Tablet Computers Archive

Product Review – Acer Iconia Tab A500 Series 10" Android tablet


I am reviewing the Acer Iconia Tab A500 Series 10” Android tablet computer. It, like most other Android-based 10” tablets, is faced off as a competitor to the Apple iPad tablet which is of the same size.

It is infact the first Android-based consumer/small-business tablet computer that I have reviewed for

Acer Iconia Tab A500 tablet computer

– reviewed configuration
Screen 10” widescreen LED-backlit LCD
User Memory 16Gb
SDHC card slot
Operating environment Android 3.1 HoneyComb
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11n WPS
Wireless Broadband Available in higher-priced A501 models
USB 2 x USB 2.0 host ports
1 x microUSB for PC-to-Iconia connectivity
Audio 1 x 3.5mm headphone jack
Digital audio through miniHDMI
Video 1 x miniHDMI jack


The unit itself

Aesthetics and build quality

The Acer Iconia has a metal-feel about it which makes you think of a durable tablet computer. It is light in your hands but some people may find the smooth finish very slippery when they handle it.


The Iconia’s display is as readable as most tablet computers go especially when you are using it for reading content. When you use the Android-provided touchscreen keyboard, you may not find the text entry procedure comfortable for long periods of content creation. As far as the display’s brightness is concerned, the Iconia Tab A500 is still bright enough for most users even if it runs on the energy-saving “dim mode”.

Of course, for video, the display had worked smoothly when handling YouTube and similar video playback applications


Acer Iconia Tab A500 left had side headphones and mini HDMI

Left Hand Side - Power switch, headphone jack, miniHDMI jack

Like most tablet computers, the Acer Iconia’s sound doesn’t have much in the way of volume output if you use the integrated speakers. Here, they would be good enough for audio prompts and the like.It was still clear for the basic local listening and you have the distinct stereo separation but I would recommend use of headphones or external speakers like Bluetooth A2DB audio setups.

Connectivity and Expandability

Acer Iconia Tab A500 right hand side - power input, micro USB port, USB port

Right hand side - Power input, microUSB port and USB host port

All the units of the Iconia A500 Series have 2 regular USB device ports as well as a micro USB port for connection to a host computer. They all support Bluetooth connectivity for standard profiles as covered by Android. This includes the ability to do Bluetooth object-push file transfer as well as audio streaming with Bluetooth headsets and audio setups.

You can connect these devices to an HDTV using an miniHDMI-to-HDMI cable if you need the large TV screen.

Acer Iconia Tab A500 - USB host port under screen

Another USB port on this device - at the bottom of the unit, under the screen.

These Acer tablets have a feature that is common with most Android smartphones and tablets in that they have a microSDHC card slot. This means that you can expand on the storage that you initially bought or swap media collections around on different microSD cards as if you were working with cassettes or MiniDiscs.

The power connection is a 12 volt connection, which may make it easier to use the Iconia Tab in a car through the use of a cigar-lighter cord. This comes in handy when you load devices like the Iconia with movies or ebooks to be viewed by passengers on a long journey.


The Acer Iconia is very spritely when it comes to performance. For example, it was able to play sound from a DLNA network media server while I did some Web browsing without the sound deteriorating. It could also perform properly with YouTube even if you put the videos on full screen.

The battery can run for a few days of adhoc but regular mixed-activity use without charging. I haven’t yet worked out an activity plan to “stress-test” these devices for battery runtime.

Other factors

The Acer Iconia Tab A500 Series is equipped with two cameras, one of them being a front-facing one for videoconferencing. This would work well if Skype provided full videophone functionality across entire line of Android HoneyComb tablets.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

One point of improvement that could come in handy would be to deliver Skype as part of the standard software mix for all of the models. As well, the Acre iconia, like most tablets could benefit from a detachable kickstand that comes as part fo the package. This could appeal to users who use a USB keyboard for typing up notes or those of us who push these units in to service as an Internet terminal / digital picture frame for the kitchen.


