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The Internet Communications Wireless Networking

New York Begins Public Gigabit Wi-Fi Rollout (theverge.com) 107

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

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 30, 2015 @09:08PM (#51212983)
    You can set up your own hotspot and pwn a bunch of n00bs
  • it would be a shame....
  • by TuballoyThunder ( 534063 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2015 @09:22PM (#51213037)
    Maybe I'm paranoid, but that just doesn't seem like a good idea.
    • by TuballoyThunder ( 534063 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2015 @09:24PM (#51213043)
      ...and I'm not just worried about the data security aspect. Can you trust the electrical specs?
      • by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2015 @09:32PM (#51213073) Journal

        Somebody is going to make a bundle selling USB voltage regulators. As for data? The chargers don't use those pins

        • by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2015 @11:48PM (#51213611)

          As for data? The chargers don't use those pins

          How do you KNOW that the USB socket you're about to plug your device into doesn't use those pins? You control the device, someone you don't know controls the thing you plug it in to.

          After all, there are people who manage to install stuff into ATMs that can read and transmit card data, so putting something in one of these kiosks is not beyond the pale. And the kiosk provider could even justify forcing your device to enumerate by saying they're only going to keep track of what devices are plugged in.

          And yes, some chargers do use the data pins as a way of identifying known devices to which they should provide power and at what maximum current. Thus you have Motorola chargers that won't charge a Sanyo phone, LG phones that won't charge from generic chargers, etc. (Names used for example only.) I spent a lot of time trying to get one of my phones (now obsolete) to charge from a standard USB charger and I found there are at least three different data-line signalling systems that were in use. "How many ohms to which other pins" was the common way.

          • by by (1706743) ( 1706744 ) on Thursday December 31, 2015 @12:07AM (#51213683)
            You can buy [amazon.com] or make [instructables.com] your own power-only cables. Doesn't address the aforementioned power spec issue, of course.
          • The regulators will take of all that. The cord plugging into the public USB can avoid the data issues by simply not connecting the data pins. The 5volts and ground should always be there. It shouldn't be complicated.

            • The regulators will take of all that.

              Which "regulators"? The ones that control voltage? No. The ones that control ... I really don't know of any regulators (legal) that control what pins a USB connector has connected. And I know of absolutely none that would prevent an unauthorized collection of data.

              The cord plugging into the public USB can avoid the data issues by simply not connecting the data pins.

              As I pointed out in this thread, some devices need the data pins. I didn't mention the devices that actually have to enumerate on the bus and negotiate a charging current (I'm talking about YOU, Sony PRS ebook readers).

              And I pointed out downthrea

              • *sigh* why does everybody have to overcomplicate things? You only need wires attached to pins 1 and 4 for power at the 'public' end of the cable. The ~5 volts is always there. The other two can be simply left off. The regulator itself is effectively an isolation transformer/voltage regulator/black box. The end that connects to your device will use all four pins as needed for whatever purpose they have. If I could make a drawing here, I could show how extremely simple it is. Yeah, it's one extra cable to car

                • You only need wires attached to pins 1 and 4 for power at the 'public' end of the cable.

                  Yes, we know. Unless your device needs the other two.

                  The ~5 volts is always there.

                  Unless it isn't 5V. You're trusting your several hundred dollar device to a public kiosk on a public street.

                  The regulator itself is effectively an isolation transformer/voltage regulator/black box.

                  You're referring to the power supply in that public kiosk ... which you do not control.

                  Here's an interesting thought experiment. How isolated are the multiple ports on the kiosk? What would happen, do you think, if someone walked up to the kiosk where you're hanging around charging your phone, and they plug in with something putting 100VAC onto th

                  • You're referring to the power supply in that public kiosk ... which you do not control.

                    No, it's a big block of "magic smoke" in the cable, like the power adapter for your laptop.

                    bla bla bla...

                    Okay, I give up, you win... Happy New Year!

                    • No, it's a big block of "magic smoke" in the cable, like the power adapter for your laptop.

