Sunday, December 13, 2009

Huawei Wireless Modem

Having accidentally destroyed my router by plugging in the wrong power supply, I was considering replacing it with the Huawei E5832 wireless modem. This battery powered pocket size unit is recharged by a USB cable (thus making it difficulty to plug in the wrong charger). The unit is relatively new but has got at least one good review. The advantages of over the usual USB dongle 3G modem are that you do not need to configure the computer for the modem, it has a built in firewall for added protection and can be shared over the WiFi with several computers. Also you can place it in a location for good 3G service away from the computer (perhaps put in a waterproof container on a pole with a solar panel to make a WiFi hotspot).

The disadvantages are that the unit does not have an Ethernet socket, only USB, so it can't be directly plugged into some devices, such as a TiVo and it can only be configured with a Windows PC. Usually a router is configured using a web interface from a host computer, but it seems this unit requires a custom program, which has only been provided for Microsoft Windows. This last restriction perhaps could be got around with some trial and error.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

WiFi Share Service to Supplement NBN

One person responded to my posting about 3G data speeds being lower than the 14 Mbit/s theoretical maximum:
... don't come to London ... average speeds of 4.8 kbps (yes that's 4800 bits per second) download and about 3k6 bps upload.

It's actually faster to get on a tube ... and deliver your message personally ...
It may help to try an external antenna. I got an omnidirectional one for $30. Or you could try a more expensive directional one to try and get to a less congested cell tower.

However, given the density of network users in London, you might be better off with something like Fon, which allows you to share others wired broadband connection via WiFi. This might make a useful supplement to the NBN. The idea is that the householder shares part of their WiFi with the neighbours and visitors.

The Fon hardware uses Linux and has provision for user enhancements. It might be interesting to have this type of system supplement the NBN.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Brisbane ferry WiFi

According to news reports the University of Queensland is expanding its WiFi network, including onto the City Cat ferries which carry students and staff from the Brisbane CBD to the St Lucia campus. According to Brisbane City Council, which runs the ferries, WiFi has been fitted to the ferry Yawagara and the others will be fitter in the next few weeks. Other passengers can also access the WiFi with an account from UQ's network service UQconnect.

The university is also installing six Cisco TelePresence teleconference studios. These are the same systems being installed in federal government offices around Australia. As well as being used for teaching, research and administration accross university campuses (and so reducing energy use from travel), this would allow the university and government people to have joint events. The systems could also be used to avoid face-to-face contact during a flu pandemic.

One negative aspect of the university network plans are proposals to use thousands of idle PCs for grid computing. While it might seem tempting to use PCs in unoccupied student labs to run computing intensive tasks, this is a waste of energy and will generate greenhouse gas pollution. Dekstop PCs are not designed to run computation intensive tasks and will use an excessive amount of energy. Instead specially designed servers should be used for this. The best thing to do with a desktop computer when it is not needed is to turn it off to save power.

If UQ wants to be able to use off-peak computing power, it should replace the desktop PCs with Thin Clients: low cost computers with only enough processing power to run the user interface. They then should install central servers to run the user's applications. These servers can then be used for computation intensive tasks when not needed for students in the labs. As well as saving electrical power, this will cost less to purchase.

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Sunday, May 03, 2009

National Library of Australia Cybercafe

The National Library of Australia's bookplate cafe will close from 4 May to mid-June 2009 for renovations. In the interim the Paperplate cafe will operate from new lounge area on the lower floor of the library. This will have free wifi and power, as well food and coffee. The bookplate is the best library cafe I have experienced (easily beating the poor quality and high prices of the cafe in the British Library for example). In some ways the Paperplate will be better, as the Bookplate discourages WiFi use (the NLA has free WiFi in the public areas of the building).

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Wireless Broadband in Regional Australia Now

The Internet at Influence Forum 2007 provides an example of the use of wireless broadband outside the city. The media room for the event has twenty laptops being services by one WiFi router linked to the Internet by wireless broadband. This all seems to be working fine, but I wonder what it costs.