I would consider this Android tablet as a “floater” tablet computer as a multifunction general-purpose tablet computer where you value the large screen size and snappy performance. This is more so if you want a tablet computer that isn’t confined to Apple’s dream and you know what you are after for software.

The Wi-Fi-only units can be useful if you want to manage just one mobile broadband package by using your smartphone’s Wi-Fi tethering options to connect to broadband service on the go. You may go for the wireless-broadband-equipped units if you don’t mind running a separate wireless-broadband account and allowance for these devices.

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Do we need to patent the style or interface of a device?


Apple v Samsung just the tip of the iceberg

My Comments

What the Apple v Samsung court case that is being litigated around many countries in the world is about is the attempt by manufacturers to patent the style or operation interface for classes of manufactured goods, i.e. tablet computers and smartphones.

A manufacturer may work out the style for a particular class of manufactured goods or determine a user interface that is going to be the way this class of goods will be operated. But do they need to patent this style or user interface and chase down to sue other manufacturers who implement this user interface or style.

Established design practices that I have observed

In the case of how manufactured goods are styled, I have seen a large number of device classes that have a very common style and user-interface in place. Take for example, Henry Ford who determined the layout and role of the pedals in a car with the clutch on the left, brake in the centre and accelerator (gas pedal) on the right. This was gradually implemented by other vehicle builders in the early days of the car and became the standard for foot control in the car. Here, you didn’t need to relearn vehicle-control skills and practices just to suit particular manufacturers’ vehicles. For a tablet computer, the multi-touch operating procedures like the “pinch-to-zoom” procedure are really about achieving a consistent user interface. For Apple to patent the multi-touch interface is utter nonsense.

Similarly, there have been devices that used the same or similar industrial design, usually with a few variations. A common example are the interlocking rim deadbolts used in the USA and Australia. A lot of these units have a very common styling, with the turn-knob being the only part that differs between manufacturers in most cases. There have also been the earlier “IBM clone” computers with a system box and monitor styled like the original IBM equipment. In one example the “clone” monitor had a third “on-off” knob as well as the brightness and contrast knobs that were part of IBM’s design. Of course the monitor had the same fascia as the IBM design.

I often find that the use of common designs or user interfaces can work to gain increased acceptance of the device class, while the manufacturers take tome to work on a unique industrial design or different features.

The Samsung Galaxy S smartphone – is it the same as the iPhone 3GS?

I don’t see the Samsung Galaxy S smartphone, which I own, as being a copy of the Apple iPhone 3GS. The differences that I would notice include the installation of the headphone and microUSB jacks on the top edge of the phone, a removeable back to gain access to the microSD card, USIM card and battery as well as two extra touch-buttons at the bottom of the screen that are part of the Android user interface.

A person may think that this phone is an iPhone clone due to the use of the black bezel around the display, a hardware “home” button and a faux-chrome strip around the phone’s edge. This would be more so when the phone is in a hibernation state. Similarly, a “swipe to unlock” user interface which may use different prompt graphics to Apple’s “slide-switch” graphic may still be considered as mimicking Apple’s user interface.

Ramifications of this legal battle

I would suspect that if Apple wins the legal battle on user-interface grounds, it could affect all touchscreen computing applications, whether with a smartphone, tablet computer or even touchscreen implementations in regular computing devices. This could even go as far as Microsoft’s touchscreen computing table or dynamic whiteboards that allow touch interactivity.

It may also affect the abovementioned design practice associated with implementing similar industrial designs in most manufactured goods or the user interface in computer software. It would be more so with the positioning or styling of visual cues in these designs and can even affect how buildings or interiors are styled in case they cross over a brand’s territory.


This issue of using patents to protect the style or user-interface of a manufactured device or computer program shouldn’t be used to stifle the creation of competitive devices and the exploitation of the technology. The concept of patents should be more about providing a way of exploiting the protected technology in a competitive manner but with proper attribution.

