Category: Wireless Networking

nVoy–to simplify managing small networks

Website – From the horse’s mouth

nVoy home

My Comments

WD MyNet Range Extender

With nVoy, these devices become easier to set up and integrate in your network

There have been some previous methods available to allow one to manage a network from their desktop. One of these was SMNP which is used primarily to manage equipment in larger networks and is very difficult for anyone to use unless they had good IT skills. Another of these is TR-069 which was developed by the Broadband Forum for use by ISPs and telcos to set up and manage consumer modem routers.

These protocols, like a lot of other network discovery and management protocols relied on an operational network existing between the controller and the controlled device. Similarly, they haven’t work well as a way to allow an average householder or small-business owner to manage a small network effectively and with minimal help.

But a newer specification, known as the iEEE 1905.1 control specification had been set in stone and declared formal. It is now marketed as the nVoy specification and works at a level to manage network segments at the media level.

This is very important with the home-network setups that I prefer and stand for where there is an Ethernet and/or HomePlug AV wired network backbone along with an 802.11n Wi-Fi wireless network segment covering the property where the network is set up at.

This allows logic to be constructed to manage a Wi-Fi, HomePlug AV, MoCA or Cat5 Ethernet segment that is part of the typical home network without having to have a full IP logical network being alive across the whole network.  It also means that media-peculiar network-setup and diagnostics parameters like the ESSIDs and WPA2-Personal passphrases required for wireless networks can be propagated over different network media like Ethernet or HomePlug wired-network segments.

This simplifies setup routines like creating new Wi-Fi wireless or HomePlug AV powerline segments in a secure manner; or adding additional network devices to the existing heterogenous multi-segment small network. It even encompasses the establishment of secondary access points in order to extend the coverage of a Wi-Fi wireless network in a “cellular” fashion.

The user experience would be based on using NFC “touch-and-go” setup or two-button “push-push” setup of new Wi-Fi and HomePlug devices. As well, you would be able to manage the network from devices that use a full management interface, whether local to the network or remotely via something like TR-069 or SMNP.

Even through the life-cycle of the network, the nVoy specification can allow one to use a management interface at one single point of control to bring up diagnostic information about the network or parts thereof so as to identify points of failure or to optimise the network for best performance. The fact that nVoy is determined as a standard could allow computer operating-system developers to bake this function in to subsequent versions of their operating systems and establish one point of control in the operating system user interface.

Beyond the ease of setup and troubleshooting that it offers for small networks, nVoy has the ability to enable easy-to-manage “multiple concurrent pipe” connections in an easy-to-manage form. This allows for two or more connections to be aggregated for higher throughput, as a load-balancing arrangement so that particular traffic can go via one connection while other traffic goes via another connection as well as a fail-over arrangement if things don’t work out on one pipe. This will be more real with the common practice to equip most client devices with two or more network “on-ramps” such as Ethernet and Wi-Fi wireless.

Personally, I would also like to see nVoy work with most client devices in extending their network abilities. For example, a network printer or consumer AV device that has integrated Wi-Fi wireless and a wired connection like Ethernet or HomePlug be able to allow you to set up the Wi-Fi connectivity as an access point if it is connected to the network via the wired connection. Similarly, the same device could be set up as a wireless client bridge for another device like a PS3 or Blu-Ray player that is connected to the Ethernet socket on the device when it is connected via the wireless connection.

Similarly, the nVoy specification could also tackle quality-of-service for IP telephony, AV streaming and real-time gaming so as to guarantee throughput for these network activities. As well, when standards evolve for synchronous “broadcast” network activity on the different media such as for multi-channel wireless speakers or party-streaming modes, nVoy could be used to support network-wide synchronising abilities for these applications.

What I applaud about nVoy being set in stone is that the small network becomes easier to manage whether it is based on one segment or medium or uses many different segments or media.

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Buffalo offers a HomePlug AV500 and Wi-Fi N300 kit that can work as a router

Article

Test 59H: Kit CPL Powerline 500AV Wireless-N Router Starter kit (France – French language)

From the horse’s mouth

Buffalo Technology

Product Page

My Comments

Buffalo Technology are offering to European customers a HomePlug AV500 / Wi-Fi N300 access point, known as the WPL-05G300, which isn’t just a HomePlug / Wi-Fi access point for that existing small network. Here, this device doesn’t just allow you to also connect to an Ethernet segment but can be set up to become a wireless router while serving the other Ethernet segment. This is due to two Ethernet connections on the same device

The fact that it can become a router may please some users who may use a broadband modem like most cable-modem deployments and some next-generation broadband and ADSL2 deployments. But the router functionality would be considered irrelevant to most European users who typically run a modem-router which has the integrated Wi-Fi functionality.

