Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Wi-Fi Mobility Symposium Video Archives

What a fun week! I'm still digesting all of the information discussed at the Wi-Fi Mobility Symposium and presentations by sponsors at Wireless Field Day 2 last week in San Jose, CA. I will be posting my thoughts on various topics covered over the course of the week, but until then everyone catch up on the discussions.

What's great is the awesome crews from Tech Field Day and Prime Image Media recorded all of the presentation and discussions at both events! You can't get a front-row seat to such great conversations with industry leaders anywhere else. Watch all the videos and stay informed on the latest Wi-Fi industry innovations and solutions.

As a recap, the Wi-Fi Mobility Symposium covered topics on mobile devices and BYOD, Gigabit Wi-Fi, and Hotspot 2.0. There are 8 videos available from this event.

Symposium Introduction

Discussion on Industry Topics
Mobile Devices & BYOD

Gigabit Wi-Fi

Hotspot 2.0

Vendor Presentations
Aruba Networks

HP Labs

Ruckus Wireless

Aerohive Networks


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Measuring Wi-Fi Performance using Ruckus Wireless Zap

Recently, I was provided a free copy of a Wi-Fi performance testing tool for iOS call ZapPerf for iOS by Zaib (@WLANBook). This tool is a port of the open source Zap test tool released in 2010 by Ruckus Wireless. This spurred me into doing a little performance testing using both the iOS version and the Mac version.

The Zap test tool is a bit different from other performance test tools out there, such as iperf, in that it measures the consistency of performance rather than peak or average throughput. This translates into a better measurement of the usability of a Wi-Fi network to handle real-time traffic that cannot tolerate momentary performance degradation, such as voice and video. For example, streaming a H.264 compressed high-definition Blu-Ray quality video could require a consistent 25-35Mbps of throughput. If performance drops even momentarily the video quality could degrade and result in video pixelation or freezing which would be unacceptable to viewer.

Ruckus published a whitepaper on Characterizing Wireless Network Performance, in which they describe the design of the Zap tool:
Prior to Zap, the focus of existing tools in the market has been on measuring average throughput, not worst-case throughput. Ruckus engineers originally designed Zap to measure and predict what type of performance they could expect most of the time (not just some of the time), using a large number of samples.
The output of the tool is a Cumulative Distribution Function (CDF), which is a representation of the probability of achieving a given throughput level.

Cumulative Distribution Function example shows
the percentage of time the system can achieve a given throughput value

I decided to do some testing with two systems, an iPad 1 and a MacBook Pro (Mid 2010). I also decided to run multiple tests on each system with different QoS value to determine how Wi-Fi quality of service impacts device performance. Both systems were tested with two QoS values: Best Effort (DSCP 0, Zap option -q0x00) and Voice (DSCP 46, Zap option -q0xB8).

Note - The Zap QoS option is a bit confusing, as it requires a hexadecimal value representing the entire 8-bit IP ToS header instead of the only the 6-bit DSCP portion. Hence the hex values above account for the two low-order ECN bits as well.

iPad 1 Results
This is a first-gen iPad 1 which sports an 802.11n 1x1:1 radio chipset capable of 65Mbps raw Wi-Fi speed.

You can see that the performance of the iPad 1 was very similar for both QoS queues. This is likely due to the fact that testing was performed using an 11n access point in a non-congested location with little traffic except for the system under test. The AP and RF spectrum were sufficiently able to deliver a good user experience above 30Mbps at all times (100th percentile).

MacBook Pro (Mid 2010) Results
This is a MacBookPro6,2 Core i7 2.66GHz (Mid 2010) model, which sports an 802.11n 2x2:2 radio chipset capable of 300Mbps raw Wi-Fi speed.

Contrast the performance of the iPad with the MBP. The MacBook is capable of 2 spatial streams and 300Mbps raw speed, which is able to saturate the AP and RF spectrum capabilities more thoroughly. In this scenario, we can see that the Voice queue clearly outperforms the Best Effort queue, all other variables constant. The Voice queue is able to achieve 179Mbps at all times (100th percentile) while the Best Effort queue is only able to match that performance about 90% of the time. The small amount of competing Wi-Fi traffic in the area reduces the guaranteed service level of the Best Effort traffic down to 96Mbps.

Concurrent Voice and Best Effort Traffic
Next, I decided to stress the network a little bit more to see the difference in performance between QoS queues when the network is under heavier load. For this test I used two MacBooks, both capable of 300Mbps, with one in the Voice queue and one in the Best Effort queue.

I was expecting to see a significant performance gap between the Voice and Best Effort queue, highlighting the benefit of QoS traffic prioritization. Here's what resulted:

My results matched my expectations. The stream in the Voice queue significantly outperformed the stream in the Best Effort queue. The Voice stream was able to achieve over 212Mbps for 98% of the time and resulted in worst-case performance of 179Mbps. You will also notice that the performance remained very consistent throughout the test, as indicated by the relatively flat line across the graph.

The Best Effort stream on the other hand saw a more varied performance, indicated by the sloped line in the graph. This stream was able to achieve 146Mbps for 98% of the time, but only 124Mbps worst-case.

