Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Saturday, November 14, 2015

  Wireless and Wifi in 2015 - not what I dreamed of

I will go into the battle with the FCC I'm in in more detail later. Click here for some details.

As it was, I had a chance to return to the USA (from my university gig in Sweden) for a 10 day whirlwind trip up and down the East Coast. I took notes on how wireless technologies worked throughout.

Neither supposedly international sim card for my cell phone worked anywhere in the US I went.



My ubuntu phone doesn't do tethering without hacking on it, anyway, and I refused to join the app store.

After wandering around a while in La Guardia airport I found good enough wifi signal to get online long enough to figure out where I was going.

My hotel in NYC had good wifi, with hotspot. The AES conference did, ultimately have a place I could sit down, finish writing my talk, and upload it via wifi. It was up against a wall, I had to sit on the floor.

The bookshop I had a meeting in had a nasty password that the owner had to read to me 3 times before I got it right.

I sat in Penn Station, in NYC, with a few open APs within range, and was unable to get an IP address.

I got off the train in Princeton Junction to find 4 open APs there, from Xfinity, etc - which all demanded a login with one of their TV services, with no means to plug in a credit card if you didn't have an account already, which I don't, neither residing in the US (currently) or an owner of a TV
(for 3 decades).

So, I got in a cab and said "Take me to your WiFi!".

The cabbie took me to Barnes and Nobel where after navigating past the web only hotspot interception screen, I happily swapped the email I needed to get picked up by the person I was visiting. I also browsed a few books, but decided it was saner for me to just get stuff for my kindle, except that all 3 of my tablets had broken this year, and I'd left my main kindle in a hotel in slovenia - where I hope someone else is getting an education from it. I see no signs of any pages being turned though...

My lady friend had working wifi, but had to look up the password on a sticky note, stuck in a drawer,to share it. All her kids spent more time on their tablets than talking to me....

The wifi on the train to DC only worked for the last 30 minutes of the trip. I watched my cell phone register with LTE provider after another, with still no actual connectivity.

I stayed at the capitol holiday inn in Washington DC, where the local DNS server failed late in the evening. IT was called, but it was still down by the time I had to leave at 10. Thank god for 8.8.8.8!

The air and space museum had working wifi with the ubiquitous hotspot interception screen, making me agree to whatever terms and conditions were required to get on the internet from within this museum of technology.

The exhibits were old, and tired, and almost exactly the same as I remembered from my last visit a decade before.

I went to the FCC, while someone shared the guest password, I was too busy talking to be able to get online. I wondered if I could just share my data via a usb stick, but didn't have one that I didn't trust to not have malware on it,  and I sure wasn't going to take one of theirs - so I decided to wait til i got back to the air and space museum to send my followup email.

I sat by spaceship one to do that, wondering if spaceship two would ever fly.

Returned to philly. Fell asleep on the train. Got woken up so suddenly at 30th street station as to forget to grab my laptop on the way out.


Went onto Malvern. ESR's CeroWrt box was still awesome (hundreds of days  of uptime), but cloudflare had found ways to break the dnssec in that release, and thus I couldn't get to any IETF sites. Disabled dnssec... thought about restarting cerowrt in the face of all that adversity... went back to sleep.

Went to Philly the next day.

Outside the comcast HQ there were protestors protesting, begging to be hooked up to the Internet in their rural locations. The entire square outside the building was roped off in the drizzle and security guards located well outside deeply quizzed me as to my business therein. Inside,  screens showed animated fish all across the back wall, with still no wifi to access, and only a very few "approved guests" to admire them. I got to my meeting there and they told me the one truly open AP had a hidden SSID, and what it was, but it did 10-20KB/sec at best, and timed out long before I could get my email.

I had a chance to look over Comcast's hardware and test design for their upcoming "buffercontrol" bufferbloat trial. Buffercontrol - shown to be fairly ineffective 3+ years and one DOCSIS 3.1 standard ago.

Under trial, finally, on the one modem they could make it work on.

I could say more depressing things about it... but I need the business, and I like getting actual field data for stuff we only proved in simulation. Perhaps this coming year we'll get a box in the field that does what CeroWrt did 3.5 years back and nearly every third party firmware already does.

Went afterwards to Atlantic City. Wifi in the casino worked in the coffee shop, but not the bar. My brother's apple based wifi was awesome - because - he said - his Internet service got tons better when he dumped the POS cable modem he was supplied by comcast for an Arris - but he was still paying rent on the one he wasn't using because they wouldn't accept the fact he wasn't using it. He'd run wires for everything he could, throughout the house, also.

He showed me some of the cool RF plotting code he'd written but asked me not to tell people about it because he only had time and budget to support users only in his workgroup.

I got on the next plane to florida, where at least my mom's wifi worked, but there were 5 others sharing the channel, evidently, from 6PM onwards, watching netflix in HD. ssh was nearly unusable from anywhere but a few feet away from the AP. Mosh worked ok.

The wifi in RSW, 30th street station,  and PHL actually did work reasonably well.

Amtrak found my laptop in Penn Station and sent it to 30th street station after a couple futile phone and productive email exchanges. I picked it up between the flight from Florida and the next flight to London with about an hour to spare.

Having just a phone for half the trip made me realize just how  crippling and damaging to the mind must be to everybody else using the internet, typing on their thumbs. Maybe other people's minds work better at much less than the 120WPM I type at.

All the airplanes home had no connectivity, and while I was offline for nearly 24 hours, the FCC put
out a press release claiming they were not trying to ban openwrt and dd-wrt, and laid out new guidelines that still appear to do so - all but in name -  protecting 50 weather radars at the expense of billions of wifi users.

I still need to read the details. The devil's in the footnotes.

I got back to the university having forgotten my eduroam password. I plugged in a wire, but had to clear the mac address of my new laptop with IT.

Did a 2 hour discussion on VUC about where to go next, trying not to despair. I got encouraged to do more politics and less technology, for some reason. I think I'd rather do the technology. There's enough people in politics.

And I sat here until 4AM in my new apt in Sweden, writing up this wireless report... of 15 APs within listening distance, 5 with strong signals, all  are locked down with WPA, with not one open one within range.


Not being a resident (yet), I can't order DSL service, and even if I could it would need a year long contract for me to get. Even if I got one, it would have bufferbloat. I'd go to the office if I could remember the passcode, or back to sleep if I wasn't so jetlagged. The local coffee shop opened at 9. I got here by 12 to have 30+ emails I had to read in my mailbox. I had to download a youtube downloader to download last nights video.

While offline last night I spent some time editing video and listening to music instead of talking to facebook friends that were still awake somewhere in the world. Not a bad thing actually....

We are in an age where Bob Frankston's (and mine) dream of ubiquitous wireless connectivity was eminently possible, and yet, due to poorly implemented technology, fear, greed, stupidity, and regulation, it feels in many ways worse than the wireless world I left behind in 2006, when I left the USA for the first time.
`
Back then I could just lean up against a building and make a skype call.

How far we'e come! <sarcasm>We used to use networks to share files, now we're down to usb sticks.</sarcasm>

 
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David Täht writes about politics, space, copyright, the internet, audio software, operating systems and surfing.


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