Personally, I do see this device still relevant as the secondary access point to “fill in” those Wi-Fi reception gaps such as what is created in older European properties that use thick brick, cement or stone walls. This also includes a lot of the UK properties that have remnants of fireplaces that have been blocked off.

What I am pleased about with this device is that there are switches on the unit to select between the router and access-point mode and similarly to select between client-bridge and access-point behaviour. I am not sure if this is true but this could allow for “quick setup” of extension access points through the use of WPS.

This device is available as a pair of two of these access point / router devices which could come in handy as a way to create that HomePlug segment and increase Wi-Fi coverage or create a 802.11g/n “N300” Wi-Fi segment. Similarly, the kit could also answer outbuilding network needs or encompass that old caravan in the home network. Caravan-park owners could also lick their lips at this setup with the ability to provide reliable wireless coverage in their tenants’ vans.

Who knows who else will offer similar devices that can capitalise on HomePlug AV technologies to create capable no-new-wires small networks.

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BMW’s Car Hotspot LTE means Bavarian Motor WiFi

Article

BMW’s Car Hotspot LTE means Bavarian Motor WiFi

BMW promeut une mini borne Wi-Fi connectée en 4G dans ses voitures | 01net.com (France – French language)

My Comments

The concept of the in-vehicle Wi-Fi network has been examined as an infotainment option by both the vehicle manufacturers and the aftermarket infotainment scene, with system like Chrysler’s AutoNET being used as examples of this application.

But BMW have put up an LTE 4G MiFi router as an accessory for their newer vehicles that are sold in Europe. Here, this unit docks in to the centre console of the vehicle and uses direct connection to the vehicle’s power supply and aerial. The aerial is used for the LTE signals so as to provide that improved performance.

As I have always said, this could yield a lot for the connected vehicle. For example, the fact that devices like the Chrysler AutoNET and the BMW router integrating with the vehicle could allow for access to Internet resources by the infotainment system. This could lead to always-updated maps or business directories accessible through the navigation function or access to podcasts and Internet radio from the car audio system.

A question that still needs to be raised as far as in-vehicle Internet is concerned is interlinking with the home network when the vehicle is at home or in the scope of a trusted network like a friend’s or workplace’s network. This could lead to thinks like syncing or sharing of media between the vehicle (equipped with a hard drive) and these networks or large-scale map or feature updates occurring overnight at a cheaper service cost via the home network.

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Guest Post: Basic Security for Your Home Wireless Network

Netgear DG834G ADSL2 wireless router

Netgear DG834G ADSL2 wireless router

So, you’re ready to set up that nice and convenient home wireless network.  You’ve got the router out of the box and you’re ready to plug everything in, but there’s just one problem.  You’re concerned, or maybe you’re even a little bit paranoid.  You’re wondering who out there might be able to pick up the signal.  Setting up a wireless network in your home can be very simple, but it can also pose a few risks if you get lazy or you’re using older wireless router technology.  Once you’ve set up the router, yes, other people with wireless devices may be able to detect the signal you’re broadcasting, but depending on the precautions you’ve taken, you can determine what happens when they see that signal.

 Whether you live in an apartment complex, a tightly-packed subdivision, or on some rural street, there will always be opportunity for someone to detect your wireless signal.  All they have to do is look for it.  Does it mean they’ll try to connect to it?  No.  There isn’t any reason to panic about who might be able to see it.  It doesn’t matter.  What matters are your security and the preventative measures you’ve put in place to block unwanted access when that stray individual does decide to try to connect to your network and attempts to access your internet or your computer.

 Securing your internet connection and your personal network is a relatively simple thing to do.  Many newer routers or modem/ router combos will take you through a setup wizard that should walk you through activating security protocols, such as WEP or WPA and changing the SSID (network name).  Setup wizards aren’t necessarily the best option when setting up your wireless network’s security, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, it can work.  Just remember to change the SSID and avoid using WEP security.

