Wake Me When You Need Me, Says Intel

Intel has announced a new power-saving technology called Remote Wake that will let outfitted computers doze in a power-saving mode until an appropriate message is received over the Internet, either via a VoIP call or another messaging medium. While the Wake on LAN protocol has been around for some years, allowing computers with the right Ethernet card and software to monitor a network even while sleeping for a Sleeping Beauty like magic kiss, Remote Wake goes far beyond that.

Intel has only released sketchy details--there's not even a link on their Web site--but Remote Wake would have to maintain a persistent network connection with a central server to function as Intel intends, as most computers in homes are behind Network Address Translation (NAT) gateways that prevent direct access. It's possible that a combination of UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) and Remote Wake are required to leave an external port on the Internet-facing side of the gateway active, that can be used to route traffic to the snoozing system.

Remote Wake could be used, Intel and its partners said, to let a computer sleep unless there's a download needed, a user wanted to access files (like media to stream) from a home computer, or a call was coming in via VoIP. Remaining in a standby instead of active state could reduce usage by hundreds of watts a day for a computer that's normally left on in a full-power mode with its monitor off.

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Keep That Laptop in the Bag in the Security Line

The Transportation Security Administration is apparently trying to make our lives a bit easier while not reducing one aspect of the security theater that's more reality than acting. The TSA will, starting tomorrow, let you keep your laptop in a bag that provides a clear image.

The "checkpoint friendly" bags either have to open up in a butterfly or trifold style so that the laptop can lay flat and be seen from top to bottom as it passes through a scanner. Laptop sleeves are also acceptable.

The TSA is getting very savvy at passenger and manufacturer relations, and had a several-month-long process of figuring out appropriate bag designs in consultation with the bag-making industry, and then inviting manfuacturers to submit and test samples for feedback.

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Delta Equips Fleet with Broadband

Delta Airlines said today they'll put in-flight broadband on their entire fleet of 330 planes by 2009. The airline will use Aircell's Gogo Internet service, which hasn't yet launched in a production run on any craft.

American Airlines ran a public test flight a few weeks ago, and will launch service on its 15 trans-continental Boeing 767-200 craft. But that's still a test. Virgin America will launch Gogo later this year on its fleet, which numbers just 22 planes so far.

The Delta service will launch starting this year on 133 MD88/90 aircraft, and then in 2009 expand to their 200 Boeing planes (737, 757, and 767-300s). The FAA airworthiness certification is model based, so each new model requires a separate process. I believe, however, that once Aircell has worked with a given airline on a particular model (like a 767-200 or 737), that approval for other carriers' identical model craft is streamlined or rubberstamped.

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Judge Rules Sprint Termination Fees Excessive

A California judge may have disrupted the way in which cellular carriers charge early termination fees (ETFs) to discover who want to exit a contract before the period they agreed to. Sprint was ordered to repay subscribers $18.2 million and stop collecting $54.7 million that subscribers had refused to pay.

ETFs have long been a point of contention. Carriers fought number portability for years, where cellular numbers could be as easily transferred among carriers as they could among landline providers. The mobile phone companies suspected that once customers could keep their number and escape, that there would be enormous churn. This has turned out to be true, with nearly 10 million subscribers leaving carriers each quarter, presumably for other carriers.

With portability came longer-term contracts. Where 1-year contracts were often the norm a few years ago, 2 years is now de rigeur, especially for attractive, exclusive phones, like the iPhone or Sprint's Samsung Instinct. Carriers in the U.S. typically subsidize phones, for which they pay hundreds of dollars, and argue that they can't recover the cost by either reclaiming the phone for an early termination, or making enough profit from monthly fees. That's certainly partly true, although this is coming from companies that charge 20 cents to a 140-character text message that costs them nearly nothing to deliver.

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Parents Can Control Kids' T-Mobile Use

T-Mobile is the latest cellular carrier to realize that it's bad business--and bad for families--to present parents with the sticker shock of a multi-hundred-dollar bill the first month a kid text messages far beyond the plan for their cell phone.

The Family Allowances plan, which launches in August, lets parents set a variety of rules and controls over their kids' usage for a rate of $2 per month per line, which T-Mobile describes as "introductory." Other carriers charge more. The service allows limits to be set and modified for how many minutes are used, how many text messages sent and received, and the downloads carried out. Parents can also add specific numbers, like theirs, that may always be called. Limits on calls during certain times of day, and per-line blocking is also included. It works with both metered plans and unlimited plans.

AT&T launched its Smart Limits service in February 2008, which is quite similar but more expensive (at $5 per month), and which won't work with the iPhone, oddly enough. The AT&T plan apparently has more flexibility about time-of-day calling, but can't limit incoming calls (only block them), nor set a specific number of outgoing call minutes.

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Sprint Offers Cell Tower in Your Home

print will release August 17th its Airave "femtocell," a tiny extension of their cellular network that instead of using their own tower backhaul relies on your home or office broadband network connection. Cellular networks comprise overlapping regions or cells. There are microcells for small areas, picocells for offices and buildings, and now femtocells for the home or small office.

The carrot for spending $100 on an Airave and $5 per month for the unit is that you can place unlimited domestic calls that originate through the unit for $10 per month for an individual line or $20 per month for a multi-line account (not including taxes). "Originate" is a key point: If you're placing or receiving a call outside its limited coverage and then move into its coverage area, you're charged for or have minutes counted for that call as under your normal plan. But if you place or receive a call while within its coverage, your call's minutes are under the Airave's umbrella even if you wander out.

Airave is the first mainstream deployment of femtocells, which use licensed frequencies owned by a carrier and allow a customer to use what's essentially VoIP on a cell phone. The call is handled by the femtocell, which passes it over the Internet to a Sprint gateway to proceed onto the rest of the network.

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Obey Browser Certificate Warnings Due to DNS Flaw

A few days ago, I wrote about a fundamental flaw in the Domain Name Service (DNS) protocol that handles the lookup from human-readable names into machine-processed Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, advising all readers to determine their vulnerability and take action.

There's one more warning I should pass on, however. Because this flaw allows an attacker to poison the DNS for anyone whose system connects to an unpatched DNS server, an attacker can also bypass a protection built into encrypted Web sessions.

Web encryption uses SSL/TLS (Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Layer Security), a standard that relies on three methods to ensure that your browser connects only to the correct party on the other end for a secured link.

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