Revolution or Evolution? - Andrew's Take
When it comes to Wi-Fi and preparing a network for rich multimedia applications such as video streaming, testing consistency of performance becomes more important than measuring peak or average performance, which can masque temporary degradation when sampling a large amount of data. Using the Zap tool by Ruckus Wireless offers a method to measure the sustainable throughput of a Wi-Fi network that more closely resembles the expected user experience.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Podcasts, These Are A Few of My Favorite Things

If I were to adapt the Sound of Music to technology, it might go something like this:

Routers on rainbows and switches in clouds,
bright fiber optics and warm wi-fi signals,
independent podcasts on relevant topics,
these are a few of my favorite things!

Podcasts are one of my preferred methods to learn and stay up-to-date on technology news. Despite the overwhelming number of tech podcasts out there, I actually find very few that are relevant to my interests or present original content that differentiate the podcast from other news sources. I can't compile a "Top 10" list, it's that small a number.

Technology Podcasts
Here are my favorite technology podcasts. I listen to these regularly and usually do not miss an episode.
  • Packet Pushers Podcast
    Hosted by Greg Ferro and Ethan Banks, this show covers networking technology from an independent engineer's perspective.

    On the podcast, we talk about routing, switching, security, firewalls, data center, and industry trends. We collect different topics and discuss them in a round table format. Topics can be “deep dived” where we focus on practical technology issues, or we sometimes review the latest announcements from vendors and discuss the technologies. Whatever takes our interest, we’ll dig into it and decide what the focus will be.
  • MacBreak Weekly
    A TWiT.tv show hosted by Leo Laporte. This show keeps me up-to-date on all the Apple technology and solutions, which typically leads the consumer market.

    Get the latest Apple news and views from the top names in Mac, iPhone, iPod, and iPad journalism. Recorded live every Tuesday at 2p Eastern/11a Pacific/1800 UTC.
  • Windows Weekly
    Another TWiT.tv show hosted by Mary Jo Foley and Paul Thurrott. This show keeps me up-to-date on all the Microsoft technologies and solutions, which typically leads the enterprise market.

    A weekly look at all things Microsoft including Windows 7, Office 2010 and Xbox, from the foremost Windows expert in the world, Paul Thurrott of the Super Site for Windows. Recorded live every Thursday at 2p Eastern/11a Pacific/1800 UTC.
  • No Strings Attached Show
    Hosted by Blake Krone, Jennifer Huber, Sam Clements, George Stefanick, Chris Lyttle, and myself, this show is all about Wi-Fi. Podcast content is focused on a real-world look at technology and solutions without the marketing fluff. Our goal is to be honest and fair in evaluating the benefits and limitations of Wi-Fi technology, without vendor bashing. We also cover emerging technologies so that Wi-Fi professionals are prepared to plan, design, and integrate new solutions based on these technologies.

    Brought to you by some of the brightest and best Wireless engineers from various walks of life. We have two wireless CCIE’s, a couple of CWNE’s, and a handful of other certifications. Each of us brings a different view on the products that we use on a daily basis to provide Wireless networking to the masses, this will hopefully lead to some interesting discussions on the podcasts!

Notable Mentions The following podcasts deserve notable mentions. I check in and listed to episodes occasionally, when the topics are relevant to what I'm interested in. However, I do not listen to every episode.
  • GigaOm Mobile TechRoundup
    Hosted by Kevin C. Tofel. GigaOm is one of my preferred sources for the latest news on technology. The podcast is a recap of major recent news and announcements in the mobile technology space, which is of particular relevance for me due to my work in the Wi-Fi industry which is closely inter-related with most mobile technologies. However, since a lot of the information in the podcast is news-related, it's typically available from other sources and repeats information that I may have already read about elsewhere.

  • GRC Security Now!
    A TWiT.tv show hosted by Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte. This was one my favorite tech podcasts early in my career as I learned about security topics. I still check in every once-in-a-while, but tend to skip many episodes that are not of interest.

  • Wireless LAN Weekly (currently inactive)
    Hosted by Keith Parsons. This was an excellent Wi-Fi specific podcast by one of the best professionals in the industry. Keith summed it up best:

    This site is dedicated to those who are involved in the craft of Wireless LANs – folks who work day-in, day-out with Wireless networking. A place to come and learn from, hang out with, and be inspired by other like-minded individuals.

Listening Options
I especially like the options available for listening to podcasts wherever and whenever I choose, and on a multitude of devices.

When I'm out and about around town or travelling I use my smartphone, like pretty much everyone else. I moved away from an iPhone 3GS last fall... big mistake, dumb move, I know (now)! I still haven't found a great podcast manager for Android. At the same time, I am increasingly weening myself off iTunes, for the better. Even when I had the iPhone, I browsed and downloaded podcast episodes directly from the iTunes store on the phone rather than syncing from a computer. I still think there are better podcast apps available for iOS than Android overall, and will likely switch back to an iPhone at some point (probably when version 5 eventually arrives).