                      The plans for the kiosks have a USB socket. The regulators are internal to the kiosk. The cables you plug in have no "magic smoke", they are just wires. That's why making a "charging cable" is such a trivial operation -- cut two wires.

                      Laptop chargers have that "magic smoke" because they have to convert mains (120/220AC) into some DC (many are 19V). USB charging cables don't do that. Not the ones you will plug into the kiosk, anyway.

                      Okay, I give up, you win...

                      I'm not trying to win. I'm trying to point out that when you trust the kios

                    • But I don't trust the kiosk. I already know that nobody makes the adapter I am talking about yet. The opportunity awaits. You won't have to trust the kiosk.

          • Thus you have Motorola chargers that won't charge a Sanyo phone, LG phones that won't charge from generic chargers, etc. (Names used for example only.)

            That's a valid issue but a temporary one. Even now, USB 3.1 is pretty much standardizing charging. There was a recent PC World article testing this. Interesting read

            USB-C charging: Universal or bust! We plug in every device we have to chase the dream Four devices and five chargers tell us just how close we are.

            Link: http://www.pcworld.com/article... [pcworld.com]

            • by Agripa ( 139780 )

              Thus you have Motorola chargers that won't charge a Sanyo phone, LG phones that won't charge from generic chargers, etc. (Names used for example only.)

              That's a valid issue but a temporary one. Even now, USB 3.1 is pretty much standardizing charging. There was a recent PC World article testing this. Interesting read

              And as soon as USB Type-C became available, NXP started advertising their charging solutions for it which include DRM as a feature. So yes, it is standardized in the sense that DRM is or can be e

    • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2015 @09:27PM (#51213053) Journal
      You're not at all paranoid, at least not in a bad way, for thinking that. I was just thinking that, so long as the device you want to charge just needs the 5 volt supply and not the data pair active, a good accessory to have would be a USB cable that has the data pair disconnected. That way if you do plug in somewhere in public, there's no chance of your device being compromised by malware. Now of course that won't protect you against someone sabotaging the port so it outright damages someone's device; has anyone heard of someone intentionally sabotaging USB ports so anything you plug into them gets damaged?
      • by rsborg ( 111459 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2015 @09:45PM (#51213129) Homepage

        You mean something like a USB Condom [syncstop.com]?

        • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2015 @10:18PM (#51213255) Journal
          Yeah, exactly, except someone who is handy could just get a short USB extension cable, strip back the outer jacket, expose the data pair (white and green twisted pair, I believe) and just cut them, then put heatshrink or electrical tape over where you modded the cable and you're done. Would cost you less than a dollar and take all of 10 minutes of your time.
          • I've wasted too much time trying to get a data connection on a "charge only" cable to ever have one of them anywhere close. If it isn't a USB cable (full spec, working) then it is broken, and life is too short to waste it dealing with broken cables. Cut in half so it never interferes again, but has potential for a source of wire or connectors.
            • I'm not really sure what your point is? What we're discussing is protecting your device from a potentially malicious public USB port, and a regular data cable won't do that.
              • by KGIII ( 973947 )

                He is saying it is not for him, it's too complicated for him, and that he thinks nobody should use it. I'm not sure why they feel inclined to opine on something that is neither meant for them nor will be used by them. They've made it quite clear that they're not from the US but they feel compelled to say that NYC shouldn't do this. No, I do not understand the motivation.

          • by dissy ( 172727 ) on Thursday December 31, 2015 @02:44AM (#51214121)

            Yeah, exactly, except someone who is handy could just get a short USB extension cable, strip back the outer jacket, expose the data pair (white and green twisted pair, I believe) and just cut them, then put heatshrink or electrical tape over where you modded the cable and you're done. Would cost you less than a dollar and take all of 10 minutes of your time.

            I've done pretty much exactly that before, although there was a couple additional steps involved.

            This was way back when the iPhone 3g just came out, and I was annoyed that most (real) USB chargers would do nothing more than connect the GND and +5v pins, which by USB spec is how the charger states it only has 500ma available.
            To inform a device there is more amperage available, the USB spec states you need to have voltage on the two data pins.

