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Being Wireless: Viral Telecommunications 203

sh4na writes "3G is out before it is ever in... because, as Nicholas Negroponte puts it, the *real* next generation is the Wi-Fi "lily pads and frogs" concept. Wouldn't it be great?"
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Being Wireless: Viral Telecommunications

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  • by mhesseltine ( 541806 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @08:54AM (#4310676) Homepage Journal

    Unless, of course, Verizon, T-mobile, Voicestream, etc. "influence" their favorite congress rep and get some BS law passed claiming that VoIP on 802.11 is so cheap and available that the terrorists will use it to coordinate missions. And then, when someone uses your hub, you are now responsible for aiding terrorism.

    On second thought, forget I ever posted this. Those bastards don't need any more ideas.

    • Nah, the terrorists will always stick with low-tech methods because Allah says high-tech is the devil.
      • No, terrorists will stick with low-tech methods because they:
        1. Work, and work well
        2. Require no expensive equipment
        3. Are much more difficult to intercept than high-tech communications
        If I wanted to coordinate a terrorist attack I'd use plain old fashioned letters, and/or inconspicious go betweens (people sympathetic to the cause, but not on CIA/M15/Mossad's radar). By doing this Western intelligence agencies would have to physically track my every move (look how fast bin Laden disappeared once he stopped using satelitte phones) rather than just harvesting it with Echelon.

        They're not avoiding high technology because they're stupid, but because they understand the draw backs of these technologies very well indeed.

    • umm what happens when you have no 802.11b signal what do you fall down to ?

      what happens when your out in the middle of backwater and you really do need that towtruck ?

      you need GSM still

      3g networks are not stupid they would much rather have VoIP and manage everything as data anyway and are infact asking handset people about this Nokia is very keen to sell stuff that use's VoIP and management of bandwidth strange ..... I dont think so

      John Jones
      • "umm what happens when you have no 802.11b signal what do you fall down to ? what happens when your out in the middle of backwater and you really do need that towtruck ? you need GSM still "

        And from the article:

        "The new thinking will also impact places where wireless penetration is conspicuously low -- among real water lilies and frogs, ironically, in some of the most rural, remote parts of our world. A dirty little secret about 802.11b is that it can cover more than 20 kilometers with suitably directional antennas."

        I agree that WiFi, even with 20 km PoPs, is still not a GSM or 3G, etc replacement. I live in a rural area myself and there are no WiFi spots that I know of. This is mainly because you can ONLY get dialup!! What's the point of sharing a 28.8 (sorry, we are too far from the city 56k) over 1000 feet whetn your closest neighbour is 1 km away and you don't have a big enough pipe to support your own home LAN?

        Yes, I agree that mobile phones will not go away any time soon, but it would be more interesting for VoIP to be able to tap into 802.11 frequencies automatically and communicate over the internet. Now THAT would make both 802.11 and mobile phones more useful, and give companies that produce both devices a new lease on life. It would also allow for you to get phone reception in your apartment, in the hallway, in the basement, etc where you don't get any signal right now.

        (Note: I have heard that such things were tried already in Europe, under the name of 'Kermit' and some other names as well. They were failures. The difference here is that the phone would use 802.11 as a backup as opposed to tying you down to a PoP all the time.

        • Those are with directional antenna on the AP and the client. It's not a replacement for a cell phone unless you have a way to get the AP to lock onto your position. To get cell phone funtionality, the AP has to at least be omnidirectional, and for practical purposes the phone should be too.

          However, I can see a good product would be an 802.11b VOIP phone that falls back to other cellular networks when unable to access an AP. This way, when you get signal, all your cell phone hours belong to you. You can just get a low hour plan to use in emergencies.

          A VOIP system that would accept incoming calls and forward them on to your cell number would be good too
          • No More FUD (Score:2, Interesting)

            Technical issues have technical solutions. There is no reason you can't use more power in low density areas. If you don't want all that power concentrated next to your head, then use a local repeater (mounted on the pickup, of course).

            If this takes off, it really will create a mesh so that even in rural areas, the base station on top of your house (or better yet, the silo) will be able to connect to a handful of neighbors, and provide a fully redundant connection. I will be the only one suffering if I cut the power line to the router with the backhoe, because all the neighbors won't make the same mistake all at once.

            Commercial providers aren't even interested in the remote areas, because there just aren't enough dollars to extract. Those annoying "can you hear me now" commercials just confirm my long time theory about corporate image advertising. They are always trying to reverse a real or perceived problem in their public image, and typically this is instead of actually trying to fix the problem. Anyone remember AT&T's "easy to do business with" campaign?

            • What I speak isn't FUD, and they aren't just technical issues. They are technical issues arising from legal limitations. The FCC doesn't just allow anyone to broadcast in these bands at whatever power level they want, these are public bands for use by the public.

              Specifically, FCC Part 15.247 provides details on limitations of EIRP (equivalent isotropically radiated power). EIRP represents the total effective transmit power of the radio, including gains that the antenna provides and losses from the antenna cable. You must take all of these into account when calculating the EIRP for a specific radio. With directional antennea

              I would be very pissed if a few people decided to set up a giant omnidirectional tx/rx and flooded my channels to the point that I couldn't use them. I understand conflicts with my neighbours, but I wouldn't tolerate it from someone 1km away (let alone 20). In addition, you have to consider the bleed you may get into spectrum ranges outside the public band.

              Yes, it would be great if we all had nearly free, ubiquitous wireless access, but flooding the 2400-2483.5 MHz isn't the way to do it. I can guarntee this: it will happen eventually, but not right now. Give it 10-20 years and other bands will be allocated for this.
      • What does the fact that you're an old train [] have to do with whether or not you can spell?

        ...Or are you meaning you're dyslexic or something?

        Just curious, I've been wondering for a while what your sig meant :-/

      • Seems to me the primary problem would be one of security. Say I follow my target around while pointing a highly directional 802.11 antenna at him--virtually guaranteeing that his phone will pick my hop every time he tries to connect. Does the fact that the target is establishing the connection to me obviate my need for a wiretap order to log all his packets?

        On an unrelated note, your sig befuddles me as well:
        "(a deltic so please dont moan about spelling but the content)"

        As nearly as I can tell, you've posted nearly 500 comments, but have never answered the immortal question: What's a "deltic?"

        This is what I know: But I have to admit, the question consumes me. Mister Jones, could you enlighten us, please?
  • This is all about people intentionally sharing their bandwidth. The people who buy the little WiFi thingamabob to shoot wireless Internet rays to all their computers don't have the slightest clue that they may be sharing with everyone.

