December 05, 2015
GM Cars Can Kibitz Among Themselves
While we're talking about things GM isn't doing, lets talk about something they are. Car to car communications. Now this isn't exactly answering a question no one asked but its sort of close. Am I to assume we're all up to speed on cars that get 100 MPG, completely recyclable, safe up to 90 MPH impacts and impossible to steal? Oh, OK, I see. But now we're cool with that car-to-car talking thing. Great.
November 30, 2015
Wireless Telcos Have Opportunity While Onstar Snoozes
British Telecom AKA BT is launching a service that takes the LoJack concept, smacks the 80's LoTech out of it and shoots it into space. Track your stolen car by satellite.
Satellites are up, GPS antennas are cheap, wireless communication is ubiquitous and technology is ready. OnStar can do the same thing but their pricing scheme keeps a lot of people from signing up. OnStar also doesn't market the theft recovery part of their service. They want to be a concierge. That's nice for them, wanting to be all high-brow and junk. If they were smart, they would sell a stripped down version of OnStar that just allowed sat tracking and sent an alert to the Mother-ship when it senses a crash. But no, they want to tell you where the Opera is... Whatever.
BT on the other hand is far more pragmatic. They assume you already know Opera is elitist and quite boring so you'd not need them to tell you where it is. They know that you're most likely to need their service when you're trying to find your car in car park after the Man United game and it's gone.
What's to stop T-Mobile, CIngular, Sprint and Verizon from doing the same thing. They have the technology and would only need a manufacturer in Korea to come up with a transceiver that can be installed in your car.
September 19, 2015
The New Hot Phone Of The Moment
Phones are integral to mobile computing. As EVDO and broadband technologies are included in more and more phones, the mobile user is seeing more options for connectivity.
The current "perfect" setup is a combo of Bluetooth and EVDO. This allows the in-car computer to get access without having a dedicated connectivity device while also freeing the user from having to have an ugly tether.
The bonus with PDA style devices with these features is that once you're on the hoof the device is still very usable. Windows Mobile 5 is a good leap forward and pretty much makes all previous versions pointless to purchase. That's pretty much the case with embedded systems such as this so it should come as no surprise.
Sprint is the first on the U.S. block with a PDA / EVDO / Bluetooth / WM 5.0 device and it's a real looker. The side-slide keyboard looks wide enough for adult hands and seems to have enough buttons to keep the use of a "function" key to a bare minimum.
If you're looking for a good way to get broadband Internet in your car, Bluetooth and EVDO is your best bet. If you're also wanting a powerful device that offers lots of option outside of the car, the PDA option covers that too. MS is doing a good job of keeping up with the Jonses and the Treo too. It's worth a look.
September 03, 2015
Happy Happy Joy Joy - Viva La EDGE
Verizon cut their EVDO prices down from $80 ro $60/mo. Big woop. It's still WAY too expensive. As I have mentioned before, T-Mobile, thanks in part to smart pricing from head of sales, Catherine Zeta Jones-Douglas, is $20/mo for their broadband all-you-care-to-use-for-P2P-service. That's 1/3 the price. Not 15%, not a few bucks, a third.
It's the telco version of "How you like that? Yeah? In your face! How does it feel? Yeah, I thought so."
Ok, EVDO is cooler and more techno cause it's not a nifty acronym. And it's newer, which adds to the l33tn3ss of it but as my uncle Morty would say in a very Yiddish accent "Such a deal!"
August 31, 2015
Sharing Is Caring
Digital media has made it so simple to share. First it was shared punch cards then tape reels, programs, games, music, videos, movies and now Internet access. WiFi gave way to Warchalking then to Wardriving (I'll assume Warboating is in there too). Wireless carriers were somewhat immune until recently someone came up with a little portable pack they used a GPRS / EDGE card to access and shared the connection through WiFi. DLink didn't let any moss grow on them, or however that line goes. Wireless carriers might come around from the back and start being the Internet carrier of choice for those who insist on being disconnected from the grid, at least in a wired, direct sort of way. Add in a Vonnage account and you could get that old Bell phone out of the closet and use it on the street.
How freakin cool would I be if I were in my car and the phone rings with that riiiiiiiing! of a real bell being hit only to pick up that relic and use it. Car 54 where are you?
August 22, 2015
Angelinos Have New Reason To Feel Superior
Every city has a feud with some other city, or place. New York hates New Jersey, Boston hates New York, San Francisco hates LA. In the case of LA, no one in LA knows or cares that SF hates them as they are all too terribly busy rushing around from Pilates classes to Yoga classes. Having lived in LA for 10 years, I know this to be fact.
