Posts Tagged ‘wifi’
Got a weak WiFi signal and bugger-all mobile reception? Instead of swearing at the heavens, why don’t you buy a baking tray? No, we’re not advising that you bake some biscuits to distract you from a slow internet connection, but rather, you can use the humble kitchen implement as an amplifier.
So says Peter Cochrane who is the former Chief Technology Officer at BT. Writing on his blog – Silicon.com – Cochrane said that “My mobile phone is showing one bar of 2.5G and one bar of wi-fi. My laptop isn’t doing any better, and a data connection is proving impossible. There are some buildings behind the trees on the other side of the river, and my scanner is showing a number of open access wi-fi opportunities. But all I have is what I carry, and that does not include a high-gain antenna.”
“Time to improvise,” he wrote. “A visit to the galley turns up a much-used baking tray. A few simple experiments later and I’m able to locate the direction of the 2.5G base station and the strongest wifi signal. So I now have three bars of wifi and 2.5G by way of the unlikely combination of a baking tray and some judicious positioning.”
He concluded: “No matter how well prepared you are, there are times when you don’t quite have to hand all the technology you really need. All the other options would have been far more expensive and far less convenient.”
So there you have it. No fresh biscuits for you.
In the eternal battle between PC nerds and Apple fanbois, who better to pitch in with their opinion than McDonalds? As much as we love our Macbooks, they’re taking the piss a little bit, aren’t they?
The number of WiFi hotspots in the UK may be about to blow through the roof, and it’s all thanks to Tesco. The stores already use WiFi internally, but management are looking to make their networks public.
The FT reports that Tesco is already trialling the service in four stores, and that management believe rolling it out nationwide is a no-brainer. The fact that many mobile apps (including Tesco’s own) allow customers to aimlessly wonder around scanning barcodes and tit about in the bread aisle is no doubt the driving force behind the decision. It’s also possible that Tesco could offer some sort of WiFi-related incentive to their ClubCard scheme.
Will it improve the shopping experience? Free WiFi makes more sense in an environment like Starbucks or Pret A Manger where consumers can sit out of one another’s way. Will it lead to supermarkets filling up with tourists on foreign roaming plans? Will we be forcing trolleys past five kids stood in a huddle while mum tweets Phillip Schofield? Grim.
Even though it appears that Microsoft are going allow governments to spy on your conversations on Skype, at least they’ve had the decency to tart the Android app up. Basically, you can now get free video calls over Wi-Fi and 3G.
The new version of the app will be available to owners of most Android smartphones and you’ll be able to make calls over multiple platforms. Basically, you can ring people from your phone on their computers, Smart TVs and even Apple devices like the iPhone.
The app is only available on phones which have Android 2.0 and above, and soon, will be available on the iPad. Could this be the beginning of the end for the way we normally ring people?
It’s because of hotel rooms like this that I’m already of the firm opinion that everything within a mile radius of Paddington station could be set fire to and London would be none the poorer for it. I swore I’d never return but the bank balance insisted otherwise, so it was with a heavy heart I paid £84 and checked into the Lancaster Court Hotel.
I could piss and moan about the fire doors being propped open; the room’s main lightswitch being at the normal height of a light switch, except on a draw string; no toilet in the room, and only one working toilet on three floors; a bedside lamp that had been screwed into the top of a piece of furniture purpose-built but serving no purpose at all; wardrobe doors that refuse to close etc.
None of that has irritated me as much as the WiFi set-up. Yes, you’ve got to pay – I think it’s shortsighted but it’s to be expected. What’s upsetting is how the Lancaster Court Hotel (and hotels using the same third party set-up, no doubt) redefines the length of a day:
What’s that? You checked in at 3pm and paid for a day’s worth of internet service? Your WiFi will be looking to suck your wallet dry further before you wake up, sir. This room cost £84 a night. Internet service costs £20 from an afternoon check-in to departure the next morning. No toilet for three floors? No problem – the WiFi takes the piss.
It has been known for some, more or all of the Bitterwallet writers to spend part of their working week in a coffee shop, sucking up free wifi. Yes, we’re fully paid-up members of the LMT club – the Latte Mac Twats – ordering the cheapest coffee on the menu in order to check emails and piss about on Facebook.
But although we may only drink a couple of coffees while hogging a table for hours on end, we’ll return time and again to our favourite cafes and bookshops, because we don’t get any chew about working there. We’re loyal customers. The likes of Starbucks has become the second office and, in plenty of instances the primary office, to hipsters and Groupon salesmen and the Shelley Levenes of this world.
