Intel will be absorbing USB and WiFi duties into the chipset

Subject: General Tech | November 10, 2016 - 12:17 PM |
Tagged: wifi, usb 3.1, Intel

Rumours have reached the sensitive ears of DigiTimes about the inclusion of USB 3.1 and WiFi chips on Intel's upcoming 300-series chipsets.  This move continues the pattern of absorbing secondary systems onto single chips; just as we saw with the extinction of the Northbridge after AMD and Intel rolled the graphics and memory controller hubs into their APUs.  This will have an adverse effect on demand from Broadcom, Realtek and ASMedia who previously supplied chips to Intel to control these features.  On the other hand this could lower the price AMD will have to pay for those components when we finally see their new motherboards arrive on market.  Do not expect to see these boards soon though, the prediction for the arrival of the 300-series of motherboards is still around 12 months from now.

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"Intel reportedly is planning to add USB 3.1 and Wi-Fi functions into its motherboard chipsets and the new design may be implemented in its upcoming 300-series scheduled to be released at the end of 2017, according to sources from motherboard makers."

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Source: DigiTimes

Google WiFi Bringing Wireless Mesh Networking to the Home

Subject: Networking | October 9, 2016 - 01:42 AM |
Tagged: wifi, onhub, mesh, google wifi, google, 802.11ac

Building on the company’s OnHub WiFi router program, the search giant will be offering up its own mesh WiFi network solution for home users later this year aptly named “Google WiFi.” Available in November for pre-order Google will offer single and triple packs of its puck-shaped smartphone controlled WiFi nodes.

Google WiFi node.png

Google WiFi is a new product that takes advantage of an old technology called mesh networking. While most home users rely on a single powerful access point to distribute the wireless signal throughout the home, mesh networks place nodes around the home in such a way that the WiFi networks overlap. Devices can connect to any node and transition between nodes automatically. The nodes communicate with each other wirelessly and connect end devices to the router and Internet by taking the best path (least number of hops and/or highest signal strengths). This model does have some disadvantages that are shared with WiFi repeater solutions in that as much as 50% (or worse!) of the bandwidth can be lost at each hop as the devices use wireless for both communicating with end devices and the backbone to the router. The advantage though is that you need only find a power outlet to set up the mesh node and there is no need to run Ethernet or deal with Powerline or MoCA setups.

Fortunately, it looks as though Google has mitigated the disadvantage by including two radios. The circular Google WiFi nodes (which measure 4.17” diagonally and 2.7” tall) pack a dual band 802.11ac WiFi chip that can operate at both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Using the 5 GHz network for in room end devices (PCs, smartphones, game consoles, Rokus, et al) and the 2.4 GHz network to communicate with each other will help to eliminate a major bottleneck. There will likely still be some bandwidth lost, especially over multiple hops, due to interference, but it should be much less than 50% bandwidth loss.

Google WiFi Mesh.png

Each Google WiFi node features two Gigabit Ethernet ports that can be setup as LAN or WAN ports, Bluetooth, and an 802.11ac 2x2 WiFi radio with beamforming support. The nodes are powered by an unspecified quad core processor, 512MB DDR3L memory, and 4GB of eMMC flash storage. The nodes apparently draw as much as 15 watts.

Of course, being Google, the Google WiFi can be controlled using an Android or iOS app that allows the administrator to pause WiFi on a per-device basis (e.g. set time limits for children), monitor device bandwidth usage and prioritize traffic, and automatically apply firmware updates to mitigate security risks. Additionally, Google WiFi automatically configures each node to use the best channel and band to get the best performance that supports all devices.

The nodes currently come only in white and are constructed of plastic. There are blue LEDs around the middle of the puck shaped device. Google WiFi will be available for pre-order in November. A single node will cost $129 while a three pack will cost $299. Google is not first to the wireless mesh party but it looks like it will be competitively priced (the three pack is $200 cheaper than eero, for example).

This looks like it might be a simple to setup solution if you or your family are currently running a single access point that can’t quite cover the entire home. I don’t really see this as a product for enthusiasts, but it might be worth recommending to people that just want WiFi that works with little setup. I will have to wait for reviews to say for sure though.

What are your thoughts on Google WiFi?

Also read:

Source: Google

Can't WiFi and LTE-U just get along?

Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2016 - 01:21 PM |
Tagged: wifi, lte-u, qualcomm

LTE-U, aka LTE in unlicensed spectrum, is a new standard originally proposed by Qualcomm which allows LTE signals to stray into the 5GHz band to allow faster data transfer over short throws without having to join your phone to a WiFi network.  It seems that the assumption is that users are to lazy or ignorant to have added their commonly used WiFi networks to their phones and so need this feature for convenience. 

There is the small problem of signal interference however, dual band WiFi uses the 5GHz spectrum and we are already seeing congestion on that band.  T-Mobile and Verizon claim that this extra traffic will not have any effect on WiFi signals and are already complaining about the thresholds they must honour, while Qualcomm seems to be trying to remain reasonable.  Tests are currently under way, under the monitoring of the WiFi Alliance, who have posted a technical paper describing what will be tested and how.  You can pop by The Register if you want to delve into the nuts and bolts of the current proposal.

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"Carriers, already under a spectrum squeeze, are hoping they can pitch their tents on Wi-Fi's campground, promising that LTE-U won't disrupt Wi-Fi. will play nice if there are Wi-Fi users around."

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Source: The Register

Faster WiFi is great but ... MegaMIMO 2.0; really?

