Broadband Wireless Internet Access Weblog : Steve Stroh's commentary on significant developments in the BWIA industry
Updated: 9/3/2002; 8:46:23 AM.


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Tuesday, August 20, 2002

In Portland, Oregon's Pioneer Courthouse Square, something of a wireless grudge match is taking shape, at least according to a story in the Oregonian, Portland's major daily newspaper.

The "opposing sides" are Personal Telco, a not-for-profit community wireless network, and T-Mobile Wireless Broadband which is partnered with Starbucks to provide Wireless Internet Access inside all company-owned Starbucks stores. Personal Telco and T-Mobile are both using "Wi-Fi" (802.11b) systems to service their respective users - using the same 802.11b channel.

Personal Telco wants to provide Wireless Internet Access to users in the entire square. Starbucks wants to provide service to users on its premises. Personal Telco claims that the presence of the Starbucks system, on the same channel and in the same area, is causing interference and degraded performance to its system.

Even if true, such "interference" is a non-issue. Personal Telco has absolutely no "claim" to its use of an 802.11b channel. The equipment that Personal Telco uses has a sticker on it or in its accompanying documentation that states in part "This device must accept interference, even when such interference causes undesireable operation." Game, set, match; Personal Telco has no recourse - nor does Starbucks / T-Mobile. But, Starbucks is only interested in providing wireless services to customers on its premises. Given the close proximinty between the Starbucks wireless access point and the users of same, it's unlikely that the Personal Telco system is causing any signfiicatnt degradation.

Get used to stuff like this, folks. It will happen a lot, and those involved in such "clashes" are simply going to have to learn to deal with such situations as they occur. If cooperation cannot be achieved, then technical fixes will be required (and are available). Unfortunately, it seems much easier to most people to resort to legislative, legal, or pressure tactics to resolve what is purely a technical issue.

Big Starbucks Wireless Announcement on Wednesday
It's shaping up as a slow week for technology news, so Starbucks Coffee calling a press conference in Seattle to discuss their plans for Wireless Internet Access has a lot of reporters in a lather. Eric Griffith of Internet did a pretty good article, speculating on what will be announced. Glenn Fleishman of 802.11b Networking News (linked at left) had some commentary on Griffith's article and makes some incorrect observations. Fleishman makes a common mistake, assuming that the Frequency-hopping wireless system mentioned in Griffith's article was 802.11 (pre-802.11b). It was not - prior to the ratification of the 802.11b standard, MobileStar had deployed RangeLAN wireless access points. Fleishman is also incorrect that MobileStar did not deploy FHSS equipment into Starbucks. I was told directly in an interview with MobileStar shortly after the Starbucks / MobileStar partnership was announced that MobileStar had deployed RangeLAN and 802.11b equipment in parallel to at least the first wave of systems installed in Starbucks stores to meet contractual requirements with MobileStar customers that had only RangeLAN wireless equipment. RangeLAN rapidly became moot as 802.11b / Wi-Fi gained popularity and wide use.

On Cringely... Very Briefly
In his latest online column , Robert X. Cringely had some provocative things to say about use of 802.11b equipment in households. Suffice it to say that many of the conclusions he drew were wrong. Glenn Fleishman and David Sifrey (both linked at left) vent considerable spleen on Cringely and this particular column. But, by far this isn't the first time Cringely wandered casually into and out of wireless, for which he is apparently ill-equipped to comment and doesn't care to stand much correction on the facts. I used to take him seriously, until a telling incident. "Robert X. Cringely" is, legally (and has been since birth) named Mark Stephens. No big deal, lots of journalists use assumed names for their writings. But Cringely/Stephens stepped way over the line, in my opinion, when he unburdened himself to his readership about the death of his infant son, Chase. To assuage his angst, Cringely/Stephens mobilized well-meaning readers to form a collective R&D project to try to develop a monitoring system that might ultimately prevent the sudden death of other infants. Cringely/Stephens names the project after his son, Chase Cringely. As a Father myself, I think that is so terribly, sadly misguided; deceptive to those who offered to help, and not even admitting his dead son's actual name. That's why I don't take anything Cringely/Stephens says in print seriously any longer. Yes, he's an entertaining read... but only that - entertaining.

Radio Userland Weirdness
Using Radio Userland's WYSIWYG editor, all text looks normal - bolded where it should be, non-bold elsewhere. Yet when I view this entry in Internet Explorer, all text is shown in Bold. In Opera, it looks as it should. I briefly flashed over to view the text in "source" mode in Radio Userland, and there's no HTML specifying Bold... oh well, yet another mystery. Update: This particlular problem turns out to have been self-inflicted. I use RU's Title/Link feature which gives each day's entry its own URL. But there's only a text box there - if you want formatting, you have to do with HTML codes. I put the codes in for Bold and a larger font before the text... but didn't "close" the HTML. As soon as I added the closing HTML, all is well. I should have to use HTML - WYSIWYG should apply to the title too... but once again, RU, warts and all, is still better than what I could do on my own.

Comments are always welcome!


11:44:12 AM    

© Copyright 2002 Steve Stroh.

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