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Do we need to create “all-round” social-network clients for regular computers and tablets?

There have been debates about whether Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn should develop official client-side applications for their applications when used on regular computers (desktops and laptops) or tablets like the iPad.

When I talk of a client-side application, I am thinking of an application that is written for and runs on the client device’s operating system and interacts with the Web-based social network service through known application-programming interfaces. This is in contrast to the Web-based interface that requires interaction through the client Web browser.

Of course, other people have developed client-side applications for these social networks either as an improvement for existing software projects or as their own projects themselves. These are usually considered third-party applications by the social-network provider and may not support all functions that are being baked in to the social network as it evolves.

The issue here

It may be easy to think that you don’t have to provide these client-side applications for desktop operating systems (Windows, MacOS and Linux) and tablet computers. This is because these devices can typically allow the user to competently navigate the Web-based user interface for the typical social-network service. It is compared to the smartphone having different user-interface needs that are drawn about by the use of a physically smaller screen on these devices.

Drawcards and Benefits

A major drawcard behind the social-network client application for larger-screen devices would be high integration with the device’s operating system and other applications. The benefits of this would be obvious, such as linking the “friends / followers / connections” databases held by the social-network services to local contacts databases maintained by your personal-information-management software or exhibiting of photos and videos from these services full-screen without the chrome associated with Web browser interaction.

Other benefits would include use of the operating system’s notification abilities to “pop up” messages related to these services such as direct messages or friend requests. Even the chat functionality that is part of services like Facebook would benefit from an “instant-messaging” user experience of the likes of Windows Live Messenger and Skype. This is an always-available presence list and application-created chat windows for each conversation. There is also the benefit of direct access to connected devices like printers or cameras.

Of course, there would be the computer-performance benefit of not needing to maintain a Web-browser session for each social-networking session. This is because the applications can be pared down to what is needed for the operating system; and can also be of benefit to those of us who use battery-operated devices like tablets or notebook computers.

For tablets, the user interface could be highly optimised for touch-based navigation and could make best use of the screen area of these devices. This is more so with this class of device being available in two major sizes – a 7” size for something that can stuff in your coat pocket or the larger 10” size. As well, it could include “right-sizing” the interface for the on-screen keyboard when the user needs to enter information to the service, such as through the log-on experience.


The drawbacks to this will typically include another client application to develop and maintain for the service, which may cost further money for the service provider. It also includes evolving the application to newer versions of the operating system and incorporating the new features that are available through the operating system’s lifecycle.

As well, there will be the factor that the ad-supported Web interface may become more irrelevant and these applications may them limit access to the cash-cow that these services have to make money – users viewing those ads that are on that interface. This is because most users would be reluctant to load ad-supported software on their desktop computers due to system-performance and privacy issues that have been brought about by highly-intrusive adware.


It may therefore be worth the social networks considering the idea of developing client-side applications for desktop and tablet operating environments. This is in order to provide the user-experience improvements that such applications can provide for this class of usage.

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How can we differentiate the Android tablet further?


Vizio VIA – Tablets with special features (photos) – CNET Reviews

My Comments

Previously, I thought that there would be very little that manufacturers can use to differentiate their Android tablet computers from one another. Typically, this will end up with the tablets working in the same way and having some sort of cosmetic difference.

Here, the customer would be able to think of a 7” model for the coat pocket or a 10” model for the briefcase or coffee table. They may be able to choose between the models that have Wi-Fi only or models that also have built-in- wireless broadband; as well as different memory capacities.

But some companies have worked further on this by making sure some of their tablet computers are able to stand out from the pack. In this article, Sony had a unit that used two screens in a similar vein to the Nintendo DS handheld games console while Vizio ran with a model that has an infrared emitter and universal remote-control app which would allow it to earn its place on the coffee table. As well, Panasonic had run with a ruggedised tablet that suits those environments that may yield rough treatment to the typical tablet device.