A SF Gate writer decides to go slumming and hits the LA basin to try out Verizon's EVDO service.
Going back to my years in LA I'll first note that only newscasters and LA Weekly writers call people who live in LA "Angelinos". Saying that word in public will get you the same reaction saying Frisco will when you're in the Bay Area. Is it me or is the term Bay Area sort of vague and allows too many outlying areas to hop in and be SF hip? Rather than continue to use that offensive term I'll just call people who live in LA; people-who-live-in-LA.
PWLIL.A. all know one thing, they live in a big basin surrounded by mountains, yet their cell phones allways seem to lose signal and drop calls. Everywhere. All the time. For no reason whatsoever.
As much as I want to believe the SF Gate writer had the good coverage he said he had, I want to ask him if he experienced and pockets of bad reception.
August 16, 2015
Car Whisperer Speaks Softly, To Linux Users
Manufacturers of electronics continue to dumb down their products. It used to be only functionality but we've seen this dumbing-down seep into security products. WiFi was the first one. Correction, DSL/Cable Modems were first. Ah I remember when I could scan my Cable Modem subnet and find all sorts of open shares to browse.
WiFi products were developed so quickly that an elegant security solution never evolved. WEP is a little bit of a pain in the butt to enable. Not terrible, not something that requires a slide rule and a sextant, but no, soccermom threw a tantrum and now 90% of WiFi networks in the hands of consumers remain unsecured. The blame is on the makers of the products. Sure, soccerbetty is lazy and likes to be coddled but the issue is WEP and most security features are designed by engineers and undergo very little if any usability testing.
Bluetooth is similar. Bluetooth authentication is a pain in the ass. Most Bluetooth devices suck to get bonded together and often "forget" their partners. I've been very unimpressed with Bluetooth from the get-go. That said, I use it on my laptop and car computer to get internet access through my GPRS phone. If I didnt have 20 years of computer background I think the project may have failed. The technology, surrounding software and security is simply garbage.
The Car Whisperer demostrates the garbosity of Bluetooth through its dumbed-down security implementations by automakers, phone makers and anyone else that uses "0000" or "1111" as a passcode.
August 05, 2015
Hotspots Are Dead
This week has had a lot of news about wireless technology. Some stories are about the vapor-ware of WiMax, some lament the limitations of hotspots and others talk about magical new data services the wireless providers are offering. I'm interested in the latter
More after the jump...
USA Today ran an editorial on the latter and how it's on the bubble. Andrew Kantor mentioned something very poignant, the rest of the world finds the concept of metering connections too tedious and sells bandwidth as bandwidth. It's a very good point. Hasn't the "network" grown to the point where it shouldn't matter how many calls we make or to where? Wouldn't it be simpler (and cheaper) for the telcos to charge a flat rate for a phone and make it a free-for-all? Rather than elaborate tiered systems, just offer 2 packages, fills and no-frills. Is their network so delicate that without an idea of what customers are signing up for, they might collapse under the traffic? I doubt it.
Andrew was good enough to give actual throughput numbers for each technology and service which gives you an idea of what each is capable of. The part where he mentions streaming a DVD quality movie in the back of a minivan is a salient point. That's what we want, the ubiquity of always-on Internet, everywhere. Yes, and without a meter.
It's the meter that seems to be the breakdown. AT&T was charging me some astronomical rate of $20 each month for about 10MB of downloaded data on my phone. That's a fact. The other fact is that they own one of the largest IP networks in the world where they sell connectivity across DS1 and DS3 connections of a few orders of magnitude cheaper. What gives? Is it an experiment on what the market will bear? It's not about bandwidth cost. I can guess it's one of two things, there is a little bit of hardware between the pure IP network and the phone network that's made of pixie dust and ground up unicorn horn. Then, I could see how the uni-pix-MUX would be so expensive that customers would have to pay for the privilege of their packets going through it.
I'm not going to single out ATTWS, I'll also point a fickle finger at the rest of the carriers. All of them except T-Mobile who got sober real quick and offers up all-you-can-eat for $20. Bravo. No connection metering. How do you like that?
August 03, 2015
EVDO Rules - See WiFi Run, Run WiFi, Run.Ok, I've been going on and on about why EVDO and Internet connectivity through cell phones is better than that weak-ass hotspot stuff. These guys at ZDNET take the whole concept and make it into a coherent article, unlike me who will go on angry tangents never actually getting to the point. The "missing manual" part is what I like best. If you have a car computer or just a laptop and a cell phone, read this. Read it now. Read it and stop getting bamboozled by hotspot providers.