When I'm at home or work, I much prefer to listed on one of my Logitech Squeezebox Radio units. It's nice to listen to podcasts on an actual speaker when I'm at my desk or at home in the kitchen, and don't want to wear earbuds or headphones. Additionally, with an optional battery pack I can take my music and podcasts anywhere I can get a Wi-Fi signal (like out on my patio)!

Logitech Squeezebox Radio

Setup and use are simple. Through Logitech's mysqueezebox.com website, I can register, configure, and control all of my units remotely. Application plug-ins are available for many web-based streaming services like Pandora, Slacker, Spotify, and TuneIn Radio. In addition, a podcast plug-in allows configuration of my favorite podcasts by pasting in their RSS/XML source feed URL. The configuration updates on the units immediately. There are also Android and iOS applications for control and synchronization of playback among multiple units. Also, they're very competitively priced based on the features and functionality you get compared to other solutions.


What are your favorite technology podcasts? Please share in the comments section below!

Monday, January 16, 2012

NearBuy Announces Captive Portal and Analytics for Retail

Analytics are the un-sung driver behind retail Wi-Fi hotspots. As I have previously written in 5 Retail Trends Driving Wi-Fi, retailers want to know who their customers are in order to tailor the in-store shopping experience which helps drive customer satisfaction and ultimately increased sales and profit. Consumers are increasingly using and relying on digital communications while in the store to perform product research, price comparison, and to make purchases. Retailers want the same reporting available from physical stores that they already get from their websites. The ability to tap into this information by offering free Wi-Fi to shoppers and report on usage is one of the main reasons retailers are offering hotspots in increasing numbers since late 2010.

NearBuy Systems is focused on helping retailers build competitive advantage from the smartphone revolution. The company has been around for a few years now, first getting retailer's attention with their unique micro-location solution for indoor location based services which combines Wi-Fi with in-store video cameras to reliably achieve aisle-level accuracy, something traditional Wi-Fi only systems struggle to accomplish.

NearBuy is announcing their captive portal solution this week at the NRF (National Retail Federation) Annual Convention & Expo, a show dedicated to showcasing retail industry solutions. The NearBuy captive portal differentiates itself through a rich analytics and reporting engine tailored for retail, dubbed Luneta.

NearBuy - Analytics for Retail Guest Wi-Fi Networks

The company is betting that retailers will want information on shopper behavior in their stores and are willing to invest in a more robust solution than integrated captive portal capabilities within wireless infrastructure equipment. Whereas integrated captive portals provide basic functionality with a focus on enterprise features such as authentication and network VLAN integration, NearBuy focuses on tailoring the guest user experience for a retail environment through frictionless shopper access (one-time registration across repeat visits) and providing rich analytics for the retailer.

Bryan Wargo, the founder of NearBuy, summarizes this trend:
Guest Wi-Fi is a major trend for retailers today. One of the biggest benefits is the ability to understand what shoppers are doing in their stores. With this tool we give them a way to quantify what and where consumers are shopping online while in the store, and what products they are purchasing.
The captive portal solution includes a standard guest access webpage which presents terms of use and can collect shopper identification through email address input. More interesting is the ability to integrate guest access with common web services providers such as Twitter and Facebook, allowing retailers to leverage consumer adoption of social media platforms as an avenue for subsequent customer interaction and outreach. This capability seems intuitive, and I'm surprised others have not offered it already.

The NearBuy captive portal provides
social media login for guest access

The back-end analytics include standard network-centric information on the number of users, new versus repeat users, volume of traffic, and websites visited. However, the Luneta solution differentiates by providing detailed information on consumer shopping behavior, including mobile device types being used, guest conversion (opt-in versus decline rate), mobile applications being used, search terms queried, top products browsed, and products purchased online from within the store. Data can be viewed across the entire retail chain (all stores), or broken down into region, store, or even department level reports.

NearBuy Luneta analytics include retail focused data on
products browsed and purchased by shoppers while in-store

From a technical standpoint, the solution architecture relies on a captive portal server which can live on a physical or virtual server of it's own. Depending on the WLAN architecture and traffic routing, the server can live in the store for distributed forwarding scenarios or at a data center when performing central traffic forwarding. Alternatively, for customers running a Motorola wireless infrastructure, it can be loaded as an virtual image on their NX 9000 series centralized wireless controller to reduce server footprint and offer an integrated solution for lower TCO.

The NearBuy captive portal can be deployed as a standalone server
or integrated as a virtual image running on a Motorola NX 9000 controller

The solution includes a RESTful API for integration with external systems such as corporate data warehouses or real-time systems for customer marketing and outreach while in-store.

For retailers, guest Wi-Fi requires a combination of excellent user experience with rich analytics, something that most solutions don't provide. NearBuy hopes to fill that gap by providing a solution that tailors to retail needs.

More information on this solution can be found on the NearBuy website. In addition, they will be providing product demonstrations this week at NRF in the Motorola booth.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Wi-Fi Article Round-Up: CES Edition

A recap of interesting Wi-Fi and IT industry articles from around the interwebs. For those living in isolation, CES is this week, so much of the news will relate to the show.

Note - I will not be covering CES news surrounding tablets or smartphones. Wi-Fi within those devices are well understood and not really new.