 Why?  Not changing you router’s default SSID can be a sign to outsiders that the user who set up the network has no idea what they’re doing.  It can make that wireless signal a potential target.  You can change it to whatever you want.  As for WEP, it’s useless and simple to break through.  A tech savvy 8-year-old could break through WEP security in minutes.  If you’re in the market for a wireless router (or already purchased one) and one of the device’s selling points is WEP security, stay far away.  Instead, look for devices offering WPA security, or better yet, WPA2 security.

Then set an encryption key password that isn’t your dog’s name, your street address, the town where you grew up, or something equally lame and easy to crack.  Make it tough.  Make it long.   Don’t make it what you think is tough, make it genuinely tough.  Try a password creation exercise.  Write out strings of numbers and letters or a piece of paper.  Or write out a series of words that have no apparent or logical connection to one another.  Or make up words that aren’t in any dictionary.  Be creative and don’t worry if you can’t remember it or not.

Since we’re talking about a home network, it isn’t a big deal if you write down your insane password and store it somewhere, preferably in a place you will remember.  That way, when you have additional devices you want to grant internet access to, whip it out, you’re ready to go, and no paranoia.

Editor’s note:

Most recently-issued ISP-supplied or retail wireless routers are implementing a “secure by default” strategy which makes the process of creating a secure wireless network simple for most of us.

This includes strategies like WPS easy-setup routines with a random passphrase, and an increasing number of routers provided by the ISPs or telcos as customer-premises equipment use SSIDs that typically have a service marketing name followed by three or four random digits such as “BIGPOND1223 or OPTUS4345. These strategies relate the experience of a secure home network to that of installing or using a typical door lock, something most of us identify with regularly.

Guest post by Jack Pike Television lover and guru of all things Cable, spends his time blogging with Time Warner Cable when not enjoying the tube.

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Wi-Fi login problems with iOS 6 devices

Article

What went wrong with iOS 6 Wi-Fi | ZDNet – loop

My Comments

You may have upgraded your iPhone or iPad to iOS 6. But after your Apple device shuts down and restarts as part of applying the update, you find that you are not on your home or business Wi-Fi network even though you downloaded that update through the same network.

The problem is not necessarily a flawed network configuration, but part of the iOS Wi-Fi automatic troubleshooting routine. Here, the software attempts to load a “Success” stub page from the Apple servers. This logic is intended to cause the iOS device to load a login or “assent” page that is part of a public-access or guest-access Wi-Fi network’s user experience. This stub was deleted by a former Apple employee before he left without realising it was part of iOS 6 troubleshooting logic.

The computer press have realised that this logic is flawed because this can place the servers at risk of denial-of-service attacks thus crippling iOS 6 devices. Similarly, someone could use a “man-in-the-middle” or “evil-twin” attack to point the device to a site that is of a malevolent nature. If a “show particular Webpage” logic is to be implemented in a network troubleshooting logic, it could work with a list of commonly-available Websites like Web portals or Web resource pages which the device chooses from at random.

It could be a chance for software developers to create network-test logic that makes less reliance on loading a particular Web site as proof of function. This could be through use of simplified randomised test routines that work with locations that are randomly chosen from a list of commonly-known highly-available Internet locations. This can be augmented by government standards bodies and similar organisations like NIST or BSI adding basic-HTML “Internet Success” pages to their Websites and making the URLs available to the IT industry.

Sometimes an NTP or similar time-fetch routine that obtains the time from one of many atomic-clock time servers to synchronise a device’s internal clock can work as a simplified Internet-functionality-test routine. If the time-server supports HTTP access where the UTC time is obtained via an HTML or text string, this could be achieved using HTTP so as to test Web-access functionality.

By not relying on one particular server as a proof-of-functionality test for Internet access and integrating a “login-page load” failover routine for public-access networks, we can achieve a safe and sure network setup experience.

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WiFi Direct–Another way to share files between Android devices

Article

WiFi Shoot: Sharing files over Wi-Fi Direct | Android Authority

My Comments

The Android mobile phone platform has provided many options for “throwing” files between devices.

Firstly, there was the Bluetooth “object-push” profile where you can share material between devices that have this protocol and are set up for it. This includes Android and Symbian-based mobile phones and some devices like a few Bluetooth printers and printing kiosks.

There was the subsequent arrival of the “Bump” ecosystem which allowed you to transfer the files via Internet after you “bump” the phones next to each other. This implemented a “recognised bump” pattern to register users with this system.

Next the Android platform integrated Near-Field Communication as part of the Ice Cream Sandwich iteration and implemented the file transfer as a specific function called “Android Beam”. This was exemplified in the TV advertising that Samsung did for the popular Galaxy S II phone and Samsung’s “super variant” of that function where two people touched each others’ phones to each other.