    Once some company comes along to close off these WiFi hotspots with their latest product, these viral whatzits are done for.
    • I don't think this comment is, nor was it meant to be funny. The WiFi basestation designers/manufacturers have no interest in shutting it down, unless their customers start to ask for it. As you and many have pointed out, they don't even know, so why would they ask.

      The real pushback could and probably will come from the ISPs. You don't really have a legal right to share your home connection with your neighbors. Of course, it depends on your service contract, but most home service contracts probably explicitely disallow this, and we have heard about ISPs taking steps to stop it.

      What few of the businesses in the effected market segments (3G, home DSL and broadband) realize is that any control they have could be strictly temporary. As the article points out, once the density of lilly pads is high enough, you have a robust mesh of nodes, and everyone is connected.

      Obviously, there are technical issues to work out. The network needs some heirachy, or you have to hop through thousands of nodes to get accross country, and the latency will kill you. As it stands now, it is a star topology, since I don't think any typical base stations will route through neighboring base stations. On the other hand, there are some really promissing technologies that could do this very well.

      All it will take is a bit more advocacy, but some of the current advocacy approaches can't work in the long run because of problems mentioned above. Instead of promoting the use of security loopholes in existing basestations, we have have to develop the free/open hardware and software to implement the appropriate infrastructure. A small box with an array antenna and a smart router could provide all the local coverage and network connectivity through neighboring identical boxes, and a few high end routers with more complex tranceivers, and even hard wired connections could connect the rest to the backbone.

      If this is done right, it can't be stopped easily by legislation. The only real difficulty would be getting enough people to install these rather than something that wouldn't play with this network. It could look very much like the Linux vs. MS competition. Many of the commercial players will at least attempt to behave like MS and use any tactic to squash it, and this will make it difficult, at least initially, to penetrate the market.

      Although this certainly hasn't played out yet in the OS market, I claim that the all or nothing approach that MS has taken will ultimately destroy them. In the short run, all sorts of things can happen, but in the end it is much more powerful to share knowledge freely, and those that attempt to hoard it will lose.

  • by warpSpeed ( 67927 ) <> on Monday September 23, 2002 @09:00AM (#4310699) Homepage Journal
    You need a fundamenatly different method of IP addressing, new routing protocols, and methods for interacting with the current net as it exists. Do you think that IANA will easly start putting out IP addresses for Mesh networks? Even with IPV6? The hardware is there, but more work needs to be done on the practical implementations of mesh networks and integrating them into the current infrastructure.

    Then lets consider how ling it will take the "Bells" to wake up and notcie that thier stangle hold on the local telco market is threatened. It will not take too long for Congress to churn out some back-assward laws that stifle any creative use of Wi-Fi.

    • Let's not forget NAT. Cheap wireless APs from Linksys, DLink or NetGear have NAT capabilities built in. Assuming that most wireless "Lillipad hosts" will be current broadband users, there really is no problem

      Now, considering that most DSL/Cable broadband is provided by large companies with a vested interest in minimizing public wireless networks, I would expect a large crackdown on anyone openly sharing their connection in the near future. Rather than pass laws, the bells and cable co's will disconnect users suspected of trafficking in free wireless networks or ratchet their available bandwidth way down, or, even more likely, start charging for actual bandwidth used.

      So, what really needs to happen? Community sponsored broadband with wireless links, perhaps. Find a group in the community willing to share bandwidth such as the school district or library, or fund your own T3 line, and share it out using directional antennas to other areas which use omni-directionals on top of fairly tall buildings to create the lillipads.
      • Thats actually a pretty good bet, I know many people has a dreaming of no omre ISP's a 'user-run' internet but that would be a disaster, A good boet would be to replace the ISP's (Middle men) with community (but not government) groups. The idea of getting a school to host a t3 and shre out with its neighborhood is pretty cool.
      • Having your local city or county library provide a DS3 drop or two for all the "lillypads" in the city seems like a great way to get that done. I'm all for it.

        Unfortunately, I can't think of any "emerging trend" that Negroponte has ever written about that actually ended up happening after he wrote about it. It's almost like the Sports Illustrated Cover Curse (for non-sports-fan geeks, it's kind of a murphy's law of sports... any athelete who gets his picture on the cover of SI will have a terrible week immediately afterwards).

        Negroponte's columns are often the stuff of cyberpunk novels, not future reality. In this case, I hope he's right though. Connecting a laptop to the Internet from some non-wired coffee shop costs you a fortune right now, and it shouldn't.

        The one potential problem I see with this is that if we all ababndon the wires, and cheap DSL goes away as a result, where the hell am I going to connect my static-ip web server? I'm one of those people who values the Internet as a means of distribution as much as a means of getting information.

      • All of these are very good points.

        However I was thinking more along the lines of having, or allowing a direct integration of the current net with a mesh network though, with out using NAT. That way the network should be "healable", and route around damage, or offline nodes. If you have a bunch of "entry points" in the "net" then some of these points will get clogged, and you will have all of the users behind one NATed IP address. This would be problematic. If you can have a Mesh network that had routing capabilities, and could intelegently route to less congested hardwired access points you could really have a nice system.

        This will require a whole new set of routing protocols, and possibly network addressing. The current IP scheme almost requires that the network be fixed in place since there are no effective routing protocols for individual network addresses. We are having a hard enough time routing CIDR blocks at this point....

        A fundamental redesign of addressing, and routing would need to be implemented to make Mesh networks reach thier full potential, IMHO. I'm sure there are plenty of neat things we could do with all this wireless hardware in the mean time.

        Perhaps IPV6 could fill in some of the needs here, I do not know for sure, IANAIPV6E (I am not an I P V 6 Expert)

    • I don't think the Bells care that much. Wi-Fi networks are a bit like having lots of small roads everywhere. I mean sure, you can probably drive all the way, or almost all the way across America without ever driving on a major toll road or freeway, but you probably wouldn't want to.

      So, everyone ends up going on the backbones with their traffic at some point- very little web traffic is local on the internet.

      In fact growth of wireless networks are positive for the Bells, for every installed wireless network, there is a need for more connectivity over their fibers.

    • Address space is not the real problem. The devices need addresses no matter whether you're using "lily pads" or more traditional means. The real problem problems are things like routing (not just in a mesh but in a dynamic mesh just for extra fun) and power management (bad to kill your batteries forwarding other people's packets).

