11pm unlike coffee shops which shut at about 7-8pm (at least in the UK). But Ben's next paragraph strikes a cord with me.

In the UK, we have pub culture – which doesn’t suit me at all. I don’t drink alcohol and I don’t particularly like smokey atmospheres. And there’s only so much lemonade you want to drink. Coffee on the other hand is not only my solitary vice but I’m also quite the connoisseur. WiFi in the pub, I don’t think so… Spending the equivilent of £2 on a coffee and being welcome to sit in a cafe for as long as you like using their chair, table and wifi in London… Forget it.

See its so odd, Ben and me are a like in our distaste of alcohol. I don't know what it is but the only drink I will drink if I have to is something soft with vodka. I will drink red wine with a nice meal but usually I much prefer to have a nice can of Redbull over rocks. And honestly I could happily and would much prefer to go to a coffee shop till late. Coffee shop culture maybe thought of as a American thing, but I'm not so sure because going out in Berlin and other large western european cities has always been a coffee shop type experience. Its pretty cool to go out and drink a few cups of strong blended coffee with friends before heading to a club or party. I'll be honest and say I would happily give up pub culture for coffee shop culture.

I'm very interesting to hear what the San Francisco ‘Out of Towner’ with Ben Metcalfe event will be like on March 2nd. Good on you Ben, but I still can not see myself moving to America any time soon. Canada maybe.

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