Now that most newer Android devices come with Wi-Fi Direct, a new app has been launched to enable one to “throw” files between these devices using this method. The app which is called WiFi Shoot and is currently in beta version, exposes itself as a “share” option for images and videos and can transmit the images or videos; or receive any of these files.

There are plans to open it up to a larger array of content types once the bugs are ironed out of it. Similarly, it could support “throwing” of files to and from other non-Android devices that use Wi-Fi Direct as a file-transfer or object-transfer method such as printers that could print photos or Windows PCs that have the appropriate software.

I see this as another way that the Android platform is working towards a level and competitive playing field for activities involving mobile computing.

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Feature Article–Extending your wireless network’s coverage

This is an update of the article originally published on 11 August 2008 and has been refreshed to encompass newer technologies and equipment features that wireless-network equipment have.

Many of you who have viewed this blog have been looking for information about extending the wireless segment of your home network. Typically it may be to cover a large house or to gain wireless coverage past a radio obstacle like thick brick or stone walls, foil-lined insulation or double-glazing which uses metal-based heat reflection techniques. Previously, I have mentioned about using this technique to mitigate microwave-oven interference on the 2.4GHz band which 802.11g works on.

Most wireless-network equipment manufacturers have released repeater devices that catch the existing wireless-network signal and expose it in to the new area. Some of these setups work on a vendor-specific manner or may work according to standard WDS bridging techniques. But they all require the use of equipment compatible with each other, usually equipment supplied by the same vendor.

Other companies have released “wireless range extenders” which create a new wireless-network segment using a new SSID but bridge it to the existing wireless segment. This can be a point of confusion as you have to determine the best SSID to connect to at your client equipment and you don’t necessarily get the full bandwidth from your home network in this newly-created segment.

The “extended service set”

The method that I am going to talk about here is the establishment of an “extended service set” comprising of multiple access points serving the same network and using the same SSID and security parameters. All the access points have to be connected to a common wired-network backbone which is part of the same logical network; and the access points must be working on the same technology – the same 802.11 variation and operating mode (G-only, N-only, mixed mode, etc).

This method can be performed with access points or wireless routers supplied by different vendors, thus permitting the use of equipment which is suited for the job at hand. It can allow for use of surplus routers simply as access points as long as they are configured correctly.

This setup won’t work properly across networks that are set up as multiple subnets or logical networks. An example of this may include extending a wireless network between two business premises across the street or corridor where they are served by separate Internet services. If you do want to link the two different premises across the street or corridor, you may have to make sure there is a wired or dedicated wireless backbone connecting both these locations before you set up this kind of network.

The diagram below shows what a small network should be like when running an extended service set.

 

Extended wireless-network connection diagram

Connection diagram for the multiple-access-point wireless netwrok

Key Components

The network backbone

The wired-network backbone can work on any wired-network media such as a Cat5 Ethernet, HomePlug power-line, fibre-optic LAN, MoCA TV-aerial coax, HomePNA phone-line or a mix of these technologies bridged to each other. It can even work with a dedicated inter-building wireless backbone that may be used for larger properties or to join shops or offices that are separated by a street.

The network backbone can handle other network traffic from wired-network devices like servers, desktop computers and games consoles; and become the network’s local data path to the Internet. This is while it works as the backbone for the wireless “extended service set”.

You may have be lucky to have an Ethernet cable in your house if you had it “wired for data”. But most houses typically wouldn’t have this facility everywhere. The other technology that I have found to do this job equally well is HomePlug AV powerline networking which works over the cable infrastructure used to provide AC power to your lights and appliances. It can reach further than the existing building, which is a boon if you need to extend coverage to garages, sheds, cabins or other outbuildings or have Internet access in a caravan or campervan used as a “sleepout” or mobile office.

Access Points

These devices are the transmitters that bring the data from the wired network backbone to the wireless client devices and make up the extended service set.

You typically will have one such device in the form of your wireless router which is at your network’s Internet-network “edge”. The wired-network backbone used as part of this “extended service set” would be connected to one of the LAN ports on this device. If you use a wireless router with one Ethernet port for the LAN and that port is used for a desktop computer or similar wired-network device, you will need to expand the number of sockets by using an Ethernet switch. These will typically be a “dime a dozen” for a five-port or eight-port unit. There are also some HomePlug-Ethernet bridges that have a built-in four-port switch that are worth considering if you are setting up a HomePlug backbone.