    • You need a fundamentaly different method of IP addressing, new routing protocols, and methods for interacting with the current net as it exists.

      Such a routing protocol exists : the Ad hoc On Demand Distance Vector [] (AODV) routing algorithm is a routing protocol designed for ad hoc mobile networks. AODV is capable of both unicast and multicast routing.
      There are several free (speech and beer) implementations for intel or ARM (I use this one [])
      Some hotspots are already using AODV in Europe (AFAIK in Bruxelles and Paris).
      • Thank you for pointing this link out, it is interesting.

        This protocol looks like it is for Mobile routing only, how does it interface with the wired netowrk? And would it scale well? If you have a lilly pond with multiple entry points to the wired net, how will the wired net route your IP packets to you? I'm addressing the integration of the lilly ponds and the existing network.

        I'm sure the the lilly ponds will work wonderfuly by them selves and with each other, the real trick is to get them to work with the rest of the wired world.

    • Mesh networks/ad hoc networks use a flat addressing space (for now). Given that, you can use a link local address... so IANA, in effect, has already put out the addresses.

      I think the telcos would go crying to the FCC, since Congress doesn't really meddle in such affairs. And given the difficulty of actually preventing this stuff (it's at least as hard as stopping p2p)...
  • For this to work.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by N3WBI3 ( 595976 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @09:05AM (#4310716) Homepage
    For something like this to work the average user has to do alot of evolving. As we saw with the warchalking article last week there is a good amount of room for someone to try and abuse your network. In the case of most war-chalkers its harmless but there are occasions when it would not be.

    I really like the Linksys Wireless Routers/Firewalls, you can set up a dhcp reservation list by MAC address so if you want to share with your neighbors you can get their mac and let them in. things like that combined with keeping track of security notices, and basic security masures could make such a network as secure as your average broadband connection.

    • As we saw with the warchalking article last week there is a good amount of room for someone to try and abuse your network. In the case of most war-chalkers its harmless but there are occasions when it would not be.

      But if you are sharing the network on purpose for all parties, the warchalkers would be perfectly welcome. In fact, you might even choose to go out and chalk the streets in front of your house yourself... why be a Nice Guy and share a wireless NAT and not tell anybody?

      • Because you can be held legally responsable if you make it known your sharing your network for what oithers do on that network..
        • No, because a publicly-shared network would be a "common carrier."

          Without the legal concept of common carriers, the phone company could be sued for every pyramid scheme that used the phone network to telemarket, and railroads would be held responsible for every escaped fugitive that travelled by train. A publicly shared network is analogous to these situations, in spite of what paranoid corporate lawyers would like you to think.

  • by e8johan ( 605347 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @09:06AM (#4310720) Homepage Journal
    3G will not fail! Everyone just need to remember that it took more than 10 years for GSM to explode here in Europe, and it will probably take even longer for 3G since GSM allready handles talking. What the suppliers do not see is that we lack good services and a good way of charging for it. What is needed is a global standard for micropayments. I think that it would be great to get all the micropayments on my phonebill, even better if I could surf over to my service provider and check my spendings over the web using my phone/computer/camera/mp3-player/calendar/gamecent re...
    And by the by, why isn'n there a plug-in enabling the new photo and video phone to show their images on a TV (when connected to the powergrid, the batteries will burn otherwise), and a plug-in to be able to play more advanced games... it would be (ta-da) the return of the cartridge games...
    • I bought one of the first GSM handsets in Europe. It cost an arm and a leg but it was worth it.
      The market took time to get geographical coverage, and to get prices down to 'cheap'.
      But it was profitable and useful from Day 1.
      3G is a pipe dream. No-one wants it, no-one needs it, and chasing this particular dragon will bankrupt more than one European Telco.
      If I had shares in Nokia, Ericsson, or any GSM operator I would sell them today.
      • You mention geographical coverage, 3G will hopefully be even better. Image one number, one phone and one bill for the entire world.
        About not needing 3G, do you need the internet? Do you need a coke? Marketing and selling a product is not about needing, it is about wanting. To make 3G desireable, it must add some value to the user, for example gaming, on-line ordering, trafic information, p0rn, you name it. We need contents to the technology.
        Concerning shares, I'm actually thinking about buying shares in Ericson. This is a huge company with an enormous know-how and competative technology. Their problem is the outrageous pricing of the 3G licenses on the European continent. In Sweden (among other) there was a 'beauty contest' instead of an auction. This shows that the Swedish state has (despite their incompetent government) realised that it will pay off in the end if the 3G market can take of, instead of trying to make short-term profits on selling licenses and bankrupting the service providers.
    • Exactly. Let's consider an example where something was so obvious it led to fairly immediate change: Go To Statement Considered Harmful []
      Whereas annoying hypespeak like
      3G is out before it is ever in...
      simply identifies the writer as impetuous, and effectively blunts the argument.
      I liked Negroponte's article. His role in the grander scheme of things is to be visionary about where things will eventually go.
      However, the sheep migrate slowly, and that just-slightly-short-of-ultimate7135 [] will definitely have its day in the sun.
    • ", and it will probably take even longer for 3G since GSM allready handles talking."

      Not necessarily. 3G is being depolyed in areas that are not GSM strongholds (i.e. in Korea, USA, Canada.) One thing that bothers me here in Canada is that people simply don't care about text messaging. or a certain quantity of information, you can send it more cheaply with text but do it more quickly and expensively with voice. Most folks here simply don't want to learn to type on a handset.

    • 3G is so going to fail! Telephone companies are greedy! Anyone who pays $0.25 for a email message has more money than brains!

      Digital services are slow to catch on here because the interface sucks, and the telcos screw you over on charges. Unlike Japan, there is no model (i-Mode services) for third parties to bring on their own revenue models. The greedy telcos want to provide everything for everyone, because they know best. That's why they're doing so well on the markets right now *cough cough*

      This apathy on the part of telcos (and don't forget the greed) is allowing alternatives like 802.11 to gain hold. Don't forget that it's not just the technology, but social acceptance of the technology. If people just get used to there being 802.11 hotspots around a city where they stop - say, at the mall, grocery store, coffee place - and the devices to provide that access - say, handhelds and notebooks instead of cell phones - get entrenched, then 3G is dead in the cradle. I already see this happening, because the cost to set up a 802.11 access point is so small.

      Another wildcard is a crackdown on PtP. It would be very easy for communities to set up their own PtP networks for this purpose - I know of a few university residences doing this to combat draconian rules on usage. More people get used to wireless, the more places it appears.