What I have seen of this is that there is a chance for manufacturers to try new features for the Android tablet platform and use these features to make their models different not just cosmetically but in a functional way.

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Apple iOS 5–To be updated without the need to tether your device


Apple iOS 5 Updated Over the Air –

My Comments

The latest incarnation of Apple’s iOS platform is intended to be about integration with an Apple-based iCloud cloud-based computing environment. This is alongside the dream that Steve Jobs has about less reliance on the desktop computing environment. But there is an advantage that will benefit users of any iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch whether they just use their device alongside a regular computer or independently.

This advantage is about “over-the-air” software updating for the operating environment. Some mobile phone platforms, such as a few Android installations, were able to be updated without the need to tether the phone to the computer. As well, iOS users could keep their device’s app collection up to date independently of the computer, a practice similar to adding an app to these devices. Now this will be implemented across the iOS platform so you don’t need to connect up that iPhone or iPad to your computer and fire up iTunes whenever Apple revises the platform.

One benefit that I would see out of this is if one’s computer is down for any reason, they can still update the iOS device. Also you don’t need to know where that white USB lead that connects your iPhone to your PC is.

Similarly, the update experience is more reliable for most Mac or PC users. This is because there is less risk of the device being “bricked” (put out of action) due to reasons like a software crash or hang; a slow computer or the USB cable coming out of the device’s Dock connector.

There may be disadvantages with this setup, especially for devices that are primarily operated on a wireless-broadband network. This is where the update may become a significant cost due to the data allowance on most low-end wireless-broadband plans. This may not be of concern for those of us who use the iPhone with Wi-Fi networks associated with most home or business wireline broadband services.

A good question with this update that may concern owners of existing iOS devices is whether the device needs to be prepared for “over-the-air” updating or not. This may be dependent on what version of the iOS system you are running. Here, the device could be enabled through an operating-system update or the installation of an “enabler” app from the iTunes App Store.

It will be interesting to then see whether all the iPhone and iPad users will find it easier to keep these ubiquitous mobile computing devices up to data.

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Windows 8–How it looks and operates is now defined


Windows 8 And Its Incredibly Cool New Touch Interface |

Windows 8 Gets A Radical Facelift And Touch Functionality (Videos) | eHomeUpgrade

Windows 8, iOS 6 set for tablet face-off in 2012 | CNET

My Comments

Basic comments about Windows 8’s touch screen user-interface

A key user-interface concept in the next version of Windows will be a “Start Screen” that looks like a cross between Windows Phone 7’s home screen and the Windows Media Center interface. Here, this dashboard will have “Live Tiles” which present always-updated information in the window panes.

The applications represented on the “Live Tiles” can be a fully-fledged Windows application or a HTML5/JavaScript “mobile-like” app that links to a Web resource. This is taken further with Internet Explorer 10 implementing this functionality.

There will be the full integrated support for tablet computers and similar devices with an interface that works best with these devices as well as a regular keyboard / mouse interface. One issue that may affect software developers is that they may have to work the software so it can behave properly with a “no-keyboard” interface as well as a “keyboard” interface. Of course, the touchscreen keyboard interface will support a split layout so that the user can work the keys with their thumbs.

For some programs that primarily use mouse interaction like strategy or puzzle games, there won’t need to be much work done on having the programs work between a keyboard interface or a touch interface. But on the other hand, programs that rely on text entry such as email, the program may have to work with remapping the user interface to permit use of the virtual keyboard interfaces.

But where could this all lead to when it comes to the design of Windows-based computers?

Ever since Windows allowed for “tablet-style” computing with the Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, where the computer is operated using a stylus rather than by touch, there have been two form factors put forward to the market. One was the “slate” form factor which is like the tablet computers such as the iPad, where there isn’t a keyboard but the computer could work with a USB-connected keyboard; and the other was a “convertible” notebook computer with a screen that swivelled 180 degrees and folded flat to become a stylus-operated PC. There have been a few touchscreen variants of these form factors released subsequently once Windows Vista provided the touchscreen interface option.

