Posts Tagged ‘WiFi’

Non-profit Group Releases Open Source Mesh WiFi Network Software

August 17th, 2011

The non-profit group Geeks Without Frontiers today released open source software based on an upcoming WiFi standard. It lets Linux machines be their own WiFi network, no hardware required.

The software is based on the not-yet-ratified IEEE 802.11s, an extension to the 802.11 WiFi standard. 11s creates wireless “mesh” networks. Ratification is expected to happen by Q4 2011. 11s allows multiple wireless devices to connect with each other without having a hardware access point between them and to “multi-hop” to reach nodes that would otherwise be out of range.

Geeks Without Frontiers is an arm of the not-for-profit agency, the Manna Energy Foundation. Manna’s goal is a lofty one. It wants to “positively impact the lives of one billion people in the next ten years” through the use of what it calls “social entrepreneurship.” For instance, Manna is working to bring clean, sustainable water supplies to Rwanda and Kenya.

With that as a backdrop, the motivation for open80211s was to bring affordable Internet connections to rural, underprivileged areas, such as the villages of Kenya, the group says. But open source means open and those wanting to use the software to build their own mesh networks can certainly do so.

The project was funded with grants from the Tides Foundation and Google, with contributions also from Global Connect, Nortel and One Laptop Per Child. Most of the work for open80211s was done by folks at Geek and I-Net Solutions primarily through the graces of Javier Cardona of Cozybit, who wrote much of the code, and Dan Harkins, who contributed much of the security. Geeks claims that the mesh networks created by open80211s will be highly secure. It uses strong authentication to allow only authorized individuals entry and encryption, to keep prying eyes from seeing the traffic.

The open80211s project was also accepted into the mainline Linux kernel and is included in release 2.6.26 and beyond. This means that patches and bug fixes will be pushed through to the project’s users when they get updates from their distribution makers and they won’t have to manage that stuff on their own. The latest development code is available in the wireless-testing portion of the kernel.

The software is freely available now with a community-scale pilot test soon coming in Northern California, the group says.

This project is not the only version of open source 802.11s being worked on. For instance, the WiFiMesh working group of FreeBSD is working to get 802.11s implemented in FreeBSD. But since 802.11s hasn’t been ratified yet, and the implementation included in the kernel is, necessarily, based on an earlier, non-ratified draft, these early implementations can’t yet talk to one another.

Eventually, such inconveniences will be worked out and a group of users armed with nothing but their Linux-based devices should be able to create a low-cost, large scale wireless network that can share an Internet connection. The hope is that municipalities in rural areas will be able to serve their residents with Internet access at extremely low costs.


China cracks down on WiFi in public spaces

July 29th, 2011

China has ordered public spaces offering WiFi web access to install costly software to enable police to identify people using the service, state media said.

The software, which also gives police a list of all websites visited by an online user, costs between 20,000 yuan ($A2824) and 60,000 yuan ($A8472), the China Business News said on Thursday.

As a result, many establishments such as bars, restaurants, cafes and bookstores have decided to stop providing wireless internet to their customers despite its popularity, to avoid paying the money, the report said.

In Beijing, cafe and restaurant owners have been told they face a minimum fine of 5000 yuan if they continue to offer wireless without installing the software, it said.

“In serious cases,” offenders could see their internet cut off for up to six months, the report said.

Cafe owners in Shanghai and in the eastern city of Hangzhou contacted by the official China Daily newspaper said they had also been notified of the new measure, which other reports have said is being rolled out nationwide.

The software is purportedly designed to supervise “illegal activities,” the report said.

“It’s a requirement of the public security organs. Why should we pay the fees?” Yang Xiaowen, manager of UBC Coffee in Beijing, told the China Daily.

“For a reason that everyone is aware of, we are temporarily stopping our wi-fi service,” announced the Beijing-based Kubrick bookstore, according to the China Business News.

The report also raised questions about ties between police and the software maker Rainsoft, a company founded in 1998 that reportedly collaborates with public security organs in many Chinese provinces.

China – which has the world’s largest online population with 485 million users – constantly strives to exert its control over the internet, blocking content it deems politically sensitive as part of a vast censorship system.

In one high-profile case in 2009, it ordered computer makers to addan internet filter software to all new personal computers sold in the country, saying it would shelter children from pornographic and violent web content.

But it was forced to back down on the plan just ahead of the deadline after an outcry in China and abroad.


Businesses, public pan WiFi monitoring

July 28th, 2011

A regulation that requires bars, restaurants, hotels and bookstores to install expensive Web-monitoring software has sparked controversy among business owners and the public.
The software, which is designed to supervise illegal activities by passing the identities of customers using free wireless services to public security departments, will cost business owners 20,000 yuan ($3,100). Those who refuse to pay and offer unfettered Internet access may face a 15,000-yuan fine.
Ye Jia, a cafe owner in Wudaoying Hutong, Dongcheng district, told China Daily that her brother was asked to install the software during a meeting at the district’s public security bureau on July 22.
“All small businesses with WiFi in our area attended that meeting,” she said. “But I won’t use the software, because I can’t afford the costly fees.
“If the restriction on the wireless service is put into effect, my cafe will be affected and I won’t be able to keep offering this service.”
Many business owners in the city who had not heard about the new regulation expressed disapproval when they were told how much the installation would cost.
“It’s a requirement of the public security organs. Why should we pay the fees?” said Yang Xiaowen, manager of UBC Coffee in Chaoyang district.
A 40-year-old customer surnamed Guan using the WiFi in a Sculpting in Time cafe in Chaoyang district said she thought the regulation violated her privacy.
“I don’t want to be watched. It will make me uncomfortable,” said Guan, who works for a consulting company.
Another customer named Zhou Li, 29, an administrative employee, said she did not care about the regulation and will do private online work at home instead of in public.
Yi Shenghua, a Beijing-based lawyer at Ying Ke Law Firm, said he did not support the regulation, which is similar to one that applies to Internet bars. He said business owners should not have to pay for the monitoring software.
The Beijing municipal public security bureau had not responded to these criticisms by Wednesday.
“I have known about it and we are studying the issue at present,” said Zi Xiangdong, spokesman for the bureau, who declined to make any further comment.
A report in Beijing News said the public security department revealed that the regulation has been introduced in the capital and will be applied across the country.
Cafe owners contacted by China Daily reporters in Shanghai, and in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, said they had been notified of the new measure.
In addition, the developer of the program, Shanghai Rain-Soft Software, did not comment. A receptionist at the company said: “Our manager has been away on a business trip and won’t be back until August, so there is no one available to explain the software.”


Get Adobe Flash player