Businesses with free wifi secure our business and over time, our loyalty. Those without, don’t. But some proprietors aren’t fans of people pitching up with their laptop and minimum spends. Take this gentlemen, the owner of a bookshop that doesn’t offer wifi. People still sit at his table with their laptops, and it’s fair to say he has issues:
…the sight of people going into retail establishments and whipping out a laptop seems akin to public masturbation. What compels them to use their laptops in public? I suspect that there is some sort of exhibitionist behavior at play here. Why can’t they do whatever they are doing at home or back at the office? Or don’t they have homes?
The laptoppers will unashamedly sit for hours nursing a single cup of coffee while immersed in their “work,” or whatever the hell they are doing on their precious devices. An hour or two? That’s a short coffee break for these slackers. I’ve seem some of them hole up for five or six hours. But rarely, if ever, do these digital wankers ever buy an actual book.
It’s just another sign, in my opinion, of the decline of civilized society. Yeah, yeah, all these gadgets are nice and handy — and apparently indispensable for some — but they are also a major contributor to slothful, impolite behavior. It’s time to fight back!
The owner admits some laptop owners are perfectly polite, but that he hasn’t space for people wanting to do anything other than buy books and drink coffee. He then describes one lady who asks if there’s a power supply for her laptop as a ‘wench’. How to win friends and influence people.
The question is – is he right? Has mobile society gone too far? Does the sight of a dozen Mac Books put you off frequenting your closest coffee shop, or is it no more impersonal or impolite than sitting alone reading a book? Your vote and comments please, citizens.
Apple have admitted that they were tracking your every movement (provided of course, you owned an iPhone or iPad) and now they’re looking to fix all that up because they’re the nicest people on Earth.
If you’d forgotten already, some security researchers discovered a hidden file on the devices which stored a record of everywhere they’d been. Use that with dubious software and a ne’er-do-well could generate a map of all your movements. That probably includes bowel movements as well as your weekly trip to a ‘massage parlour’.
You can get the update from the iTunes store, which looks to cut the amount of stored data to just a week. To stop Apple collecting data completely, you’ll have to disable the location services on your iPhone or iPad.
If you’re feeling outraged that you’ve been tracked at all, tough shit. You’ve already given Apple permission to do so. When? Go read your terms and conditions for the iTunes store.
In response Apple, who are apparently releasing ‘standard’ and ‘pro’ versions of the iPhone5 later this year, said: “The iPhone is not logging your location, rather it’s maintaining a database of wi-fi hotspots and cell towers around your current location, some of which may be located more than 100 miles away from your iPhone to help your phone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested.”
Some don’t agree with Apple however, with the company due to testify at a US senate about personal privacy as well as being hit with a lawsuit which has been filed in Florida which accuses Apple of violating privacy laws. All hail the iPhone 5!
You know how Boris Johnson wanted a mobile phone network installed on the London underground so everyone could tweet and text their way around the 2012 Olympic Games?
It’s not happening.
The TfL, 02, Vodafone, Everything Everywhere and 3 have all agreed to shrug and give up on the project thanks to it all seeming like it was a bit of a ballache to sort out.
The Guardian reports that Huawei, a Chinese network equipment supplier, was prepared to donate £50m of equipment to wire up the network and the networks were going to pay for 3G networks to be installed. However, they’re not going to bother now.
Of course, other places – like Paris – already have mobile signals on their underground, leaving Britain looking Victorian, again.
Transport for London said: “The mayor and TfL made it clear that, given the financial pressures on TfL’s budgets, any solution would have to have been funded through mobile operators with no cost to fare or taxpayers. The parties were not able to agree a viable proposal, and the project is therefore not being progressed at this time.”
So a massive waste of time for everyone who sat down to try and work out how this was going to get rolled out then.
A spokesperson for Johnson said: “We are grateful to the companies who explored the possibility of getting full mobile coverage on the tube, although disappointed the genuine problems encountered could not be overcome on this occasion. It remains a long-term goal.”
There’s been a lot of news and chat about the Underground in That London getting hooked up to a WiFi connection, which is obviously a good idea, right?
The worst thing about travelling by tube is the communication vacuum, leaving passengers unable to tell their boss that they could be late, or indeed, tweet “Having heart attack PLS tell wife I LUV U”.