Repurposing the old wireless router

If you upgraded your wireless router to a newer model, you will still have your existing router gathering dust. Similarly, you may have changed broadband technologies like moving from cable to DSL or from DSL to a next-generation broadband technology and your router’s Internet connection may have been served by a technology-specific internal modem or connection.

This router that became surplus to your needs can work as an access point but will need to be configured appropriately.

Here, you will need to disable the following functions:

  • DHCP server
  • UPnP Internet Gateway Device functionality (typically referred to as UPnP)
  • Dynamic DNS functionality (if used)

As well, you will need to set the LAN IP address to something that is within your network’s IP address range but preferably out of the address pool used by the current router. The reason you have to take care of this setup is because there needs to be only one device performing “network-Internet edge” functions such as DHCP in a network and this device should be the one at the logical network-Internet border.

Some of the newer routers that are sold through retail have an “access point mode” option in their setup Web page. This make the effort of setting them up to run purely as an access point a simpler task because it disables the DHCP, Dynamic DNS and other functions associated with an “edge” router at the click of an option.

When you connect this router to the wired backbone, you use any of the LAN ports to connect the backbone. Never use the WAN port on this router for the wired backbone. This may not be an issue if the router you are setting up is a modem-router where the modem is performing WAN functions or you are using a router that has the above-mentioned “access-point mode” and this mode makes the WAN port become a LAN port.

“3-in-1″ HomePlug wireless access points

There is an increasing number of wireless access points that work with a HomePlug or Ethernet backbone. These devices, such as the Netcomm NP290W / Solwise PL-85PEW and the Devolo dLAN Wireless Extender, are as big as a compact “wall-wart” power adaptor used to power most electronic devices from the mains and plug directly in to the power outlet. They bridge between a Wi-Fi wireless segment (as an access point or wireless client bridge in some cases), a HomePlug powerline segment and a Cat5 Ethernet segment.

These units come in handy if you need to extend a wireless network on a temporary basis or simply if a compact device can do the job better than a large access point. They would come in to their own when you are using the extension access point to mitigate microwave-oven interference in the kitchen or if you want to extend the home network to a static caravan where the teenage kids can use that iPhone or iPad.

But with these devices, you have to make sure that you use one of the wired technologies as the backbone. This means that you have to use them with your HomePlug setgment as the backbone and the Ethernet connection to link a device like a desktop computer, PlayStation 3 or a network printer to the home network; or connect to an existing Ethernet backbone and have the device create a new HomePlug segment as well as working as an access point.

Setting Up The Network

Configuring the access points

You will need to know the SSID and the WEP or WPA wireless security parameters that are operational for your network. These are the only factors that need to be common amongst all of the access points of the network. The reason that the SSID and security parameters are set to the same details is so that wireless client devices can roam between the different access points without any user intervention.

The radio channels for each of the access points have to be set differently to each other. It is a good idea to set the access point closest to the kitchen to Channel 1 if you have a microwave oven in that kitchen. This is because, from my research, most of the domestic-market microwave ovens work at 2450 MHz which is between Channels 8 and 9 on the 802.11g channel list. I had tried an experiment to see whether a microwave can upset a wireless-network “cell” that is tuned away from its operating frequency.

If the access points or wireless routers is a consumer model that was made in the last few years, they would be equipped with WPS push-button setup. Here, you would have to make sure that they don’t reconfigure the wireless access-point parameters when you invoke the WPS push-button setup function. There is usually a “Keep settings” option associated with the WPS setup menu/

This option will then allow you to use the push-button setup on the nearest access point to enroll your wireless client device to your home network.

Dual-band wireless networks

If you are operating a dual-band wireless network which works on 2.4GHz and 5GHz, you may have to create separate extended-service-sets for each band. These would have a different SSID for each band like “Network-Name” for the 2.4G band and “Network-Name-5G: for the 5G band. The security parameters are the same for each band; and you may want to run the 2.4GHz band as “mixed mode” and the 5G band as “N-only”. The advantage of this setup is so you can identify any weak spots that affect a particular band in your dual-band wireless network and is more applicable with the 5GHz band that uses a shorter wavelength than the 2.4GHz band.

Here, you could have the main router that serves most of the house being a dual-band dual-radio type, also known as a simultaneous dual-band unit. This can also apply to an access point expected to cover a large area. Then you could use single-band or dual-band single-radio equipment for providing any infill coverage on either of the bands.