      My $0.02..
  • What about security and privacy? How do you choose who you want to provide with wireless access? Even if you lock users to certain IPs and MAC addresses.. those can still be faked. Connections are probably SSL-like encrypted.. but if you sniff both hashes, you can get all data. This is a bit harder on cable, because you need physical access.. and even harder on optics. But anyway... i think wireless telecomunications pose quite high security risk. Unless client is off-line provided with hash code.

    Actually there is quite cheap equipment(just mod of ordinary satellite dish and software) to sniff all non-encrypted SAT-internet traffic. Most of traffic is unencrypted anyway and noone can detect you, because you are not transmitting a thing.. just receiving.
    • What about security and privacy?
      I said the same thing back in the 70's about ethernet! there's no security or privacy on that!!!

      It's a communications system and hardware.. it's going to take software, friewalls and encryption... just like the rest of us have used for years on the internet. It's unfortunate that consumers and retarted IT managers/people just throw a Accesspoint on the air without learning anything about it. and it's not going to change until either the hardware makers embed SSH/GPG inside the accesspoints and cards/drivers or peopel start getting their accesspoints used and busted for hacking/kiddie porn.

      I presonally hope the latter... a rash of Joe-middle class getting busted and beat up mercilessly by 90 ATF agents and their walls of their home busted in by a tank because he "hacked" (well that is the way you arrest a dangerous hacker right?) or a bunch of companies get busted in a kiddie porn ring..

      until you force people to use their brains... they love to walk around in their stupor haze.
  • Doubts (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 )
    This looks so cool, but I must say, I've got my doubts about a carrier technology that is so vulnerable to interference being able to take out telcos who have the most powerful interference-generating machines on earth. It wouldn't take much to knock down the network, and the telcos and the government have their hands deep in each others pockets.

    For that matter, it would be pretty easy for anyone with a beef to jam things up.

    Between the greedy people, the stupid people and the malicious people...
  • uhh, right. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by anthonyclark ( 17109 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @09:11AM (#4310750)

    Yeah, of course every consumer is going to share their broadband connection with every stranger geek walking past.

    Consumers don't share, they consume. Peer to Peer is all about taking, not sharing. Most of the 'clueless home users' I know (and I can think of half a dozen right now) only share what they download; they don't add new resource to the network.

    Once Joe(ly) consumer realises that his/her mp3s and porn will download 10% slower because of all this sharing of connections, he/she will call tech support, who will tell them how to restrict access to their own PCs.

    For the people by the people doesn't work when most of the people are selfish.

    • Re:uhh, right. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 )
      The gist of the thing is that there are no telcos, no land lines, just wireless. You're not giving away anything, aside from having your hardware switch packets, just like everything else. In exchange, you're getting free service, just like everyone else.
      • Right. Like I want my telecommunications abilities contingent on the good graces of others.
      • You're not giving away anything, aside from having your hardware switch packets, just like everything else.

        What about giving your time for maintaining such hardware? And what about the cost of hardware upgrades when load increases?

        • IANAExpert on this but I think the idea is that as load increases, so do the number of users. These users have wireless hardware, and a couple of them are also creating 'hotspots' that everyone else shares off of. If load increases to the point that peoples service shits up, they'll be more inclined to pop down $200 to start broadcasting more 'bandwidth' to thier area. The maintenace of it should be pretty 'plug n play' for people to want to use it... just like a cellphone. On = Connected
    • Most of the 'clueless home users' I know (and I can think of half a dozen right now) only share what they download; they don't add new resource to the network.

      I have to say that most that I know don't even share that much - they regularly move stuff out of the share space in order to 'stop those bastards tying up my line!!!'

      Your point is good. But the reality is even worse!
    • I don't think this is about sharing your broadband.

      It think this is about using your WAP to route packets between different WAPs within range. This way, peer-to-peer traffic can "hop" between nodes without ever having to go onto the public net.

      It's an alternative, wireless, internet, and I like it.

    • Most of the 'clueless home users' I know (and I can think of half a dozen right now) only share what they download; they don't add new resource to the network.

      When I was on WinMX, I shared some tracks ripped from the CDs I owned, as well as recordings of my own original performances. However, far fewer people downloaded my CD rips and original work than downloaded the music I had downloaded. Just because I share something doesn't mean that anybody will download it.

      Besides, how is a new user supposed to obtain resources other than pop music (such as anime) in order to begin sharing them?

  • by Aztech ( 240868 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @09:12AM (#4310757)
    He mises one crucial point, the backbone, this posting for instance isn't going to magically bounce from the middle of the UK to Exodus(?) by 802.11 alone, as illustrated by the recent crackdown []by cableco's on publicly listed access points they're reluctant to support an essentially public network that runs contrary to their business model, and transcending the traditional backbone requires organisation and capital, something absent from P2P systems.

    A concern is the finite amount of spectrum available in regards to the scalability of P2P wireless systems, as the number of users increases so does the baseload just to maintain the system, some clever managed routing will be required along with a wired backbone between nodes, if you use daisy chain style off-air repeating between nodes you quickly deplete spectrum and diminish the benefit of local frequency replication, basically the "everyone shouting in a crowded room" scenario.

    "Distance decay" is a feature of the traditional phone network yet on the net people no longer communicate on the basis of geography, did that Wired article come from a server in Silicon Valley, New York, London? Does it matter, I don't particularly care, I'm just interested in the content. However the "lily pads and frogs" architecture is deeply tied to locality, it's easy to communicate with local nodes but it progressively gets more difficult the farther you go, again this leads us back to the backbone problem.

    Another issue is misuse, free wireless reminds me of the net of yester year, you could for instance use SMTP servers all over the globe and the vast majority of users didn't abuse that facility, but obviously the small majority of spammers swiftly made that a thing of the past and continue to annoy us today, how would open wireless networks be any [] different []? Control is needed, which leads back to structure and capital.

    Call me a pessimist, but it's not quite as rosy as he makes out.
  • My thoughts... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Since I live in a high-density area, my system reaches perhaps 100 neighbors. I do not know how many use it (totally free) -- frankly, I do not care. I pay a fixed fee and am happy to share.

    Umm... Aren't you still responsible for the data going out over your Access Point? If some script kiddie living next door sets up camp from his bedroom and starts sending out spam while using your Internet connection, you are going to be the one that gets shut down.