Wi-Fi Articles:

Wireless display technologies will fight to enter the market in 2012 and compete with Apple AirPlay. I don't think they'll gain much traction in 2012, but Marvell and the Wi-Fi Alliance have a better long-term shot than Intel WiDi, as I wrote about earlier this week.
Marvell to Showcase Wi-Fi Display Technology Implemented Across Avastar Family of Wireless Products: "The Wi-Fi Display specification is the basis for an exciting new Wi-Fi Alliance certification program, scheduled for launch in mid-2012. Devices certified under this program can provide a rich audio/video experience between Wi-Fi devices anywhere, at any time, without cables or a connection to an existing Wi-Fi network--all with the multi-vendor interoperability expected from Wi-Fi CERTIFIED."
This standards-based solution has already been adopted by Qualcomm Atheros as well (press release), proving just how important the Wi-Fi Alliance and interoperable standards are in the Wi-Fi industry (hint - we live by interoperability!)

New Wi-Fi Alliance growth predictions:
Wi-Fi Alliance's Wireless Predictions and Projects for 2012: "Recent research data shows that shipment of wi-fi devices is expected to double by 2015. Growth in home wireless networking devices—including TVs, media players and gaming consoles is anticipated to reach 35 percent from 2011 to 2016. Other predictions:
- Wi-Fi is expected to grow 109 percent between 2011-2016 in automotive applications such as infotainment systems, navigation, and traffic monitoring.
- Wi-Fi is expected to grow 39 percent between 2011-2016 in health, fitness, and medical applications.
- Wi-Fi is expected to grow 25 percent between 2011-2016 in smart meters and automation products."
White space Wi-Fi could get faster if Microsoft has anything to say. They have proposed Wi-Fi over Narrow Channels (Wi-Fi NC), which essentially bonds non-contiguous narrowband frequencies into a single Wi-Fi channel that increases available spectrum and therefore bandwidth for white space Wi-Fi.
WiFi-NC : WiFi Over Narrow Channels - Microsoft Research: "We propose WiFi-NC, a novel PHY-MAC design that allows radios to use WiFi over multiple narrow channels simultaneously. To enable WiFi-NC, we have developed the compound radio, a single wideband radio that exposes the abstraction of multiple narrow channel radios, each with independent transmission, reception and carrier sensing capabilities."

Hotspot 2.0 will a recurring theme throughout 2012 (and 2013 for that matter). The ability to provide Wi-Fi hotspot security, ease of use, service and provider transparency, and allow carrier data offload, while doing so with a viable business model for telecom carriers, independent hotspot operators, as well as authentication providers (which, BTW, is not limited to carriers), will be a major milestone for the Wi-Fi industry. Marcus breaks most of this down in his blog post on the subject!
Hotspot 2.0 and the Next Generation Hotspot: "Hotspot 2.0 and the Next Generation Hotspot initiatives are possibly the most exciting areas of wireless progress occurring in 2012. For starters, these developments have a worldwide scope of influence. The technologies that come to market as a result of these programs will directly affect a large portion of the world’s population. If brought to market with extensibility, they could revolutionize the hotspot ease-of-use and security landscapes. These programs deserve the spotlight."
While you're at it, be sure to sign up to learn about Hotspot 2.0 at the upcoming Wi-Fi Mobility Symposium and Wireless Field Day 2 events being held Jan. 25-27th.
Want details of the recent WPS vulnerability affecting Wi-Fi routers? Look no further than the No Strings Attached Show podcast - Episode 02 - Wi-Fi Protected Setup, Battered or Broken?

How about making Eye-Fi, the SD cards that connects to Wi-Fi for automatic picture upload, into an industry standard? Enter the SD Association and the Wireless LAN SD standard!
Wireless LAN SD standard aims to give every SD card that Eye-Fi flair: "The Wireless LAN SD standard announced today is the SD Association's first wireless SD memory card standard combining storage and wireless capabilities. Consumers will be able to transfer pictures, videos and other content wirelessly from most existing digital cameras and digital video cameras to web-based cloud services and between SD devices over home networks."
We've also seen manufacturers embedding Wi-Fi capabilities directly into cameras (Samsung, Kodak), and camcorders too (JVCGobandit Live). Watch out Eye-Fi, time to shift into new territory to keep the sales flowing! Also, check out this Toshiba FlashAir wireless LAN SD hands-on video!
Toshiba FlashAir Wireless LAN SD Card
Or how about embedding an Android phone into a true point-and-shoot camera, with this interesting twist on the merger of the two capabilities in the Polaroid SC1630.

Polaroid's Frankenstein Camera / Android Phone, the SC1630
Okay, I will throw one smartphone news item at you... how about more and more phones supporting dual-band Wi-Fi. There have been others prior, I'd just like to highlight the growing trend. 5GHz phones - "Make it so!"

