Even the PD cares

03/23/05 | by steveg [mail] | Categories: WiFi

I was greeted at Artefino's today during the Wifi Cafe Crawl by new metro beat reporter of the Plain Dealer, Chris Seper. In a classic reprise of Mark Twain's "Rumors of my death were greatly exaggerated", Chris told me he briefly thought that I died few months ago when he read an easily misunderstood reference in writer-cheerleader, John Ettore's blog. Chris was genuinely surprised and concerned. Nice to see that the objectivity (or semblance thereof) of journalism doesn't reduce the reporters' compassion.

Goes to show the power of the word, via blog or traditional media. It also shows how why responsible writing is necessary. (no reflection on accomplished wordsmiths like John.)

Dooh! Make it easy!

03/23/05 | by steveg [mail] | Categories: WiFi

I had come to my attention during the Wifi Coffee Crawl, that new registration for the Cleveland WiFi Wiki was not inherently obvious. Though a random person who modeled for one of our pictures figured it out pretty easy and added an Arabica to the list as well as Jack Ricchuito, who added the Mustard Seed.

So I'm going to update and make it easier for people to register and then update the e'er changing. I'll also add a donation button (hint hint hint).

Tmobile blocking free hotspots

03/23/05 | by steveg [mail] | Categories: WiFi

As we discuss wifi on the wifi tour , at Cravings, Len of Jawbone Radio was wondering what is happening with Freelink in Star Plaza. Since my blogging hiatus, there was much activity about $tarbuck$/Tmobile on the Community Wireless listserv. The following are some excepts from the thread.

I think we may have found the "message" for our campaign: "they're much
more secure than you think they are, so [it's possible] they're also a
lot sneakier."
Kari Gray-San Francisco

manufacturers, particularly alcatel, have pitched me on product that does have some kind of blocking feature but i'm surprised you see the APs. because of unlicensed spectrum this is legal. then again it's probably legal to just spam the waves and kill their spot too.
stel valavanis- Chicago

It is illegal to interfere with someone else's signal, not to restrict your own. Nor do I think it is illegal to interfere with a signal if it is not intended to be received.

To illustrate the following cases.
1) Starbucks acts to prevent person sitting in Starbucks from using a
neighboring network that is accidentally left open because clueless person does not alter the default settings. NOT Illegal.

2) Starbucks prevents person sitting in cafe from reaching public hotspot
that overlaps Starbucks. Probably illegal.

Of course, one has to file a request for enforcement action. Also, I am
suggesting that it is illegal based on a straight reading of the
Communications Act. The FCC _could_ decide otherwise. The issue has never been presented to the FCC, or to a federal court.
Harold Feld- Washington DC

the feature that blocks user-user traffic is present on several APs now
especially those made for hotspots such as colubris. now this only works when you associate with an AP. you can still create an ad hoc network and share files though not while connected to the internet. now if you set it up right you can allow users to see each other at layer 3 while blocking layer 2 traffic and maybe some port such as RPC. this drastically minimizes viruses spreading. we've got that going all over on our wired networks and the people with the pagers get a lot more sleep. i am going to try something similar very soon on a wireless network.

wow i thought it was more of a free-for-all. perhaps somebody might be able to argue that in their own space they can block or facilitate others, contrary to point #2 below.
stel- Chicago

They can, but the FCC has sole authority over wireless communication in the United States, preempting right of action of private landlords. A landlord cannot prohibit me from watching TV, for example, by jamming the relevant wavelengths within a building.
Harold- Washington DC

ah i see. you don't control the "air" in your space. the FCC does.

I have a feeling that there is some mundane, non-sinister explanation
for the inaccessibility of the free hotspots in a T-Mobile "zone."
For example, if the hotspot is very busy, and your laptop "talks" to free
APs that are out of earshot for the for-pay AP (the free APs are "hidden
nodes" in the jargon), then the for-pay AP and the free APs will not be
able to coordinate their use of the band. The for-pay AP may, as a matter
of course, send packets that overlap with the packets from the free APs.