    Also - I don't know about this guy but my bandwidth is too limited (even at cable speed) to let everyone on my street have a free ride. In some far off distant future utopian society that might be practical... but for now I only get 40kbps upstream and anywhere from 1Mbit to 3Mbit down so I'm not really anxious to share. Unless my data could somehow have priority over my neighbors. I'm the one paying for it after all so I should get full use of my pipe when I'm online. When I go to bed, they can have it.

    In the future, each Wi-Fi system will also act like a small router, relaying to its nearest neighbors. Messages can hop peer-to-peer, leaping from lily to lily like frogs.

    That will only work as long as you are inside city limits around neighborhoods and businesses. But what about when you're driving down the highway and you're out of range?
    • Re:My thoughts... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Corgha ( 60478 )
      Unless my data could somehow have priority over my neighbors.

      It's called shaping []

      IOW, set up a capable router and configure it give priority to your traffic. Linux routers can do this, as in the HOWTO above, as can many other routers.
    • Umm... Aren't you still responsible for the data going out over your Access Point? If some script kiddie living next door sets up camp from his bedroom and starts sending out spam while using your Internet connection, you are going to be the one that gets shut down.

      This is a point that I haven't seen a good response to yet. I would never offer up my Wi-Fi network to the general public without a mechanism to identify and combat abuse. Are you going to leave it up to the individual operators to police their wireless "pad"? That is never going to work!

      Spammers specifically are already starting to abuse open Wi-Fi networks. It's now become impossible to identify, track, and shut them down. Is this environment really what "free Wi-Fi" is all about?

      If you thought spam and DoS attacks were a nuisance in the past, you're about to see how bad it can really get.
      • Spammers specifically are already starting to abuse open Wi-Fi networks.

        Really? According to who? I've read one article where they said this, I think BBC, and the guy they quoted said it he was misquoted. I mean it will eventually happen, but has it really yet?

        Not so hard to stop anyway, ISP's that encourage their users to share 802.11 just put authentication mechanisms on their SMTP server. If you're not an ISP, but just a AP owner, block port 25 in your DSL Router. Visitors can still send mail through POP3 & IMAP4.

        DoS attacks rely on r00ting lots of machines on well connected networks. This is not likely to include wireless anytime soon. Maybe when this waterlilly network is up and running and some vulnerability is found in the routing OS, or more likely in Windows F-, then someone will write a worm that builds a parallel network of p2p hosts that accept commands from any IP as long as it has the right RSA signature to attack some random IP. But that won't really rely on Wi-Fi mesh anymore than it rely's on any network. The Wi-Fi mesh will most likely store the route in an accessible way so you can trace them to their last hop. At that point the problem is easier than finding a rouge FM station, and the Feds would be much more motivated...
        • Really? According to who?

          According to me. I have tracked two spammers back to networks where the operator has indicated that the only likely way he got in was through his wireless LAN (both in large downtown settings).

          I have also assisted in tracking a DoS attack that originated at an airport's wireless LAN.

          I have not read any articles suggesting this is happening, so I'm not sure what quote you're referring to.

          These things are happening today, even though it hasn't apparently been in the news.

          802.11 just put authentication mechanisms on their SMTP server

          You're overlooking a major component of this article, though. Only a tiny percentage of the Wi-Fi user-providers is going to have the means or expertise to do this! Most of what we're talking about here is every Joe User that feels he has some bandwidth to spare/share sets up his access point to allow others in. These are not going to be spam-proofed or DoS-proofed networks.

          Hell, how many of the real ISP's/NSP's have their mail servers secured or basic firewalling set up to prevent spoofed DoS attacks?

          DoS attacks rely on r00ting lots of machines on well connected networks

          Not all of them. If you have a high-bandwidth wireless LAN at your disposal, you can fairly easily overwhelm even some broadband connections without needing to spoof anything or rely on a zillion DoSbots.

          THIS IS HAPPENING TODAY.. The DoS attack I was referring to earlier actually happened last year. While it's possible many of these larger-scale Wi-Fi configurations have been or will be secured by the operators, we're talking here about "everybody" opening up their own individual Wi-Fi networks. There will be no corporate funding to get all of these operators trained to handle this.
  • This idea is great ... in fact, in the U.S., it has been propoesed that the schools act as the stems of the lilly pads (since they all have bandwidth because of some gov't education bill) and that the amount of bandwidth provided to the school be greatly increased. The additional bandwidth costs will be added to the property taxes for the schol system.

    I like the above idea a bit better than the proposed "la-la" land idea outlined on The idea above ensures that everyone pays for their bandwidth (everyone pays for property taxes ... directly or indirectly). The MIT Media centner, like most educational institutions, never consider the negatives of an idea such as this one. The main problem is cheap skates! The bandwidth bill will be paid by people who "must have" their high speed network and by those that feel guilty taking something for nothing. The other 50%+ of the population will just take what they need, slowing down the paying customers, and not pay a red cent for it!

    Yes, I would LOVE to be able to go anywhere with my laptop and always be plugged into the net. I work on a wireless campus ( where this can be done, but as soon as I go home, its back to the ethernet card. As with most great ideas, the problem isn't making the technology availble ... the problem is getting everyone to pay for their share!

    I know my army brat friend, you know ... the guy that never buys a round at the bar and comes to parties empty handed, would NEVER pay for this service, but he'd sure be happy to use it!

    I really think people (especially PhD types) need to think about these kind of issues before proposing "la-la land".
  • by ites ( 600337 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @09:17AM (#4310772) Journal
    Check out, a project in Brussels that has been pushing this idea for some time.
    It's in French. Translation: take a WiFi card, attach an external antenna.
    Next, take an old Linux box, turn it into a router.
    Aim towards another node, and you join the network.
    Security is easy: treat this segment as being unsecure and use your existing firewalls.
    Basically such an architecture creates a public infrastructure on which all kinds of services are possible.
    It's cheap, robust, and a serious threat to the telcos.
    Negroponte is right: 3G is the Telcos trying to define the future, when the future is busy happening somewhere else entirely!
  • The "Viral" part of the name is great. It makes the technology baaad.
    If this sticks, it will be impossible for a large corporation to produce viral telco applications.
    This is a poison pill designed to deter any hostile takeover.
    For best results: Viral P2P File Swapping Network.
  • This is, without doubt, a great idea, but for this to work there needs to be easy-to-use software (yes, for Windows, as well as *n?x) that will automate the process of linking my AP to all the other APs in range, and routing packets between them.

    If people can't set their AP up to do this easily, it won't happen, due to huge gaps in the net.