Notice support for 5GHz standards (11a/n) with a 1x1:1 configuration
capable of up to 150Mbps if it support 40Mhz wide channels (not verified)

Indoor location services - Google is trumpeting their indoor location and navigation technology in Google Maps 6.0. I first heard of this being deployed in my neck of the woods, at the Mall of America, and now it's at CES.
Google Maps indoor navigation: yeah, it works at CES: "Google Maps 6.0 brought a promise of indoor navigation back in November of last year, but outside of a few dozen airports, transit hubs and retail outlets, we had no idea where it was or wasn't implemented. Turns out, Google (smartly) mapped out lots of Las Vegas before the annual Consumer Electronics Show"
I'm concerned with the hype surrounding this service as over-zealous media analysts predict this will revolutionize indoor navigation and appear at most retail stores. Sure, one-off venues likes malls make sense, but an inordinate amount of time goes into mapping the venue. Don't expect large retail chains to be spending the labor and money to map each and every one of their thousands of stores anytime soon! Indoor location just ain't THAT easy :)
Home automation solutions continue to keep plugging away, hoping to find a place in consumer's hearts. Right now most of them are standalone solutions, lacking whole-home automation at an affordable price for the masses.
Belkin announces WeMo home automation system; controls electrical outlets with your smartphone, motion: "WeMo works with a home's existing electrical system and requires only a Wi-Fi® network and free smartphone app to set up and control. Simply plug the WeMo Home Control Switch into any electrical outlet and then plug in any device, such as a lamp, into the WeMo Home Control Switch. Through the free smartphone app, the item then can be turned on or off remotely or scheduled to turn on and off at set times." 
Also check out the Motorola Connected Home Gateway (tour and video).
Belkin WeMo Electrical Outlets
Wi-Fi video surveillance and baby cameras are also quite popular (see DropcamSamsung). Smart appliances are also back at CES this year, same as last year (see LGSamsung). While we're at it, let's make it Siri voice-activated too! Oh, and don't forget this weird Withings Wi-Fi connected baby scale!

Samsung SmartHome Wi-Fi Washer, Dryer, and Mobile Application 

IT Industry Articles:

NFC built into MicroSD cards could bring faster consumer adoption, for uses including information retrieval (such as Google Places or Sony SmartTags), information exchange, and contactless payment (mobile wallets).
Moneto NFC microSD to bring contactless features to any Android phone: "DeviceFidelity and Spring Card Systems have teamed up on a NFC-capable microSD card that will hopefully forgo the need of buying specific mobile handsets for the privilege of contactless payments. "
Also check out this Cirque Glidepoint NFC-enabled laptop trackpad. I'm not sure how this would be of practical use, but it's interesting, that's for sure.
NFC MicroSD Card
Home networking could be made easier with higher-speed powerline networks. I think consumers will still prefer Wi-Fi, but powerline could be an attractive option for older homes with thick construction material that hinders RF propagation. Given powerline's checkered performance history and problems with power strips, filters, and surge protectors, I think it still faces challenges with consumer adoption.
HomePlug Alliance AV2 specification promises gigabit class networking over electrical wires: "With MIMO functionality (multiple-input and multiple-output) at its core, the new specification features gigabit class speeds and comes from a decade of field tests. What's more, the new standard promises to bring greater in-home coverage beyond WiFi capabilities while maintaining compatibility with existing HomePlug AV / IEEE 1901 products."

Comic for the Week:

Don't Kitchen Sink Me, Dude!

Cheers (and happy reading)!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Wireless Display Technologies Challenge Apple AirPlay

At CES this year two separate announcements are being made that could prove 2012 to be the year of wireless display technologies. Solutions are being promoted by Intel and Marvell, with the latter in partnership with the Wi-Fi Alliance, which are looking to disrupt the current in-home and peer-to-peer wireless display market currently dominated by Apple with their AirPlay streaming technology. Will either solution be able to challenge Apple's dominance? 2012 may prove to be a defining year for the wireless display market.

Intel is announcing expanded support for their WiDi technology. Intel Wireless Display (WiDi) compatible laptops and TV adapters have been around since early 2010. It requires specific laptop system specifications, including an Intel Wireless-N adapter. Earlier this year that Intel incorporated WiDi support for DRM protected DVD and Blu-Ray content, in an attempt to expand consumer interest.

Intel WiDi streams video from laptops to your HDTV
through a compatible adapter using 802.11n Wi-Fi
Until now, use of WiDi required an separate external receiver that connected to the television display. Such single-use type devices have not attracted much attention or interest from consumers. Intel's announcement at CES focuses on embedding WiDi technology into other set-top boxes and directly into televisions through a partnership with several System-on-a-Chip manufacturers that supply the components in such devices. This should help achieve broader reach for WiDi technology by being embedded into more consumers devices and eliminating the need to buy a separate single-purpose WiDi receiver.

In another announcement, Marvell and the Wi-Fi Alliance are announcing a standards-based Wi-Fi Display technology. Marvell is a silicon manufacturer of many of the wireless chipsets found in consumer electronic devices. By partnering with the Wi-Fi Alliance, Marvell hopes to drive greater adoption of their components into OEM devices through the use of a standards-based wireless display technology that will be interoperable with the large install base of Wi-Fi compatible devices.

To accomplish this, the two organizations have developed a complete Wi-Fi display software stack that is platform independent, allowing other manufacturers to eventually implement the solution. The stack includes link provisioning, management, video transcoding, HD video transport over Wi-Fi, and content security support with DRM. Link provisioning is likely built on-top of the Wi-Fi Direct peer-to-peer protocol developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance and announced this time last year at CES, but that has not been confirmed. The Wi-Fi Alliance will launch a certification program that will be available mid-2012.