The wireless client devices

There is no need to reconfigure any of the wireless client devices such as laptop computers once you have set up the network according to the above instructions.

You will see an improvement in network performance when you operate your wireless client devices in areas where you barely could operate them. The signal-strength bar-graph that is part of your wireless client device’s network management software will register a stronger signal as the client device comes in to vicinity of the access points.

Some devices may not support this automatic roaming behaviour properly and may require you to reselect the network when you move in to the scope of the better access point.

Conclusion

Once you have followed the steps in this article, you will be able to extend the effective coverage of your wireless home network or make your wireless network cover everywhere in your house even if it uses metal-based energy-efficiency measures or has thick brick or stone walls.

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Wi-Fi Alliance starts certifying tunnel technology for better wireless performance – PC World Australia

Articles

Wi-Fi Alliance starts certifying tunnel technology for better wireless performance – WLANs / Wi-Fi, wireless, networking, MediaTek, Marvell Technology Group, Wi-Fi Alliance – PC World Australia

WiFi alliance begins Tunneled Direct Link Setup certification, hopes to improve media streaming | Engadget

My Comments

The Wi-Fi Alliance have released a new certification standard for allowing better wireless performance amongst devices in a wireless-network segment. This standard, known as Tunnelled Direct Link Setup, allows devices that are authenticated with the same access point to transmit data directly to each other.

Allowing direct node-to-node connection after an access point establishes the connection to allow for faster data-transfer performance between clients on a Wi-Fi segment. This would also yield an improved quality-of-service for media streaming or improved latency for real-time gaming.

Not like Wi-Fi Direct where a device that is normally a Wi-Fi client is there to facilitate a network connection. This is more about establishing a direct best-case device-to-device connection rather than a via-access-point connection for a file transfer or media-stream method as a way of improving the data-transfer performance.

When a TDLS link is set up, the devices would form this link at the best abilities available to each other, such as higher speed, quality-of-service, power-saving practices or security compared to what the segment’s access point would offer. Similarly, the access point does not need to be upgraded for this functionality to take place.

The access point would still play its role if the client devices move further afield, thus repeating the data between the client devices. Similarly it would also fulfil network-bridging tasks such as linking to the wired backbone or the Internet service in the case of a Wi-Fi router.

This functionality would be part of newer Wi-Fi-network chipsets that would be deployed in newer computers and similar devices. It would be interesting to see how it works further once more TDLS-enabled devices are in the field.

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Improvements taking shape for better public wireless Internet access

Article

Wi-Fi Alliance Begins Certification For Automatic Hotspot Connection – SmallNetBuilder

My Comments

The Wi-Fi Alliance are taking proper steps to make the user experience for wireless-hotspot services more user friendly and secure. This is based on the “Passpoint” standard which covers logging in and a secure usage session.

It has been driven by wireless-broadband providers who want to use these hotspots and their wired-broadband backhauls as a data offload in busy areas. One key improvement is to implement WPA-Enterprise security with session-unique security parameters rather than the common WPA-PSK security which uses a common password.

The login experience has also been tackled through the provision of a consistent experience that isn’t depending on a Web-based form. Here, the credentials could be a username/password combination that is presented by the device’s native user interface, or credentials held on the device or in a SIM card.

This may open up hotspot access to headless or limited-display devices like digital cameras, car infotainment systems or handheld games consoles. But a question that could be raised is whether it could be feasible to have a group of devices seen as a logical network that can exist through the hotspot’s space. This issue may play in to setups like multiplayer multi-machine gaming amongst a group of teenagers or young adults in the same cafe or bar.

Another question worth raising about Passpoint is whether a venue is able to have control over its Wi-Fi access? This would be of concern with anyone in the food-beverage-hospitality industry who would rather that patrons who use the venue’s Wi-Fi are the ones who are buying food and drink or renting a room.

This function has also been extended beyond just logging in to the network and Internet service. A Passpoint setup has also had the ability to factor in application-level authentication needs like content access. An example of this application is the in-room movies service offered by nearly every hotel. Here they could allow a person to stream a movie to a tablet or laptop and view this anywhere around the premises such as the lobby lounge.