However, surprisingly, the majority of Londoners polled don’t want WiFi on the Underground.
55 per cent of those surveyed weren’t in favour of getting WiFi on the tube, which is all set to go ahead in time for the 2012 Olympics. It appears that the main concerns focus on privacy and theft. The respondents didn’t like the idea of using a WiFi which could see their personal data floating around in an unsecured networks.
The biggest worry was that increased use of smartphones, laptops and the like, would only result in a rise in the frequency of theft Jesus, these Londoners are a paranoid bunch aren’t they?
A smaller percentage of people think that this WiFi programme would make transport magically more stressful in some way. However, it seems that the TFL don’t care and are dismissing these concerns because it could be a money spinner for them.
O2 have launched a new network of “premium, managed” WiFi hotspots, kicking off at a 450 sites. That’s exciting isn’t it? Well, don’t get too excited because most of these sites are based on the company’s own premises.
O2 are going to extend the network eventually, claiming that they’ll have a network double the size of the ones offered by BT Openzone and The Cloud. Combined.
They reckon that users will be able to log into the network “seamlessly”, although, every time you use one of these networks in a new place, you’ll be slapped across the eyeballs by a ‘splash screen’, which means O2 will flood your mind with offers and the like.
It won’t be offering widespread ‘mesh’ coverage, rather, focussing on hotspots which O2 think will complement rather than replace 3G mobile networks. The company are looking at shops and restaurants for their strategically placed locations across the UK.
Tim Sefton, New Business Development Director at O2, said that “Only 20 per cent of people who have access to free public WiFi on O2 tariffs use it, despite the majority of devices being WiFi enabled.” Customers thus far have been put-off using the service thanks to needlessly complicated sign-in procedures and the like.
On several occasions in the past, Bitterwallet has pissed and moaned about the reliability of free WiFi on East Coast mainline trains. The service was marketed as a key benefit over flying between the North of the UK and London, but far too often it failed to deliver.
As of the beginning of the month, East Coast is charging for WiFi on board their trains for standard class passengers; £4.95 for an hour, or £9.95 for access across a 24 hour period. There’s 15 minutes of free WiFi available, and after that the charges must be paid. If you sell your children in order to buy a first class ticket, the service remains free.
What are these charges paying for? According to the East Coast website, they’re paying for the upgraded system which was introduced at the same time the new charges were introduced; “…you will experience the benefits of a new and improved Wi-Fi system on board all East Coast trains… the latest HSPA and 3G technology… using multiple mobile data connections and broadband satellite we offer a continuous service along the entire East Coast route.”
So how’s that working out for you?
We tested the new service on Saturday, on board a lunchtime train from London to the North East. We paid for one hour of WiFi access, and during that time continually conducted download and upload tests on the connection through a variety of websites, including Broadband Speedchecker, Speedtest.net and PC Pitstop. Testing the three on a home broadband connection suggests some variance between the sets of results, but it’s clear that all three roughly agree with one another.
From the 22 tests we performed, the average download speed across the hour was 565Kbps, and the average upload speed was 187Kbps. In November 2008, we conducted a similar test when the franchise was still operated by National Express – ostensibly the same service but with one major difference – the WiFi was free. In November 2008, the top download speed we observed was 600Kbps, and the fastest upload speed was 185Kbps. Looking at the individual performances from last weekend, only six of the 22 download tests surpassed 600Kbps.
We’ll admit our methodology wasn’t entirely scientific, but it’s difficult to perceive much of a difference between the previously free service and WiFi 2.0 – for one fifteen minute period during the hour, we couldn’t get a single page of any website to load and for the final twenty minutes it was frustratingly slow. This was despite the fact that the train was less than half full.
When WiFi was free, you could take it or leave it – it was a (very) mediocre perk of your ticket. Now passengers have to pay for it, East Coast have to be accountable when they fail to provide the service as promised. So what can you do about it?
There’s a new WiFi User Guide available online and in carriages, but it makes no reference to any refund procedure. East Coast Customer Services can’t help you either – they’ll only deal with complaints about the new charges, not the quality of the service. The people to talk to about refunds are the WiFi support team, that can be called on on 08451 25 44 55 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The refund procedure goes like this: contact the team with the date, time and route of your train, your receipt details and an outline of the issues you experienced. Their team will investigate the claim and contact you in due course; the refund policy states that if you experienced a disruption to the service that lasted longer than five minutes, you are eligible to a full refund.