            The iPhone 3g could suck down up to 1000ma if available, which involved having +2.0v on one data pin, and a bit more on the other data pin. (+2.75v going by the link I found below. Sorry, the memory isn't too good these days)

            I had a USB extension cable laying around that had a normal USB connector on one end, and a small weighted plastic base on the other end with the jack. It was intended to sit on your desk and let you plug in flash drives and be all pretty and convenient I think.
            But to me the plastic base was the perfect place to solder in the two resistors between +5v and the data pins and keep all the ugliness out of sight.

            The cable was something like this, although not the exact same model:
            http://www.amazon.com/StarTech-5ft-Desktop-Extension-Cable/dp/B001K9BFB8 [amazon.com]

            Here is a lookup table of resistances/voltages needed on the two data pins to signal various amperages:
            https://www.voltaicsystems.com/blog/choosing-usb-pin-voltages-for-iphones-and-ipads/ [voltaicsystems.com]

            Doing the soldering free-hand instead of digging up some perfboard made it take about 15 minutes, so you are pretty spot on.
            I already had the parts laying around so didn't cost me anything, but that USB cable on amazon above was just the first result I found so I'm sure isn't the cheapest available, but even that is only $7.

            Since then the "USB Condoms" other people have been posting about have dropped in price to about the same as building one yourself, plus they look a lot slicker and professionally made, and quite short compared to my 3 foot monstrosity, so I just purchase them now.

            Not only does such a device help protect your hardware from the unknowns out there, but in the case of Apple connecting an iOS device over USB would auto-launch iTunes, an annoyingly long and most of the time unwanted process just to get a bit of recharge.
            There have been other devices in the past I remember doing similar, auto running some software when the computer detects it. Totally annoying when one is capable of running programs on their own when needed :P

            Thankfully Android never went down that path, but even there a USB condom is useful as the devices usually show up as a flash drive with your camera pictures on it which could be copied from you unwantingly, and a few models I have seen expose this as read/write!
            At work I have group policies set to deny read access to any "\\\\.\\autorun.inf" file (aka that file at the root of any drive path) as well as to log to a server the fact explorer.exe tried to read one along with the exe name it tries to run.
            A co-workers Android phone got infected by Windows malware we discovered this way, as some infected PC copied an autorun.inf and a [random-letters].exe to his phone, to attempt to infect other Windows PCs it got connected to.
            Obviously the phone itself wasn't infected, and as he mainly only plugged the thing in at home (Linux) and at work (Windows yes but with the above GPO), and so he never noticed it was playing infectious carrier to anything he plugged into.

            TL;DR - Always be safe and wrap yur wire!

        • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

          You mean something like a USB Condom [syncstop.com]?

          LOL. $20 for the one that doesn't look like it came from a parts-drawer. Like one of the earlier posters said, you can a specialty charging-only USB cable [amazon.com] for less and not have to supply your own cable then.

          Of course, if you're using an Apple device that wont work. But Apple users are becoming conditioned to having to carry around a bunch of dongles to do what you could accomplish with on-device ports before.

          • Of course, if you're using an Apple device that wont work.

            What makes you say this? It totally works. I use a USB cable that only has the power pins and no data pins connected all the time.

            • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

              I was talking about the Amazon cable I linked. You would still need an adapter to connect it to Lightning or a 30-pin connector, which isn't much different than using your normal device cable and a "USB Condom" instead. Just a matter of which end needs extra hardware.

      • a good accessory to have would be a USB cable that has the data pair disconnected.

        So basically, any cheap USB cable you can buy on Amazon. I've probably bought a half-dozen that would charge my Nexus, but not transfer data. Finally, I started buying the brand name cables and they'd be fine.

        • So basically, any cheap USB cable you can buy on Amazon. I've probably bought a half-dozen that would charge my Nexus, but not transfer data.