One risk that I see for Passpoint or any other “easy-setup” standard promoted by the Wi-Fi Alliance is that the same old situation will repeat itself. This is where Apple won’t implement the standard in their products or platforms even though they consider themselves the “super-cool” IT brand. I have seen this for myself with WPS where just about everything except a MacBook Pro or an iPhone will enroll with a Wi-Fi segment using this “push-button” setup routine.

These standards could be implemented not just with an operating system but also in a software form which is based around a program that can be loaded on to a device by its user and that such software is available through device platform’s app store without any need for the device to be jailbroken.

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Understanding WiFi DIrect

There has been the desire to see IEEE 802.11-based Wi-Fi wireless networking work as one of the many  way of interlinking computer devices without wires.

The standard and preferred practice with this technology is to implement an access point which all data in the wireless-network segment, which is typically connected to an established wired network or the Internet.

But there is a desire to link these devices in a safe and secure way without using a hardware access point or router as an interlinking device. This would lead to a “wireless personal area network” for devices like cameras, printers, network media players and smartphones.

What is Wi-Fi Direct

Kingston Wi-Drive and Android smartphone

The Kingston Wi-Drive in this setting is an example of what Wi-Fi Direct is all about

A Wi-Fi Direct setup requires software in a client device like a computer or smartphone to make it work as an access point using its software. This can be made obvious through a smartphone running a “Wi-Fi tether” mode where it works as a Wi-Fi router using its wireless-broadband service as a WAN.  Similarly, a mobile-NAS device like the Kingston Wi-Drive is effectively supporting this function through the use of its own Wi-Fi access point. Another example is a laptop computer running Inte’s “My Wi-Fi” software to bridge its connection that it has with a public wireless hotspot to an Internet radio in order to allow it to pick up an Internet broadcast stream.

The setup would require that the network be secured using a WPA2-PSK security protocol and is able to be set up using WPS “push-push” or PIN setup methods. They also use UPnP and/or Bonjour to set themselves up for their functionality at higher levels of the protocol stack. This can allow a user to find devices that have particular functions like file transfer, media streaming or printing and is exploited in smartphone applications as a means of rapidly transferring large file clusters.

A Wi-Fi Direct device can host current Wi-Fi-based client devices like most consumer network printers as well as other Wi-Fi Direct devices. As well a cluster of devices hosted by a Wi-Fi Direct device is considered as a Wi-Fi Direct Group. This can represent a one-to-one relationship or a one-to-many relationship with the Wi-Fi Direct.

Some devices like laptops running Intel MyWiFi can be set up to support a concurrent link to a Wi-Fi network such as a home / small-business network or a wireless hotspot while being able to maintain a Wi-Fi Direct cluster.

How to go about using Wi-Fi Direct

Wi-Fi Personal-Area Network concept diagram

If you intend to set up a Wi-Fi Direct group, determine the main computing device that is in the group. This could be a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone that has this functionality. On the other hand, you could use a DLNA-enabled network-attached-storage that supports Wi-Fi Direct as the main device if you are, for example, playing tunes held on the NAS to something like the Sony CMT-MX750Ni music system.

Then enable the Wi-Fi Direct functionality on this device and connect the other devices using WPS or a pre-determined WPA-PSK password key.

The range of this network will be determined by the radio range that the Wi-Fi Direct “master” device can provide; and this may be small for a lot of battery-powered devices like handheld games. Some devices that use a non-Wi-Fi connection like Ethernet or HomePlug may break off this connection if they are working as a Wi-Fi direct “master” device.

Increasing the relevance of Wi-Fi Direct

Wi-Fi Direct can be used in digital cameras as a way of uploading photos to a Wi-Fi NAS or a laptop or simply using a laptop’s Internet connection for providing photos to a social network. It can also work well as an alternative to Bluetooth for printing or media playout; as well as a wireless link to desktop peripherals like keyboards and mice.

The Wi-Fi Direct technology can then come in to its own with local multiplayer multi-machine gaming whether this involves laptops, smartphones, tablets or handheld gaming consoles. A game publisher could write a game to support a multiplayer mode over a local network as well as an online environment. This then allows one to “verse” an opponent in a game wherever they are without it costing money in data charges or dealing with the login requirements that a hotspot may throw at the potential competitors.

Similarly, if a device does support Wi-Fi Direct as well as a wired connection, it could support an “extended-service-set” function so as to cater for environments where there is a problem with Wi-Fi coverage in certain areas.

Conclusion

Once you know what you are doing, you can make Wi-Fi Direct devices work properly for creating “as-needed” Wi-Fi networks for differing applications.

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