The router is a NetComm N3G001W 3G Wireless Router. This looks much like any other domestic router, with an antenna for WiFi. But in addition it has a slot for a PC Card. The slot has a a wireless card for Telstra NextG broadband in it. The NextG card has two postage stamp size paddle antennas up. So far this is working very well.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Running Trains on WiFi

For those having difficulty getting their WiFi to work reliably at home, you may not want to take a trip on a train in Asia. The mechanical signals used to stop trains colliding are being replaced with 802.11b wireless communications (ie: WiFi):

Increasingly, moving block train control systems are being used, operating as communication-based train control (CBTC) systems. Modern CBTC systems require up to 1Mbps (megabit per second) of uninterrupted communication between the trackside automation equipment and fast-moving trains.

Because most rail operators in Asia demand a high local content, it seems appropriate to use international radio standards and commercial off-the-shelf radio components, which can provide the necessary bandwidth. This is generally achieved by using standards and technologies for wireless local area networks (WLAN), and typical CBTC systems are based on the well-known 802.11b standard. ...

From: Wireless technology takes off in Asia, International Railway Journal, July 2007
Railways use very stringent safety standards, so it would be interesting to see how they made the case that WiFi would be reliable enough for controlling trains. It may be that the article is wrong and a WiFi-like systems is being used, perhaps using different dedicated frequencies. As an example of that European railways use a modified form of the GSM phone standard, adapted for railway requirements, called GSM-Railway (GSM-R). This uses separate frequencies from the GSM phone networks and has special features for safety and reliable working. Alternatively the railway might use several different commercial networks (as has been proposed in Australia).

An example of an 802.11 train system is
Alcatel's SelTrac, one version of which uses 802.11. The first use of this was the Las Vegas Monorail. There is a detailed technical paper on the technology used:

Alcatel is pioneering the implementation of an open standards RF communications technology (802.11 Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS)) for trains moving in excess of 120km/h. Whether it’s used for Communication-Based Train Control (CBTC) or Closed Circuit Television (CCTV), 802.11 remains the preferred choice since it’s the only standard that supports mobility and defends against obsolescence. Alcatel adopted 802.11 FHSS technology in 1999 and has performed several trials and demonstrations since then.

From: Open Standards for CBTC and CCTV, Radio-Based Communication, Ed Kuun, date: ????
It is not clear how different the technology Alcatel is from ordinary office and home WiFi.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Australian Alps in Summer

Thredo ChairliftJust back from new year's at Thredbo in the Australian Alps. The weather was fine most days. The most popular activity in summer is walking to Mt Kosciuszko (Australia's highest mountain).

But as I had done that before, instead went up the gentle walking track beside the Thredbo River river 4 km to Deadhorse Gap. There were many wildflowers in bloom along the river. Then back up Ramshead Range and 4 km back to the chairlift at Thredbo. At this point it would have been a good idea to take the chairlift down, but instead walked.

There are what seem like thousands of stairs down the range to Thredbo village. At several points the walking track crosses the mountain bike track and you have to be careful of the cyclists coming down at breakneck speed.

There is a web cam and automated weather station on top of the chairlift. But keep in mind that conditions are generally much warmer, calmer and clearer in the valley where the village is, than on top of the range.

The village is equipped for summer and winter sports and all conveniences, including WiFi access (buy a card with time at the gift shop).

Accommodation ranges from luxury hotel style (where I stayed last time) to self catering apartments, to ski club lodges. If you are on your own or with a small group and willing to share facilities, the ski lodges are good value and good fun. The Currawong Lodge was basic but comfortable and similar to lodges I have stayed in at Charlotte Pass. You can use the central Thredbo booking system if not sure what you want, or save a few dollars and book directly with the lodge.

There are Trout in the river and you can fly fish with a licence (available for a few dollars from the chairlift shop). You can fish a few dozen steps from the bar of the hotel or find a more secluded spot. I used a $20 fishing kit I got at the supermarket in Canberra, complete with a telescopic rod and tackle box. You may want to buy a local "fly" (live bait is not permitted). Fishing is a wonderful excuse for not doing anything of the more active mountain sports.

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