It is possible for T-Mobile to exploit security flaws in 802.11 to
trick your laptop into thinking that the free access points have
refused or cancelled your laptop's connection. This is not radio
jamming, precisely. It is a variety of "denial of service" attack.
You don't need the resources of T-Mobile to pull this "dirty trick,"
and I'm sure somebody has demonstrated at a security convention like
"Defcon." It would be fairly easy to prove that this is going on.
It could backfire, and interfere with WiFi outdoors or in adjacent
buildings. I would not want to defend this practice either to the press
or to a judge: it's like jamming cellphones in a Starbucks and saying,
"Feel free to place a call using the pay phone!"

I have this vague idea in mind that T-Mobile could also be doing tricks
with the timing of WiFi packets, but I will have to think about that more.

In sum, T-Mobile *could* be pulling nasty tricks on Starbucks customers,
but I doubt there is anything sneaky going on.
Dave-Urbana, Ill.

Sometimes Influence is Just a Nudge

03/17/05 | by steveg [mail] | Categories: WiFi

Wondering what we are doing on this world is one of the classic ponderings since ancient days. Thoughts drift toward whether it really matters and if we have an effect on others around us. Good effects, we hope.

I discovered a new NEO blog by SuperBarista, Sarah Wilson-Jones. I told her a blog would make an impact (not that George never said that to her before) and she even mentions me in her first post. Welcome, Sarah, to the wounderful world of the blogsphere. I think you will enjoy it, add to it, and thrive in it.

What the Hell am I?

03/10/05 | by steveg [mail] | Categories: WiFi

I appreciate the effort and willingness of Jack and George to answer my "ping" and be at dinner last night. The conversation came into a great analysis and categorization of types of people; Have'ers, Do'ers, and Be'ers. Jack does a great job of describing it at Gassho here and here.

George put in context of blogging. The distinguisher of have a blog, doing a blog, and being a blogger. I realized that I used to be a blogger and did the blogging thing on my own blogsite. Then as I allowed myself to get overextended and just started to do the blog on my own blogsite, with the mediocre results you all surely recognized. Now I merely have a blogsite that I post to occasionally.

I threw out the idea at dinner, though, that the intention is what sets the definition. So, if I look to be a blogger (again), does that make me a Be'er?

Actually I want to be many things. That is what I have been struggling with the past few months. I do some things, but I don't have much materially. I have ideals, some vision, and desire to do better. And I have hope. So what the hell am I?

Skype connecting

02/23/05 | by steveg [mail] | Categories: WiFi

George posted on Brewed Fresh Daily about Valdis having cheap conversations via VoIP a la SKYPE.
I was on retreat in Michigan when I decided to scan email to keep the volume down, when I got Valdis' announcement. I quickly skyped him to see how the quality was and just to catch up. The quality was fab, and I was attracting a crowd with my headset in the basement of Jewel Heart. (Pirating the free open hotspot of the nextdoor bar/restaurant). When I explained what was happening and telling them that Valdis was somewhere over the Atlantic, there was a communal "whoa!"

I notice that Edward Vielmetti, the subject of George thru Tim's posts, is from Ann Arbor and that was where I was. Lots of free wifi there, but doesn't look too coordinated. A Sangha mate is plugged in to the geek crowd there and when I told him about the plans to start mesh networking for Tremont's Wifi Neighborhood project, he proposed that we start talking and maybe collaborating to do the same for downtown Ann Arbor.

I have been keeping my head down as of late, but the karmic converges of synchronicity and serendipity continue to blaze a trail that forms the path under my feet.

A Different Take

01/06/05 | by steveg [mail] | Categories: WiFi

When we find ourselves sad, many times we see random tragic acts contribute to that sadness (like the tsunami) or that the rest of the people around us contribute by their actions or words. If we let it, this can drive a wedge between us and the rest of the world, setting up a sense of lonliness and isolation. We can find ourselves starting to react like those others; saying things hurtful, hording selfishly, cutting off other drivers, etc.

However, if we recognize that maybe those others are saying and doing those destructive things because they are reacting out of the same sadness we are feeling, then perhaps we can can cut them some slack. We could feel closer to them, even if they are strangers, linked by the common feeling of blah. And we can support one another in the community of sadness and not be alone and eventually pull each other into a new community of happiness.

Just a different and more appreciative take on the old slogan, "Misery loves company."