This software stack is extensible to a variety of System-on-a-Chip (SoC) platforms and can take advantage of any hardware acceleration for video transcoding and security. By incorporating this technology into its wireless products, Marvell is enabling an entire ecosystem of Android and Windows based mobile devices, Wi-Fi Display HDMI dongles, DTVs, Blue-ray players and set-top boxes, such as Google TV.

However, both technologies face an uphill battle to garner enough consumer interest and market adoption to compete with Apple, whose AirPlay audio and video streaming technology currently reigns king in the wireless multimedia streaming market.

Apple's dominance in both the mobile device and digital content distribution markets have positioned AirPlay as the dominant solution. Leveraging multiple solutions in a coherent and integrated fashion has been Apple's strength and creates an ecosystem that is compelling to consumers. Apple is able to leverage existing devices that people have with their iPhone, iPad, iPod, Apple TV, Airport Express, and Mac (iTunes) solutions and build an integrated service at virtually no cost to consumers. Furthermore, leveraging their content management and distribution through iTunes, consumers have even more reason to buy set-top boxes like the Apple TV which can also stream cloud-based content in addition to in-home streaming from personal libraries.

Apple AirPlay enables audio and video streaming across Wi-Fi networks

Intel will face problems competing due to their use of proprietary technology, which is similar to Apple's approach but lacks the device install base and content management ecosystem that is core to Apple's strategy. Reliance on Intel wireless chipsets available only in laptops and not mobile devices further hinders adoption as consumers clearly prefer mobile devices these days. And without a content management or distribution solution, Intel will have trouble convincing users to buy WiDi compatible receivers or set-top boxes.

Marvell and the Wi-Fi Alliance are taking a better long-term approach with a standards-based solution that will be able to leverage compatibility with any Wi-Fi capable device on the market. However, it will take time for the WFA to develop interoperability certification and manufacturers to integrate Wi-Fi Display capability into equipment. Ultimately, this may eventually prove to be an integrated feature of most mobile and home theater consumer electronics, but only time will tell. This solution also faces a similar content management and distribution problem as Intel, leaving consumers with a potentially dis-jointed solution.

Revolution or Evolution? - Andrew's Take
Apple clearly has an advantage in the wireless display and multimedia streaming market with AirPlay due to their end-to-end ecosystem with mobile devices and content management that has proven to be their core strength. Intel is taking a proprietary, closed system approach, which will limit device support and availability to Intel equipped laptops and a small contingent of set-top boxes. Marvell and the Wi-Fi Alliance is taking a more open, standards-based approach, but it will take time for manufacturers to adopt and deploy the technology. And both solutions still lack the cohesive ecosystem that differentiates Apple from the rest of the market.

Ultimately, Apple is able to leverage that ecosystem of devices, software, and streaming in a integrated, seamless fashion that creates greater value for consumers. Unless these new solutions can offer broad availability and compatibility across the consumer electronics industry, I don't see how they can effectively compete with Apple. Marvell and the Wi-Fi Alliance are in the best position to execute on that vision, but it will take time. 2012 may prove to be a year where these vendors test market strategy and look to gain manufacturer support, but don't expect to see a large amount of devices available on the market. AirPlay will still reign king for some time to come.


NSAShow Podcast - E02 - Wi-Fi Protected Setup, Battered or Broken?

In episode 02 of the show, Andrew vonNagy hosts and welcomes guests Matthew Gast from Aerohive and Dan Cybulskie from Simply Wi-Fi to the show to talk about the recently announced Wi-Fi Protected Setup vulnerability. Matthew brings Wi-Fi expertise to the show through his work at Aerohive, participation in the IEEE 802.11 standard, and as acting task chair for Wi-Fi Alliance security task groups. Dan brings extensive Wi-Fi security knowledge and has performed quite a bit of research into the WPS vulnerability since the announcement.

Head on over the the NSAShow website to see the full show notes and listen to this episode!


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

NSAShow - A New Wi-Fi Podcast!

A new podcast for the New Year!

I'd like to point my readers' attention to a new Wi-Fi podcast, the No Strings Attached Show (NSAShow).

As Wi-Fi professionals, we felt the void left after the Wireless LAN Professionals podcast was concluded (big love to Keith for creating such an awesome resource for the community). A few of us even contributed to other networking focused podcasts, such as the highly successful Packet Pushers Podcast. But overall there is just a lack of relevant discussion on Wi-Fi topics available.

The NSAShow podcast is intended to fill that gap with high-quality, independent, wireless content by providing regular discussion on current Wi-Fi industry topics. Podcast content will be focused on a real-world look at technology and solutions without the marketing fluff. Our goal is to be honest and fair in evaluating the benefits and limitations of Wi-Fi technology, without vendor bashing. We will also cover emerging technologies so that Wi-Fi professionals are prepared to plan, design, and integrate new solutions based on these technologies.

With this in mind, we created the No Strings Attached Show.