  • there to allow us to make lame "Bud.... Weis....Err" jokes?
  • Because further down the street, beyond the reach of my system, another neighbor has put in Wi-Fi. And another, and another. Think of a pond with one water lily, then two, then four, then many overlapping, with their stems reaching into the Internet. (Credit for the water lily analogy goes to Alessandro Ovi, technology adviser to European Commission president Romano Prodi.)

    Which is a fine concept until all the water dries up and the lily pads die.
    Broadband companies are not going to allow people to share their badnwidth over a large urban area like this. While it's a great concept (I would love this) it's not really feasible in a greedy corporate America.
    • Dont balme this on 'greedy corporate america', why should they not be making a profit? when you go to work do you only ask for enough to cover your bills or do you try to make as much as you can.

      Are you happy if your boss gives you twice the work at the same pay? why then should they be happy providing twice the service at the same pay..

      • I am in total agreement with most of what you said, however, the prices we pay for broadband far exceed the cost of the service.

        The whole reason that this won't work is because of the money that corporate America would lose. I like the concept, but it can't work because of money, and I am fine with that.
  • And Voice? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mookone ( 556971 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @09:26AM (#4310825) Homepage
    First of all this article assumes Voice over ip will be perfect(HA!). Also, have you ever tried to download while warchalking? Its near impossible to roam from network to network (any 802.11 protocol) and still retain connections over TCP/IP. All the equipment handles roaming differently. Why? Take a look at the standard, there is hardly anything there to talk about Roaming. So all the hardware manufacturers have taken it upon themselves to devise their own way to implement roaming and in the process made sure that complete seemless roaming was impossible under the current scheme.
    802.11 and the others like 802.11b were built to supplant wires, not to allow full movement like the mobile phone networks.
    • Remember, when mobile phones first came along, "mobile" meant "not fixed to the wall". You could not move while talking. There was no handover. If you went out of reach of your base station, you would lose the call.

      Still, this was a huge first step, as is Wi-Fi.
      • Remember, when mobile phones first came along, "mobile" meant "not fixed to the wall". You could not move while talking. There was no handover. If you went out of reach of your base station, you would lose the call.

        Well, that depends on what you mean by "first came." The first radio telephone systems worked that way, but one of the first true mobile phone systems, the venerable NMT 450 in Northern Europe had hand-over specified from the beginning, despite having Motorola sending high level execs to Sweden to try and have the standard changed. Then the microprocessor became available, and all of a sudden, mobility wasn't such of an issue any longer.

        Now, to specify a system such as 802.11 today and not think about mobility is borderline criminal IMHO. (And a lesson that should have been learnt with AMPS, that in it's first fielded versions didn't have standardised roaming interface, which lead to all sorts of interop. and roaming problems in the US.)

        That's not to say that all is lost however. Look at a system such as HP:s Open Roaming, which works seemelessly (and looks very impressiv in demos) regardless of whether the access points themselves support roaming or not.

  • Aside from the typical /. geek that knows the risks of WiFi (overlapping, channels, WEP, security, etc), this would be a nightmare if every Tom and Jane of the world tries to start up their own mesh node. Hell, it was hard enough getting the 300+ residents at my college to agree on the same damn workgroup and network settings back before we actually had wired dorms (we ran our own cables). A call for some type of infrastructure (no matter how basic) is still going to be required for this to work right. I can imagine someone getting a mesh working in a small town, then some dumb shmuck runs their own WAP and fucks the whole network up for 2 blocks. I don't mean to rant, but I can see a lot of headaches if this sort of thing isn't planned out properly.
  • and yet, those frogs never do bungee jumping.
  • Correct me if I am wrong but isnt Wi-Fi stands for 802.11a with max bandwidth of 45 Mbps?
    Secondly there is another major problm for 3 G especially in Europe. I live in Switzerland where ppl overall are fairly health conscience. Infact in cities here many places are not covered by cell phones because ppl dont like to have antennnas on top of their houses and thats for 2G. For 3G we require four times as many antennas as its range is smaller. SO that makes me wonder how are they gonna conver the cities here? I believe the situation is the same throughout Europe. So how are the phone companies gonna handle this?
  • the same principle can be used for vehicels and traffic as well - with proper protocols anything could be implemented, from GPS to communications.... I look forward to a future when I _know_ the exact positions of all vehicels on the road in a 3 or 4 mile radius... that would really improve security (and driving fun)
  • by NDPTAL85 ( 260093 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @09:34AM (#4310862)
    I'd love to know where this guy gets the idea that data services are increasing at a rapid rate. Here in the US telcos are in financial trouble because they bet on that very same thing happening, and its not. Most folks use their cell phones to make phone calls and thats it.

    Next I'd love to know why this guy thinks that there would be a critical mass of people savvy enough to participate in such a p2p network. How many of your friends and family know how to fully use their cell phones including all their various features?

    Also who here would like to have their ability to make and recieve phone calls contingent on the good graces of others? Without telcos you have no garuntee of service. When there are service problems who will you call? Why on earth would the public at large want to manually handle their own communications networks? Its akin to everyone running their own switchboard just to save a buck. It might be great fun for the geeks out there but for folks who are either too lazy or too busy (i.e. everyone else) this just isn't going to appeal to them.

    Lastly there is the is the issue of bandwidth. Just because you pay a "fixed fee" for a certain amount of service that does not absolve you from letting the neighborhood run buck wild with your connection. If enough people use your connection in a manner which disproportionately affects your ISP, they WILL bill your butt for the extra costs and then where will you be? Do you think any of your everything must be free loving neighbors will pitch in to help you in your plight? I don't think so. I'm also sure the fad will die down after the first few cases of someone's line being used to traffic in warez or illegal pr0n causes the authorities to come down on some unsupecting "ISP account sharer".

    So in short, I really think the geeks should just stick to the technical stuff and leave the business plans, or non-business business plans to the professionals.
  • Taken from an article here []

    The result was that five licences were sold for a staggering total of £22.5 billion stg. The clear winner in the contest was the UK Exchequer, which bagged the money. Germany soon followed, raising $42.6bn, but by then doubts about the pricing had begun to emerge.

    All those companies that paid those outrageous amounts for the 3G licences have got to be regretting it now. Especially since a good number of them are near bankruptcy. I never understood how prices like that could have happened. They just went nuts. And it was all done in auction style for the benefit of consumers.. Unfortunately, I think it will end up having the opposite effect. (At least in terms of the 3G stuff)..