          Maybe your Nexus is just on fail. My Nexus 4 didn't give a shit about the cable, good or bad, it would charge. But the digitizer and radio went tits up, so it was shit anyway. That's what I get for fucking with LG, I know better too.

          What the ever-living fuck is up with this 5 minute comment delay? It comes and goes, then it comes and goes some more. Is this what happens when you don't suck "editor" cock?

      • by dissy ( 172727 )

        Now of course that won't protect you against someone sabotaging the port so it outright damages someone's device; has anyone heard of someone intentionally sabotaging USB ports so anything you plug into them gets damaged?

        Yup!
        http://hackaday.com/2015/10/10/the-usb-killer-version-2-0/ [hackaday.com]

  • by goodmanj ( 234846 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2015 @09:29PM (#51213063)

    This sounded like a fine idea until they mentioned USB ports. Those suckers are gonna be full of gum, or worse, in 60 seconds. The fact that they're even trying to provide USB charging makes me worry that they totally don't understand how to protect public hardware from vandalism.

    If somebody taking a fire axe to your touchscreen isn't part of your interface design document, you don't know what you're doing.

    • by Kernel Kurtz ( 182424 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2015 @09:44PM (#51213123) Homepage

      The fact that they're even trying to provide USB charging makes me worry that they totally don't understand how to protect public hardware from vandalism.

      Pretty much same here. A public mesh network has lots of potential.

      Kiosks might work in trendy, well lit, low crime areas. With cameras. And regular patrols.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Isn't this true of all WiFi networks? Public and private are vulnerable to being cloned and people accidentally connecting to the wrong one.

      • by Toad-san ( 64810 )

        Like goodman said above .. I give these kiosks a one-day life expectancy at best. The human- and tool-accessible bits, that is. Wireless and Bluetooth node might not be such a bad idea.

      • Kiosks might work in trendy, well lit, low crime areas. With cameras. And regular patrols.

        Like Craigslist purchases, all this stuff should be in police / sheriff office lobbies.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Doubtful for one reason: all the kids are clamoring for ways to charge their phones. The demographic that is full of vandals have an interest in keeping these kiosks in perfect working order so they can check twitter, facebook, and play their games.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      So were the phone booths that used to be at these locations fire axe proof as well? Is all street furniture pretty much indestructible in NY?

      • So were the phone booths that used to be at these locations fire axe proof as well?

        Pretty much, yeah. One of the most common types was called a "fortress" phone for a reason.

      • by swb ( 14022 ) on Thursday December 31, 2015 @07:52AM (#51214845)

        Pay phones were pretty impressive engineering overall when you think about how much abuse they were subject to.

        The locks used on them, especially the coin box versions, were probably one of the most impressive parts of them. They might rank as one of the most secure mass-produced locking mechanisms ever made. I think the coin box had 1.5 million key variations and were extremely pick resistant.

        This link outlines the lock system used and mentions the almost legendary status of them. I seem to remember the urban legend mentioned in the article about one guy who figured out a system for picking the coin box lock. The article doesn't go in to details, but I vaguely remember there was supposedly one guy (maybe an insider who had access to the internals or keying system or something) who got away with it for a while.

        Back in the 1970s or even earlier, there would have been a huge motivation for a successful and simple method of opening pay phone coin boxes. Pay phones were everywhere and if you could gain easy access to opening the coin box you could have probably made a living just going from phone to phone emptying the coin boxes.

        http://www.crypto.com/photos/m... [crypto.com]

    • I'm more interested in whether the 'vandals' will hack the advertisement screens to display streaming video.

  • What, are all the lawsuits out of the way already?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    they already own a minority share.. soon as rollout hits 50% or so, i think they'll buy the rest. the tracking potential of hotspots all over new york is too much for them to resist.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    A more appropriate headline would be "NYC Begins Mesh Surveillance Network Rollout."

    • by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2015 @11:13PM (#51213471) Homepage Journal

      A more appropriate headline would be "NYC Begins Mesh Surveillance Network Rollout."