Our hosts come from varying backgrounds within the industry, but two things are constant - we are all independent and each of us has a genuine passion for Wi-Fi. We love learning, designing, deploying, and supporting the technology and are not bound by devotion to any one vendor. This means a lot to us! It helps keeps us focused on Wi-Fi as a technology for the greater good, without vendor bias.

Our contributors come from various VARs, partners, and enterprise customers, providing the show and our listeners with insights on technology from various perspectives. We also bring our collective years of experience to the show, so we can cut through the proverbial fat and focus on the aspects that matter most in real-world deployments. We hope this translates into content that people care about and want to listen to.

Blake KroneDigital Lifestyle@BlakeKrone
Sam ClementsSC-WiFi@Samuel_Clements
Jennifer HuberWireless CCIE, here I come!@JenniferLucille
Andrew vonNagyRevolution Wi-Fi@RevolutionWiFi
George StefanickMy 802.11@wirelessguru
Chris LyttleWiFi Kiwi’s Blog@WiFiKiwi

Episode #1 - Tools to Become an RF Whisperer
In this episode we take a look at some of the software tools used by some of the top Wireless engineers on a day to day basis. We start of by looking at Ekahau Site Survey and AirMagnet Survey Pro. Each of these applications have their pros and cons as we explain their differences and how they work. Next we roll into RF analysis tools such as Cisco Spectrum ExpertMetageek Chanalyzer, and finallyAirMagnet SpectrumXT. Listen as the discussion goes from what’s the best software tool to use to a hot topic out there today: where is Cisco’s USB adapter to keep up with the ever changing form factors of laptops? Finally we end the show with a brief discussion regarding packet capture tools like WiresharkWildPackets, and AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer.

We hope you enjoy this first episode, we had a lot of fun recording it and are looking forward to your feedback for future episodes!

*Note - Episode 1 was originally published earlier today (4-Jan) for several hours until an error with the episode was brought to our attention and the episode was pulled temporarily. If you listened to the show at that time, then you likely missed the last topic segment and show closing (about 12 min). Please listen to the episode again at this time to hear the full show content. Our apologies as we work out the kinks (we're new to this after all).

Future Episodes
The team plans to release podcast episodes on a regular basis. Unlike the first episode, not all of us will be on every show. We will take turns hosting episodes as topics and expertise dictate, likely one or two of us per-show.

We have tons of ideas for shows already, but welcome ideas and submissions from the community! Additionally, we plan on bringing guests onto the show to discuss relevant topics and have a few lined up already.

The podcast team will be present at the upcoming Wi-Fi Mobility Symposium and Wireless Field Day 2 events in late January, so keep an eye out for coverage of those events.

How to Follow the Show
Simply stated, we have a passion for Wi-Fi and want to facilitate knowledge sharing within the industry. But we can't do it alone! After all, we don't know everything about Wi-Fi. That's where we bring in guests to share relevant information on the show with the broader community. Through the associated website and blog we will also incorporate listener feedback and input. If you're a vendor or Wi-Fi professional and would like to contribute to the podcast or blog, contact any one of us.

So head on over to the website, subscribe to the full-site RSS feed or the podcast-only RSS feed, follow @NSAShow on Twitter, and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. Then leave us a comment if you have feedback or something to share!

Let us know what you think!


Wi-Fi Article Round-Up: 2012-Jan-04

A recap of interesting Wi-Fi and IT industry articles from around the interwebs.