    If we all end up with cheaper, better service that has nothing to do with 3G, that would sure be ironic....
  • by nchip ( 28683 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @09:40AM (#4310886) Homepage
    Nice idea..

    Unfortunatly reality isn't that simple. First, the routing problems are a lot different from those in tradiotional ip or gsm networks. Suppose you would have 1000+ wifi node network in your city, how would you find the way hopping from node to node to your friend? Even worse, many of the nodes are moving in cars and busses, and just as you have found a nice route through the network some of the nodes have moved or went down.

    I'm not saying routing dynamic mesh network is impossible, it's just very hard, and can easily consume most of the bandwidth available.

    Besides, if a hop is aroung 100m, a packet travelling 100km would be a 1000 hops away! A user of mesh network will miss the low latency and reliability of gprs networks with the current technology.

    The main problem with mesh networks is that they do not scale very well.
    • Besides, if a hop is aroung 100m, a packet travelling 100km would be a 1000 hops away!

      This is assuming a Gnutella-like set-up. Most likely, the "stems of the lilly pads" would be connected by fibre optic to a common routing station with a big fat pipe to a service provider. A packet travelling 100km would be a half dozen hops away or less like it is now. You don't go hopping from Wi-Fi lillypad to lillypad to your destination.

    • If your packet stayed on the surface of the water, on the pad the whole time, then yeah, routing is a bitch. But the idea is that it routes on the surface only until it finds a pad with a "stem" (internet connection). Then it tunnels down that high speed connection to come up much closer to your friend. But not everyone has to share their internet connection, those that are not simply pass along traffic on wireless only.

      The real trick to this setup is how do you know where your friend is? I mean, if you're on wireless and he's on wireless, then the route to either one of you via the pads is a minor PITA. But not nearly as hard as the scaling problem you're describing.
    • I'm not saying routing dynamic mesh network is impossible, it's just very hard

      Yes, it is, and I'd have to say that I don't think the routing is "there" yet. By far the best resource I've found on the topic is Perkins's Ad Hoc Networking [] which describes several types of protocols. Some of the work on overlay networks (e.g. Resilient Overlay Networks [] at MIT) and P2P is also applicable, though much of it tends to underestimate the importance of geographic locality and little of it deals with issues like routing-related power consumption.

    • Unfortunatly reality isn't that simple. First, the routing problems are a lot different from those in tradiotional ip or gsm networks.

      Actually they are pretty much identical to IP networks. Multihomed networks with varying speed connections have existed and for a long time.

      Suppose you would have 1000+ wifi node network in your city, how would you find the way hopping from node to node to your friend?

      Stick a good amount of RAM and a decent CPU in your wireless device and call it a router. Then put in a vector routing protocol such as OSPF. Combine with a less memory intensive routing protocol for accessing nodes outside your MAN. Stir.

      Besides, if a hop is aroung 100m, a packet travelling 100km would be a 1000 hops away! A user of mesh network will miss the low latency and reliability of gprs networks with the current technology.

      It may happy that going wireless the entire way there isn't as efficient as going wireless-to-wire-to-wireless. The only challenge in doing this is the fact your average home broadband connection doesn't include a routing table feed. This can be overcome, but it won't win any awards for efficiency.

      The main problem with mesh networks is that they do not scale very well.

      The Internet is one giant partially-meshed network. No one said that these wireless networks would be fully-meshed. In fact, that's next to impossible unless they were within 100 meters of eachother.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Any bets on how long this article will be available until the guy retracts it claiming "Sorry... It sounded like a good idea but do to the overwhelming number of e-mails I've been receiving from Slashdot users telling me what an idiot I am, I am going to retract my article."

    There are numerous flaws with his article, all of which have already been pointed out by other posters so I wont bother restating them. But here's a summary.

    1. Data access. You are responsible for the data on your router. If your neighbor sets up a kiddie porn site after hijacking your net connection, at the very least your connection will be shut down and your life will be highly inconvenienced. At most, you go to jail.

    2. Roaming. Switching from one wireless network to another isn't this magical thing that just happens transparently and seamlessly like this article suggests. If you exceed the range of one wireless network in the middle of a download, your download isn't going to magically start up again when you hit the next wireless network. (Granted you can "resume" if you are using proper software.)

    3. Money. If dozens of people start cancelling their cable/DSL because they are all taking part in a neighborhood wireless Internet pool, the cable/DSL guys are going to raise prices or go out of business.

    4. VoIP. Hahahahaha. Enough said.

    ... the list or problems not addressed by his article is huge ...
  • Note that the telco and cable monopolies are fighting this already. Most of the EULAs contain terms that ban reselling the service. They are actively searching for customers who install a wireless access point, and threatening them with legal action (or just terminating their service). They understand the challenge, and want to maintain their monopoly.

    One of the more entertaining aspects is the customers who fight back by pointing out that they
    aren't reselling the service, they're giving it away for free. The telco/cable guys aren't amused.

    This has already been reported on /. several times.

  • Problems with 802.11 (Score:3, Informative)

    by div_2n ( 525075 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @09:47AM (#4310951)
    The biggest problem that the article barely touches on is that there aren't a huge number of non-overlapping channels. If three homes in a row all use the same channel, stand out on the street and watch what happens to your signal quality.

    As others have noted, if one home is on xDSL from company Y using one public IP address and the next "hop" is using Cable from comany Z using another public IP address, at best case scenario, your data transmission will suffer a temporary silence. In more likely scenario, you lose connection with an associated AP, your PC attempts to renegotiate with an AP, grabs IP information and reinitiates IP connection.

    How long does this take? Too damn long for VoIP or even a web page to load. You could of course set IP Leases to expire every second to help, but talk about broadcast storm.

    Also, until full T1's or T3's start getting run to every home, DSL's and/or Cable modems just can't handle 25+ people all downloading files acceptably. Put the number up around 100 and it is not a pretty picture to paint.

    Even if the performance were to be acceptable, how long do you think it would take for DSL providers to realize that for every 1 customer, 15 are using it without additional revenues for them? Expect heavy handed TOS to put and end to that quick.

    I think the idea is right, but his visualized implementation is flawed. Now if he said a meshed network powered by WISP's with a cooperative agreement, that would make more sense to me.

    Just my $0.02 worth.
    • If I've got 25 users cost sharing with me, my costs are ~$1000/month ($900 for the T-1 and $100 for electricity/equipment repair/etc) which gets you a monthly cost per user of $40 for a better throughput than DSL at a lower cost. What's not to like about this? Sure, it's a pain to set up and there are extra equipment costs but you essentially get a free T-1 to your house! This can be further sold depending on the actual traffic useage on the line.