Sounds good, but there may still be room for ambiguity; for example, how slow does a connection speed have to be before it can be considered a disruption? At least there’s a policy in place – if you have cause to use it over the coming weeks, get in touch and let us know how you got on.
The research involved something called an “ethical hacker”. Does that mean he wears hemp trousers and cuddles modems? Anyway, this ethical hacker is called Jason Hart and he visited 6 UK cities and tested private Wi-Fi networks that broadcast signals to public places.
Using easily available equipment (though not necessarily easy to use) it is reported that Hart found 40,000 Wi-Fi networks that ran a high risk of being hijacked by hackers.
The study also showed that nearly a quarter of private wireless networks had no password protection, which of course, makes them easily accessible to people who might want to do something a bit dubious with it.
Hart said in a statement: “When people think of hackers they tend to think of highly organised criminal gangs using sophisticated techniques to crack networks. However, as this experiment demonstrates, all a hacker requires is a laptop computer and widely available software to target their victims.”
Where did he get his number from though? Did he go to some cities, get a number, and then multiplied his results by the number of places in Britain or what? Anyway, the lesson we’ve learned here is that, if you haven’t protected your Wi-Fi connection with a password, do it. Or, if you want to buy some hemp trousers and hack someone else’s, it’s a piece of piss.
Good news! You’re a guru! Yes you are! In fact, anybody who can work the basic settings of a smartphone is a guru! Props!
But what does this mean, dear reader? What treasures await you, now you’ve reached this lofty plateau of enlightenment and omnipotence? Well, there’s quite a good chance O2 will give you a t-shirt with your name on. And a job! Yessum!
Take a look at O2′s new Guru TV channel on YouTube, and you won’t be too staggered to learn what passes for master intelligence in mobile phone circles. O2 are carpet-bombing their customers with emails about these new videos, in the desperate hope they’ll migrate to WiFi while at home and stop causing their 3G network to fall over. Fair enough. But guru? If you have to tell people you’re a guru, chances are you’re not one at all (this applies equally to social media gurus). And if this guy is a guru, the world is surely doomed:
Thanks to avid Bitterwallet reader Paul
When the East Coast mainline was operated by National Express, WiFi was introduced to their trains, much to the delight of passengers. What wasn’t so delightful was the cost – a fiver an hour was extortionate. Then National Express got wise, and realised in the face of increasing competition from budget airlines, WiFi was something of a dealbreaker for passengers when travelling between the North and South.
Fast forward several years to the present day, and National Express no longer holds the East Coast mainline franchise. East Coast, a government-backed company was brought in last year to manage operations, and up until now all has been well. Until this week at least, when East Coast seem to be doing everything possible to prove themselves a bunch a insufferable, inflexible twats. There’s the outrage over charging a passenger £155 for leaving a train one stop early, and now passengers have learnt that East Coast will begin charging standard class passengers for WiFi access from October.
Here’s the statement from their website, oozing with delicious spin:
Wireless internet that’s quicker, better quality, and more reliable – that’s what you asked for, and that’s what we’re pleased to deliver. From early October 2010, you can experience the benefits of a new and improved Wi-Fi system onboard all East Coast trains.
The updated system uses the latest HSPA and 3G technology so you will enjoy a more reliable Wi-Fi connection with faster upload and download speeds while you travel. Aerials and modems have also been updated, ensuring the system is compatible with future communication standards.
All Standard Class passengers will be entitled to 15 minutes free access to the improved Wi-Fi system. Thereafter, access will be charged at £4.95 for 60 minutes or £9.95 for 24 hours. First Class passengers can access the service free of charge.
It’s true, customers have been asking for quicker, better quality and more reliable WiFi for years, because the current service is so desperately, desperately shit – but we’ll eat two hats each if any customer demanded having their wallet burgled for the privilege. So from early October, all return journeys from York and northwards to London Kings Cross will require you spending an extra £20 if you want WiFi in standard class.
If you live in the North East or Yorkshire then there’s a very decent alternative – opt for Grand Central, which operate four trains daily between Sunderland and London. They’re a little slower (although direct from York to KX), but the benefits more than make up for it. The ticket pricing is fixed, for one thing; book off-peak tickets in advance or on the day and you’ll pay the same – between Sunderland and London return that’s £40 one-way (£39 one-way from York), compared to paying £104 on the day for a one-way ticket from Newcastle on East Coast. Plus there’s free tea and coffee for all passengers on Grand Central – and free WiFi. Aces.