August 02, 2015
EVDO Stomp Box
I don't know exactly what a "stompbox" is but it sounds neat. The how-to on making your own shared mobile network using the EVDO network is cool, if walking down the street with a bunch of people following you around, laptops in hand is what you're after.
It seems like a good amount of work to make one of these so I'm dying to know what it's useful for. Other than being "neat".
July 29, 2015
Lot Lizards Go Wireless
Ah, life on the open road. No one to tell you what to do, bubbas squaking on the CB, late nights at truck stops, swilling down cheap coffee and effedren, checking your email from the back of your Kenworth. What? The Interweb at the truck stop?
Contrary to popular belief, truckers are not all a bunch of overall wearing toothless speed freaks. The majority of them are pretty tech savvy individuals who make up a rather significant percentage of mobile electronics purchases. Without truckers, XM may have taken a lot longer to launch. SMC must have figured out that truckers have email wants and needs and took the T-Mobile hotspot idea to the land of the big-rig. It's a pretty slick idea since it not only services the laung haul trucker, it's a huge improvement for the traveling family, business man or run-away bride.
We're such slaves to our inbox that going on vacation means we have to figure out a way to check email no matter how far we get from the office. Don't try to pretend you didnt call your blackberry provider to ask if they serviced your potential vacation spots.
SMC is providing yet another circle of wireless coverage in spots they never existed. Slowly but surely, layer upon layer we are all becoming unwired.
July 26, 2015
EVDO VS. WiMax. A New Play By David Mamet
The battle of wireless will be settled by the great equalizer, pricing and coverage. Wireless companies should be shaking in their boots. Not that I think WiMax is that great or can compete with cellular networks, it's great because wireless provides are not free to set rates as they please without any other competition. Competition is good, it's democratic and damn it, its American!
The magic number should be about $20/mo for broadband service to be realistic for a broad audience. Any more than that and it's a luxury item and people will shy away. T-Mobile is offering unlimited broadband through their phones / connection cards for $20 RIGHT NOW people! I've been using it for about a month and so far it's been a real winner. It's not quick but they promise a jump to EDGE very soon. The current speed is faster than dialup and slower than ISDN, perfect for IM, email, and a little browsing. Thanks Catherine Zeta Jones Douglas, you're the best!
If the pink logoed T-Mobile is already there at $20, what is the value proposition from the other carriers? Coverage? that's possible but T-Mobile has pretty good coverage. Speed? T-Mobile is upgrading to >1Mb/sec. Sprint, Verizon and Cingular need to get their pricing together or they will be left in the digital dust.
What does this mean for in-car computers? Right now you can get a T-Mobile connection card for about $100 and a solid connection for $20 a month. No more Wardriving, always-on Internet. Are we there yet? pretty damn close, kids, pretty damn close.
July 18, 2015
Wimax = Betamax?
Oh Wimax, why must you tease us so? As you languish in the sticky atmosphere of standards and industry acceptance, other wireless technologies are sliding by like greased weasels.
While the public demands more options, municipalities, telcos, cable companies, and start-ups are fighting over who has the right to do what where. Local governments trying to bring internet access to underprivileged neighborhoods are shot down by the likes of SBC for sticking their finger into the private sector. Cable companies and telcos are fighting over who can offer TV signals in whose back yards and start ups are being squeezed out by anyone with more lawyers and money. In the end there are no winners, just under serviced customers who are getting more and more frustrated with diminishing customer service levels. Wimax may offer a lot of promise but right now only lawyers are enjoying the benefits, as is often the case.
Wimax may be part of the big bright digital future or may end up as an also-ran. Many great technologies have suffered from and died of bad timing. There are too many variables to place any big bets but the looming dark clouds of a Wireless Carrier or Telco monopoly tell us what we could expect with no great surprise.
Perhaps, in a utopian parallel universe, everyone with a wireless router would go out and buy powerful antennas and create a huge free meshed wireless network, open to anyone within range. Cities would put huge Wimax antennas on radio towers, high-rise roofs and mountain tops. Bandwidth would be ubiquitous and free to all. Oh man, I'm getting all misty.
June 08, 2015
Sprint EVDO Schedule Leak
Not that there was a chance I was going to go with Sprint, they seem to be off and running on EVDO service. Even my own little Austin, TX just got it this month. Or, let me say, they have it scheduled. Let's not confuse scheduled things with actuall things. I know better since ordering my couch 4 months ago...
If you live in an area that already has service according to their schedule, call Sprint and ask about it. Lets see how long it takes them to train their call center staff on the new technology.