      Residential DSL can be purchased for $49.95 (directtv dsl) with the right to hook up 5 computers. You can split that off easily and sell each legitimate computer connection for $20, for which they get a nice NAT always on connection that's faster than dialup for the same price. You net $60 in profit/month. There, you now have a legitimate way to do this via DSL.
  • by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @09:57AM (#4311053)
    I case you don't know him, he is the perpetual tech optimist Gilder Tech Report [].

    These wall street, talking heads are always so optimistic about technologies that they fail to see their shortcommings. I love new technology as much as any slashdotter, but do you think for a minute that reliable wireless data will be built on a technology that can be knocked out with a 2.4 GHz cordless telephone?

    Gimme a break.


  • Oh dear.. If Nicholas Negroponte's opinion constitutes a brilling insight into the future of wireless technology, that must make you and I look like friggin' Nostradamus. He's not only stating the obvious, he's stating what packet radio geeks have known for decades. Lilypad computing is an inevitable consequence of mobile communications. To anyone familliar with the technology, its obvious. Yeesh....I dont mean to slam Negroponte, but....Heheheh, if stating the obvious is the only pre-requisite for getting your name in lights on Slashdot, I would like to offer a few of my own radically futuristic thoughts and observations.

    o Computers are cool, and are getting more and more powerful each year!

    o In my opinion, the sky is likely to stay blue.... for a long, long time.

    o Many politicians are corrupt!

    o Food will become stinky if left out too long.

    o If you don't tie your shoe laces, you may trip over them, or worse --- You may fall down!
    o Community networks such as the ones described by Negroponte are a natural outgrowth of its adoption by consumers. Duh.

    o People who end up in car accidents will, oddly enough, send their car in....for repairs!

    o Babies smell nice!

    o Wireless clouds are rapidly becoming wireless fabrics. Soon, the nation will be filled with people out wardriving who don't even know they're doing so. Welcome to 1975, Nicholas! We've got a great big convoy, rockin' through the night! Oh-we've got a great big connnnvoy, ain't she a beautiful sight.....Coooonnnvoooooy....

  • If users setting up their 802.11 connections had a button that said "do you want to securely share your connection with strangers and get paid a bit for it". Paid in money or roaming credits (barter). Then it might happen. But its not there yet. And the telecom's won't like|permit it.

    Of course, there's Sputnik []

  • Negroponte can make predictions as to how succesful 3G will be?
    How? What makes him an "expert" in telecommunications? To make it clearer, what makes Negroponte an expert in anything?
    Does the MIT association and the fact that the media love to have an "expert" handy make his words mean more than they should, to infinitely more people than it matters?

    To make it plain for everyone. 3G doesn't exist YET, in the sense of a product that can be bought.
    There was a phone prototype, which melt down, simply because the equalizer designed to resolve the multipaths, couldn't handle the load.
    Europe and Japan seem hellbent on introducing 3G and what will really make or break it, is the price of the final product and the content offered. The U.S. is another matter altogether. Management of 2G networks is frankly pants and most US telcos have decided that they don't want/need 3G now, 2.5G in the form of EDGE and other things is enough.

    As it can be understood, the 3G saga has a long way to go. So does 4G, on which any research institution/lab worth a dime is mainly working.
    So my question is this: Is Negroponte's commentary nothing but media friendly FUD?
    Is he offering his services as a consultant to the telco industry? If the answer to the second question is yes, what makes Negroponte different from Arthur Andersen, when almost 2 decades ago they advised AT&T, that the users of mobile phones in the year 2000 wouldn't exceed 20 million worldwide and they would advise AT&T stick to wired comms? This led AT&T to close almost all their wireless labs down and as a result they're now lightyears behind compared to their competitors in the wireless market.

    If anyone wants "predictions" about 3G thay can ask my gran. Her predictions are more accurate than Negroponte's (or any Negroponte's) will ever be.

  • I have no real reason to believe that 3G will be much of a success, but I expect that an unregulated, bottom-up mesh network would not do well, certainly not if it were based on existing 802.11 technology.

    Networks like the GSM digital phone networks function because of their cellular organization scheme. There is a certain set of channel frequencies. Each "cell" uses a subset of this, and the the cells are organized in such a way that cells using the same channels can never overlap. In any system, such as 802.11, with a constrained set of data channels, there must be discipline to make sure that there is no overlap. Also, there is an absolute upper limit on how many access points can occupy a given area. The long ranges that the article mentions only make this harder to arrange. I can see a scheme where the hardware does its best to minimize the possibility of overlap, but in high density living areas, wireless network frequency doesn't strech very far.

    I'd like to know where he gets the idea that performance increases with the number of stations. Just as with a traditional LAN, performance increases only with the number of switches/access points for local traffic or the number of uplinks, for internet traffic. Additional client systems do downgrade performance.

  • Obviously this would require dynamic routing of never before-seen levels of power. Does anyone have any links or book suggestions on dynamic routing? I've become curious.

  • by MikeFM ( 12491 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:40PM (#4314312) Homepage Journal
    A year and a half ago I started a project to do something pretty close to this. The goal is to use all opensourced hardware and software to make PDA/phone devices and a wireless grid. All the technology already exists and is even available in opensource versions. When you want to make a call you select the user from your address book or enter their address and they are tracked using Jabber to gain their presence info, then a VoIP connection is initiated between the two users. Of course this also makes implementing instant messaging, web browsing, etc rather easy. It's not a problem to encrypt the entire connection either of course and to handle roaming issues you can use a virtual network so as you real connection breaks and is reconencted (sometimes through a different route) everything stays stable because the virtual network hides all the little flaws from the end protocols. You don't need to select just one wireless protocol either. Put PCMCIA slots in the back of the PDA/phone and then as technology changes you can change with it without having to get a whole new phone. Put more than one slot and you have a multiband phone or can even connect over dial-up or normal ethernet.

    My dream is to some day see it how the phones worked in Bruce Sterling's book Distraction. We're not quite that far yet but we certainly have all the technology to make a working opensourced phone network and phones.
  • Naming naming naming... How do we find and name resources on the network, or advertise our own services? DNS is a hierarchical system, you have a group of root servers, and that will be a weak point in a distributed system such as ad-hoc networks. The network might be free, but resolving objects will still rely on a centralized system. ANd the telcos, or whatever enemies of the ad-hoc network, can attack that.


System checkpoint complete.