Wi-Fi Articles:
Check out the brand new No Strings Attached Show (NSAShow) podcast for Wi-Fi professionals! It's an independent podcast created to focus on Wi-Fi industry topics. We  hope you enjoy it!
E01 – How to Become an RF Whisperer: "Welcome to episode 1 of the NSA Show Podcast! In this episode we take a look at some of the software tools used by some of the top Wireless engineers on a day to day basis."
WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) is severely compromised due to weaknesses in protocol design.
Researchers publish open-source tool for hacking WiFi Protected Setup: "On December 27, the Department of Homeland Security's Computer Emergency Readiness Team issued a warning about a vulnerability in wireless routers that use WiFi Protected Setup (WPS) to allow new devices to be connected to them. Within a day of the discovery, researchers at a Maryland-based computer security firm developed a tool that exploits that vulnerability, and has made a version available as open source."
This impacts SOHO and consumer use and should not be of concern for most enterprises. I'm baffled why WPS would be used instead of a standard WPA Pre-Shared Key (PSK); the only reason I can conjure is that WPS doesn't require router setup of any kind by the user, which is probably simpler for some technically illiterate users. There is some raw data on the scope of potential impact (26.3% estimated) based on public wardriving data collected by Dan Kaminsky and WIGLE. An exploit tool is in the wild, having been quietly worked on by Tactical Network Solutions for over a year. WPS PINs can be cracked in 4-10 hours folks!
Also read the detailed paper submitted to CERTHome users should disable WPS if possible. A demo is available by Dan over at NCI.
White-space Wi-Fi, now approved (in one city, at least)!
Wireless CCIE, here I come!: White Spaces - new wireless space launched: "KTS Wireless is the first manufacturer of a wireless device to take advantage of the white spaces spectrum re-allocation for wireless communications. They have participated in city wide trials of white space usage in Claudeville, VA and Wilmington, NC."
More info is available over at Ars Technica and Engadget.
There are so many Wi-Fi predictions for 2012, but I like this one the best!
Ruckus Wireless Wi-Fi predictions for 2012: "Wi-Fi capacity will become just as important an issue as Wi-Fi coverage in 2012 and service providers will have to deploy Wi-Fi networks with the bandwidth to cope with highly populated and dense environments"
Also check out these Wi-Fi predictions by PC Magazine (consumer focused), and inversely a list of things in tech that won't change in 2012 by GigaOm (I personally like #10 - The MacBook Air is what you get, and you'll like it!).
Wi-Fi offload will be most successful with user-controlled Wi-Fi offload preferences (not carrier controlled)!
Kineto looks to broaden potential of Wi-Fi off-load: "The potentially more compelling new feature is Smart Offload,which allows carriers and end users to choose and prioritize traffic to be off-loaded to Wi-Fi according to the whether the hotspot they are off-loading to is public or private. That feature could help carriers and users avoid the off-loading of especially sensitive traffic to public hotspots where inconsistent performance may be encountered,while letting them automatically off-load all of their traffic when logged on to a reliable private hotspot."
Most of the discussion about carrier offload focuses on data traffic and so-called "seamless" offload which implies automatic connection control by the carrier. I think that is the wrong approach, as most Wi-Fi networks are private and connections should be visible and controlled by the end-user while maintaining ease of use through persistent preference settings in the device. Offload of voice, messaging, and RCS services could also provide a more compelling offload proposition for users, especially where cellular coverage is spotty even for voice calls.
DHCP has bigger implications on the performance and security of wireless LANs than you might expect. Find out why by reading this great blog post by Marcus Burton over at CWNP.
DHCP for Wireless LAN Clients: "poor DHCP planning for your network could have a significant impact on WLAN service availability. For that reason, and for troubleshooting problems that will inevitably arise, any WLAN engineer should know the three primary ways to manage DHCP in a WLAN: bridging, relay, and proxy. We spend a lot of time and energy improving our RF environments; it would be a real shame to let DHCP ruin client connectivity."
This has to be a first of some sort! Kuala-Lumpur is mandating Wi-Fi access in some city food courts. Operators must comply by April!
Eateries to offer Wi-Fi service in April: "THE requirement for restaurants and eateries in the city centre to be Wi-Fi ready will be enforced by City Hall as early as April."
Also in the "weird news" category, Japanese vending machines now offer free Wi-Fi hotspots. Japan always takes gadget-craze to a whole new level!
Japanese vending machine doubles as WiFi hotspot -- no purchase required: "Japanese company Asahi has just unveiled an advanced dispenser that's capable of doubling as a WiFi hotspot, so good luck getting through the mobs of leechers just to buy a soda. The machine sends out the internet waves free of charge and covers about 164 feet around it"
IT Industry Articles:
What should a healthy partnership between a vendor and a VAR look like? Here's one VAR perspective on the challenges and some potential solutions by Matthew Norwood.
You Never Mentioned Me To The Client: "How bad do you want people to sell your product? If you put all of the load on the partner or distributor, with minimal contribution from the vendor side, don’t expect to get mentioned to clients. That’s not a partnership. It’s a pyramid scheme."
A true look at spectrum holdings by the major U.S. cellular carriers is eye-opening! Verizon has a definitive advantage over AT&T. Clearwire is also in a good position if it can bring a solid solution to market.
Meet the spectrum bosses: "While AT&T was distracted trying to buy T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless quietly negotiated deals with the cable providers to buy up their unused SpectrumCo 4G licenses. The Yankee Group has prepared a nifty graphic that details the current spectrum holdings of the big boys in the top 10 markets as well as what Verizon could gain by buying up the cable operators licenses"
Michael Mace at Mobile Opportunity explains the real reason why WebOS failed: lack of a killer feature. Sure there were performance problems and some bugs, but that's normal for new operating system. It needed more time and patience to work out those bugs. But HP jumped ship too soon, and Palm never gave consumers enough reason to pick up the platform in the first place.
Mobile Opportunity: Why Web OS Really Failed, and What it Means for the Rest of Us: "Palm was not rich enough and HP was not patient enough to keep investing after the first versions showed a lot of flaws.  And more importantly, there was nothing compelling enough about either product to make people buy it despite those flaws."
Other Articles:
On the personal improvement, self-actualization front, read this list of 30 things you should STOP doing. There are so many good points in this article, that I won't call out any in particular. Just go read it!
30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself: "As Maria Robinson once said, “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”  Nothing could be closer to the truth.  But before you can begin this process of transformation you have to stop doing the things that have been holding you back."
On the lighter side, I absolutely LOVE this!
John Lennon’s Imagine – WiFi Version
"Imagine there’s no interference
Clients with neg 60 RSSI
No wireless baby cameras
No end users with MiFi
Imagine all the mobile devices, supporting 11a"
Comic for the Week:
Siri strikes again!

Cheers (and happy reading)!