The “slate” or “tablet” form factor could exist as an alternative to the iPad and Android-based tablet computers; and they could allow for operation with small keyboards for word-processing and emailing. But the computer press have forgotten about the “convertible” notebook form factor which has seen some resurgence with some manufacturers running with “netvertibles” – netbooks that have a touchscreen which can swivel between a traditional layout and a tablet layout.

Windows 8 vs the Apple platforms.

Another article had raised issues about Windows 8 becoming a competitor for a subsequent version of Apple’s iOS platform, especially the iPad implementation.

But they also raised the spectre of it competing with the next version of MacOS X, known as “Lion”. The main factor about this is that Apple were viewing the MacOS platform as a “horizontal” platform and the iOS platform as a “vertical” platform; with scant mention of any touch-enabled Macintosh computers coming on the scene.

The possibility of a granular touch-based computer marketplace

What I would see with these touch-based operating systems is the ability for hardware manufacturers to provide a granular marketplace for touch-based computing devices. This means that there could be a touch-based computing device that could suit particular users’ needs and budgets.

It would range from the 7” coat-pocket tablets serving as an alternative to a dedicated ebook reader through 10” tablets like the iPad fulfilling most general-purpose “dedicated-tablet” needs to 13”-14” convertible notebooks appealing to those of us who do plenty of emailing, word-processing or similar work on the road.

Of course, the operating environments for units that are 10” or above will differ across the marketplace in a similar way to what is happening with the smartphones. Here, users may place emphasis on factors like software availability, operating-system flexibility, battery runtime and system performance as they choose the operating environment.


The proposed Windows 8 environment could then become a game change when it comes to the touch-based computing environment.

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Should your portable computer be a laptop or a tablet


Business laptops reload | Technology Spectator

My Comments

You are thinking of a portable computer device that can stand between your smartphone and your regular 15”-17” laptop computer. But where do you go?

Tablet computers

Firstly, we have seen the tablets like the Apple iPad family and the newer crop of Android-powered tablet computers. These units have a touch-driven user interface and range between 7” for a unit that can be stuffed in to a large pocket on your coat) to a 10” unit that can sit on a coffee table. They are good for viewing previously-written material or performing limited data-entry tasks like responding to email in a brief manner, due to the nature of the touchscreen keyboard.

There has been talk of these tablet computers displacing netbooks in their computing roles but the netbooks can still work for some users when it comes to taking notes or responding to letters and they want a keyboard that they can feel properly.

Ultraportable / Subnotebook computers

On the other hand, you have ultraportable or subnotebook computers which typically range up to 14” and are optimised for portable use. These units will have a regular keyboard as well as the separate larger screen. Also, they run a regular desktop operating system in the Windows or MacOS X families, which allows them to run regular fully-functional software like Microsoft Office or work with a large range of computer hardware.

There have been some new examples of very capable 13” ultraportables that have been cited in this article. One was the Lenovo ThinkPad X1, which is Lenovo’s attempt to respond to Apple’s cool designs. This is even though it is built by a company preferred by corporate “fleet-computer” buyers due to inherent ruggedness and security features. Another is the Toshiba Portege R830 which is a lightweight Core i5-powered model with an integrated DVD drive and USB 3.0. Yet another emerges from Hewlett-Packard as the HP ProBook 5300m, a Core i5-powered subnotebook that has had its audio subsystem worked with Beats Audio technology.

The author who wrote the article for the Technology Spectator that I am commenting on even had prepared the manuscript for the article on the Lenovo X1 and had found that the proper-size keyboard had allowed him to do the job. This is in a similar experience to what I had when I reviewed the Dell Inspiron 13z last year for this site and found that this class of computer is a proper size for those of us who want a travel-friendly computer to type up work on. It is because these computers use a keyboard layout and area that is commensurate to a standard typewriter keyboard, thus allowing you to properly touch-type without your hands feeling cramped; and you also have the proper tactile feedback that you have when you operate these computers’ keyboards.