Suffering Change

12/17/04 | by steveg [mail] | Categories: WiFi

Not much to say but that I am meditating on impermanence, attachment, and ego. What touched this theme off? I left the startup consulting company I helped form.

WiFi Supression Conspiracy Grows

12/16/04 | by steveg [mail] | Categories: WiFi

Last week I asked if anybody else had trouble connecting to Playhouse Squares' Freelink from inside $Starbuck$. I asked the question to the Community Wireless Network listserv: "Could Tmobile be doing something sinister here?"

I got a response from Michael Oh, the brains behind the NewberryOpen.net and the SalemOpen.net in Massachusetts. (Newberry used the underground marketing tactic of spraying signal into a $tarbuck$ from a mobile access point. See his presentation with pictures of the sneak attack here.)

Something similar, but not directly related. There was a time that Starbucks had APs that would allow you to ping the broadcast address and then find others on the network, presumably allowing you to file share and things, etc.

Recently (i.e. in the last few months), Starbucks has increased their security to include 802.1x as well, which I suspect means either new APs or new firmware on their boxes. At the same time, it looks like they do some sort of blocking between wireless connections, so that even if you know the other person's IP on wireless, you can't do anything - no file sharing, pinging, nothing. Sorry, guys, no more file sharing at Starbucks.

[As a side note, the reason that we found this out was for a TV spot where they wanted us to prove that Starbucks was just as insecure as other networks. Imagine our embarrassment. Luckily, it made for bad TV, so that section went on the cutting room floor.]

It's possible that they're using enterprise technologies that do "block" other APs - a la Airespace (I'm not sure how they do it), but I would think it would be unlikely for you to even attach to an AP if that was the case.

Short story: they're much more secure than you think they are, so it's possible they're also a lot sneakier.


Sascha Meinrath, the organizer of the National Summit chimed in as well.

This is a really sad development. Basically, it's an artificial limiting of the resources that would otherwise be available to network users. Basically eliminating the LAN aspects of a WAP. Seems rather foolhardy to me, but then again, the whole pay-for-access business model is pretty silly.

But it is strange that Starbucks wants to shoot itself in the other foot -- spending time and money to make the service _less_ useful to customers.

Sangha Support

12/16/04 | by steveg [mail] | Categories: WiFi

Last night in my Lam Rim class (Gradual Path to Enlightenment by Tsongkhapa as taught by Gelek Rimpoche in only 64 short "easy" steps), we were discussing the Paramita (Perfection) of patience. Patience is the antedote to anger and traditionally, students review the hazards of not being patient, the benefits of being patient, and finally decide to develop patience.

I shared that my anger is usually rooted in frustration and that it from there that the anger blooms into a fiery barage of explicitives, gestures, and the occasional kicked object. In my defense, I always tended to be slow to the anger and I have made strides in recent years to keep a lid on what did bubble to the surface. But what I am now left with is the precursor frustration and I find that things that worked as I felt the anger arise, doesn't have much effect on the frustration.

Sometimes the frustration dissipates on its own, sometimes not. But just saying to myself, "Be patient, Steve" and hoping for the best doesn't quite have the control I'm supposed to be developing in this Buddhist mindtraining work. So I threw it out to my classmates, "How do I create patience in the face of frustration before anger arises?" The answers are amazing:

  1. Be aware of the frustration. To know it is there is the first step to doing something about it.
  2. Take yourself out it. Being the center of the universe has a big burden with it. Being on the periphery gives perspective and removes the pressure.
  3. Find a realistic time perspective. With a multi-life view, time becomes less critical. Who gives a yutz in a hundred years?
  4. Recognize that others are reacting out the illness of delusion, the same illness you are working to recover from. Cut them some slack.
  5. Have a sense of humor. Most of the time the object of frustration is so minor, its laughable.
  6. Keep working on it. Don't get frustrated by frustration (see number 4)

The cool thing is that the classleader didn't have to help at all. It was all from my classmates, most of whom have been learning this stuff at the same time and rate that I have. All contributed, not to show off how much more they read than me, but from a pure desire to help me get by a difficult part of my spiritual development. The 6 Paramitas are central to the actions of bodhisattvas and it seems that my class, my Sangha are learning it in earnest.

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