      Yes, but as long as the masses confuse "free" with "no direct monetary costs", it will be seen as manna from heaven.

      Their own privacy policy states that they require registration to use the service, and then they collect information including (but not limited to) mac address, IP address, browser type and version, operating system, device type, device ids, full URLs and IP addresses and timestamps of everything you connect to.

      And they serve you targeted advertising, and reserve the right to share data with advertisers to "better' serve you targeted ads.

      it would likely be illegal to call this free in either meaning of the word outside the land of the free.

      • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

        nice hat.
        rather shiny.
        some sort of metal?

  • Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2015 @11:11PM (#51213467) Homepage

    "The kiosks are free, public Wi-Fi access points"
    "the full network will eventually include over 7,500 of them." "The displays are expected to bring the city $500 million in revenue over the next 12 years."

    500m / 12 / 7500 = $5555.55 per year per kiosk.

    I'm presuming that's ALL advertising because - why would you pay to charge your phone or browse the web nowadays?

    But, let's presume that's true. If it brings in $5k per year per kiosk, how much is it going to cost to fit out? Gigabit wifi, some sort of Internet connection, two huge screens, some device managing the screens, cost of refit, etc. etc. etc. That's GOT to lose you several YEARS of revenue per kiosk almost immediately, yes? And then... quite where's the profit coming from?

    And that's not talking about vandalism, damage, wear and tear, weatherproofing, maintenance, etc.

  • Damn, they have some good technology if they've design 55 inch screens that for 12 years can (a) work properly even under the most optimistic of conditions, and (b) resist vandalism for 12 years.

    As another poster noted, the fact that they're including USB chargers in public -- in NYC fer chrissakes -- means the designers / specifiers either don't have a clue, or were told to ignore the many lessons that companies deploying public infrastructure in NYC have learned over the years. Every time I visit NYC, I'm

    • by dissy ( 172727 )

      Damn, they have some good technology if they've design 55 inch screens that for 12 years can (a) work properly even under the most optimistic of conditions, and (b) resist vandalism for 12 years.

      Not really, it's pretty easy to do.

      There are plenty of "LCD Armor" enclosures available to lock an LCD in that still allow viewing and are designed to keep the monitor safe from all but the most extreme forms of abuse.
      ATMs and kiosks at the mall have used them for years with a pretty decent track record.

      Additionally the enclosures have a key lock so they can be opened, thus when the LCD dies it can be replaced with another working one, which they can do for 12 years if they wish.

      You are quite correct about

      • If they are going to be around for 12 years, why not pass on the USB charging port and instead use a wireless charging pad.

        Not all devices support wireless charging today, but within 12 years, I am sure every device will use wireless charging. This could even spur faster adoption of wireless charging devices.

        • by dissy ( 172727 )

          That's actually a great idea. A wireless charging device would fit in perfectly with this type of thing, and can be protected from direct contact just like the LCD could be.

          As you note the state of wireless charging standards today sort of sucks, but there are a couple standards being pushed they could work with, and anything to push adoption faster is likely to be only a good thing.

          Hopefully these things are engineered such that the charging section can be upgraded or replaced as time goes on.

  • Construction began in 2015 when they started assembling kiosks. It's not like they do all the assembly and testing on location. Thus, even if they had not yet installed one by January 1, they still could have begun construction in 2015.

  • by Rob Lister ( 4174831 ) on Thursday December 31, 2015 @08:44AM (#51214929)
    All of the revenue comes from the two street-level 55-inch advertising displays. None of the revenue is going to come form the wifi/charging kiosks. What's that mean? The wifi/charging aspects will quickly fall into disrepair. There's no money in keeping them working.

    Those advertising displays have to bring in ~$500-$1000/mo to break-even. Will advertisers pay that much for street-level displays? Probably. At least in some neighborhoods.

    That 911 button is going to see a lot of LULZ action.
  • This is like a wet dream for the NSA. It creates a treasure trove of intelligence information ... especially because I'm certain that hidden in the fine print somewhere is that, "you have no expectation of privacy...."

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