This form-factor has become very useful especially amongst those of us who do a lot of public-transport travel, especially air travel because the can easily fit on those economy-class airline tray tables; as I have seen for myself on my flight back from Sydney. Here I have seen a person who was sitting next to me have one of these machines on their airline tray-table just for viewing some video material; and they didn’t look cramped when they used that computer.

As well, they are highly valued for wireless-hotspot use because they could fit on a typical cafe table or a window / wall bench that is very common at these places. This is more so as a lot of us use the cafe as a “second office” where one can get on with their work without office-driven distraction.

The possibllity of convertible “bridge” computers

Manufacturers could consider placing in to their market “convertible” ultraportable computers that have a touchscreen so one can benefit from the bonuses of touchscreen computing as well as have something with a proper keyboard. This could be augmented with Windows 7 fully utilising its touch and tablet abilities and support for applications that have proper touch-operation benefits. Of course, there has to be improvements with battery runtime and the ability to work with multi-touch gestures.

As for “big-time” media who want to preserve their “tablet-editions” of their newspapers; they could also run desktop front-ends for the Windows platform to provide the newspaper experience to these touchscreen-enabled portable computers.


I would reckon that a secondary portable computer that you use should be dependent on what you intend to do with it. If you do intend to just use the device for reading and viewing material; and occasionally creating emails, I would go for a tablet computer. On the other hand, if you are doing a lot of correspondence or creating a lot of material like writing articles while out and about, a subnotebook / ultraportable could suit your needs better.

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Tablet computers – where are they really used and for what

I have read some articles about the new tablet computers like the Apple iPad and the Android-based units. People in the industry seem to pitch them as portable computers that are used as an alternative to a netbook. On the other hand, I read about these computers being used at home as a “lounge-room” computer that is used for Web-browsing, working the Social Web (Facebook, Twitter, etc) or watching YouTube clips.

It is interesting to see what you readers are using these computers for rather than just relying on what the press or manufacturers are running with concerning this class of computer.

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Simplifying login and authentication processes for WiFi hotspots


Wi-Fi body wants hotspots to override 3G • reghardware

From the horse’s mouth

Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™ Hotspot Program to Ease Subscriber Connectivity in Service Provider Wi-Fi® Hotspots  – Press Release

Wi-Fi Alliance Webpage

My comments

One main thrust behind the Wi-Fi Alliance’s new initiative concerning authentication, authorisation and accounting on public hotspots was to permit a wireless-broadband carrier to use Wi-Fi hotspots as a complimentary cellular technology. This is to avoid the need to buy cellular-telephony spectrum in order to increase service capacity and is increasingly necessary as the available radio spectrum becomes increasingly scarce.

Here, a cellular carrier could run their own Wi-Fi hotspot networks like what Telstra is doing or they could form a partnership with a wireless Internet service provider like “The Cloud” in the UK as a way of providing this service. They could then allow for a customer to seamlessly hand over from a 3G network to a Wi-Fi network that supports these credentials.

The way this is going to operate is to use a SIM card in a smartphone to store credentials for Wi-Fi networks. This card is typically controlled by the cellular carrier and may be only used for login credentials that continue the carrier’s partnerships.

A limitation I find with this is that the carrier could implement software locks so that the customer can’t use public networks other than those provided for by the carrier or their partnership. As well, there are other issues that haven’t been looked at properly with this goal for improved authorisation, authentication and accounting on these networks as I list below.

Venue-controlled hotspots

It can also make life difficult for customers who use hotspots provided by venue owners like hotels or cafes. Here, the login experience is typically managed by the hotspot owner and this may require information like a session ID in the case of a hotspot at a bar or cafe, or a room number for a hotel. These may apply for hotspot service where you pay the premises owner for that service or the service is part of the business’s main operation. In some free hotspots, you may have to click on a form to assent to terms and conditions of the service before you continue using the service.

As well, a user could use a hotspot run by an independent wireless hotspot operator and buy their access themselves through a Web-based user interface before using the service.

What I would like to see is support for these kind of hotspots because the user interface that is provided by most of them can become awkward for people who use handheld devices. This is typically because most of these user interfaces are designed for devices like laptops rather than handheld devices.

The improved interfaces could support “app-style” login experiences including “remember-me” login experiences where applicable. Other improvements that could be facilitated include the use of barcodes that are scanned by the phone’s camera to load “session keys” for docket-controlled hotspots or MMS direct-load support for login tokens for “SMS login token” WISPS. It could then lead to a venue-branded experience which some users may find as a “safety net” for their hotspot experience.

As well, a branded experience can be part of a “walled-garden” of sites that a person can visit free of charge or can be a sophisticated experience with such things as an online menu or the ability to order food and drink from your computing device.

Similarly, the idea of “franchising” WISP service to owners of venue-controlled hotspots hasn’t been worked out fully with this technology. Here, a person could have the rights to resell a WISP’s service under varying risk-return models and have the clients associated with that service use their hotspot in exchange for a cut of the costs paid by the clients.

Selective device-cluster creation

It is also a preferred standard to have devices in a public network isolated at lower network levels in order to prevent unwanted peer-to-peer discovery of the devices on these networks. This is typically achieved through functions like “AP isolation” or “Wireless Network isolation” and makes it appear to the devices that they are connecting directly to the Internet privately.

There are situations where a person may want to provide local connectivity between their own devices or devices owned by other users that are in their trust circle. Examples of this include LAN-based gaming over a wireless hotspot network, workgroups sharing data during a cafe meeting; one shifting data between a smartphone and a tablet computer at a coffee lounge or simply uploading pictures from a Wi-Fi-enabled camera to a 13” traveller laptop at their favourite “watering hole”.

Here, the authentication needed for this could be achieved through “same-token” login for devices with integrated Web browsers to entry of MAC addresses or WPS PIN numbers into a “cluster-creation” screen provided by the hotspot gateway. The Wi-Fi Alliance could examine the feasibility of using the new authentication methods as a way of creating selective network clusters across a device-isolated public wireless network.

Authenticating hotspots at the SSID-discovery level

The other question that has not been answered as far as I am concerned is whether there will be a system for authenticating hotspots and public networks in a similar manner to what is done when a user logs on to a banking site for example. This is to verify that the user has discovered a “safe” network before they select that SSID and begin to login to the hotspot.

The data that would be verified would be the MAC addresses of the access points as well as the gateway device’s  IP address and MAC address. This can be used to verify that the user has logged in to a network that is operated by the venue that is providing the hotspot service. For a WISP like “The Cloud” or FON, this may be useful for verifying that users have logged in to the WISP’s network. In this case, this information may pertain to the locally-installed hardware for the WISP.

Here, this could be achieved through a private-key / public-key exchange setup where the successfully verified hotspots could at least be highlighted in a wireless network with a ?key” or green-light icon. If this system does also support the transmission of logo icons, the client device could also show a company logo for that hotspot host.

It can also work as a way of encouraging customers to be sure of where they are surfing the Web through. As well, a business could have a Windows 7 laptop or Blackberry smartphone that supports this kind of verification for public wireless networks to prohibit logging in to public wireless networks that don’t have this kind of verification.

The main issue with this is that independently-run cafes and bars may need to be able to have access to any certification setups at a modest price, preferably through a government business-support agency or their bank.


Once these issues are ironed out concerning the provision of public Wi-Fi Internet service to the hordes of users with notebooks, netbooks, smartphones and tablet computers, then they can use these services to full capability in a secure manner.

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