Subject: General Tech | August 25, 2016 - 12:37 PM |
Tagged: MegaMIMO 2.0, wireless router, wifi, mu-mimo

Multi-In Multi-Out routers are a wonderful thing, not only are the routers far more tentacular than before, the technology also make our unwired lives better as Sebastian explained.  The only thing that could make it better is a bandwidth boost, which is what these researchers at MIT have been working on.  In an experiment involving laptop bearing Roombas they showed a increase of 330% in transfer speeds thanks to synchronized phases allowing multiple signals to be sent on the same frequency.  Pop on over to Slashdot to learn more about their research.

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"Scientists at MIT claim to have created a new wireless technology that can triple Wi-Fi data speeds while also doubling the range of the signal. Dubbed MegaMIMO 2.0, the system will shortly enter commercialization and could ease the strain on our increasingly crowded wireless networks."

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Source: Slashdot
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Western Digital

Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging

Introduction

Western Digital launched their My Passport Wireless nearly two years ago. It was a nifty device that could back up or offload SD cards without the need for a laptop, making it ideal for photographers in the field. I came away from that review wondering just how much more you could pack into a device like that, and today I get to find out:

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Not to be confused with the My Passport Pro (a TB-connected portable RAID storage device), the My Passport Wireless Pro is meant for on-the-go photographers who seek to back up their media while in the field but also lighten their backpacks. The concept is simple - have a small device capable of offloading (or backing up) SD cards without having to lug along your laptop and a portable hard drive to do so. Add in a wireless hotspot with WAN pass-through along with mobile apps to access the media and you can almost get away without bringing a laptop at all. Oh, and did I mention this one can also import photos and videos from your smartphone while charging it via USB?

Specifications

  • Capacity: 2TB and 3TB
  • Battery: 6,400 mAH / 24WH
  • UHS-I SD Card Reader
  • USB 3.0 (upstream) port for data and charging
  • USB 2.0 (downstream) port for importing and charging smartphones
  • 802.11AC + N dual band (2.4 / 5 GHz) WiFi
  • 2.4A Travel Charge Adapter (included)
  • Plex Media Server capable
  • Available 'My Cloud' mobile apps

Packaging

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No surprises here. 2.4W power adapter is included this time around, which is a nice touch.

Read on for our review of the WD My Passport Wireless Pro!

Sharing is good ... until it starts eating your bandwidth

Subject: General Tech | January 29, 2016 - 02:32 PM |
Tagged: security, isp, wifi

ISPs have stumbled onto a new money making venture, renting out your wireless internet connection to third parties so that those companies can provide public WiFi to their customers.  Sources told The Inquirer that some ISPs already do this without informing their customers and that it will likely be a common industry practice by 2017.  Theoretically you are allowed to opt out but since your ISP may not have told their users they are doing this; how would the average customer know to request this be turned off?

This raises several concerns, especially here in North America thanks to our pathetic internet services.  Most users have a data cap and the ISPs have little reason to spend resources to properly monitor who is using the bandwidth, their customers or random passersby.  As well the speeds of most customers are low enough that they may see degradation of their service if numerous passersby connect to their WiFi.  Putting the monetary concerns to the side there are also serious security concerns.  Once a user has access to your WiFi router they are most of the way into your network and services such as UPnP and unprotected ports leave you vulnerable to attack.

Change the password your provider put on the router and consider reaching out to them to find out if you have been unwillingly sharing your bandwidth already, or if you might be doing so in the near future.

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"Companies are going to be selling a lot more public Wi-Fi plans over the next few years and it's going to be home Wi-Fi users who'll be the backbone of the network, according to analysts from Juniper Research."

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Source: The Register

Make yourself a WiFi camera remote

Subject: General Tech | January 25, 2016 - 12:40 PM |
Tagged: wifi, camera, DIY, iot

Hack a Day has posted a perfect example of how inexpensive and easy it is to build yourself useful things instead of shopping for expensive electronics.  If you have looked at the prices of cameras or adapters which allow you to wirelessly take a picture you have probably been disappointed, but you don't have to stay that way.  Instead, take an existing manual remote trigger, add in a WiFi enabled SoC module like the ESP8266 suggested in the video, download and compile the code and the next thing you know you will have a camera with wireless focus and shutter trigger.  Not too shabby for a ~$5 investment.

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"It’s just ridiculous how cheap and easy it is to do some things today that were both costly and difficult just two or three years ago. Case in point: Hackaday.io user [gamaral] built a WiFi remote control for his Canon E3 camera out of just three parts"

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Source: Hack a Day

CES 2016: Fasetto Teases Link SSD Storage Platform

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2016 - 01:39 AM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, Fasetto, Link, wifi, NAS, ssd, Samsung, vnand, 802.11ac

Fasetto is a company previously known as one of those cross-platform file-sharing web apps, but I was shocked to see them with a space at CES Unveiled. Companies without physical products tend to fall flat at this type of venue, but as I walked past, boy was I mistaken!

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To give the size a bit of perspective here, that's a business card sitting in front of the 'Link', which only measures 1.9x1.9x0.9" and weighs just under 4 ounces. That's a belt clip to the right of it. Ok, now that we have the tiny size and low weight described, what has Fasetto packed into that space?

  • Aluminum + ABS construction
  • Waterproof to 45 feet (and it floats!)
  • Bluetooth 4.0 LE
  • 802.11AC dual band WiFi (reportedly 4x4)
  • 4GB RAM
  • Quad core ARM CPU
  • 9-axis compass/accelerometer/gyro
  • 1350 mAh Li battery
  • Wireless charging (Chi style)
  • Up to 2TB SSD

For a portable storage device, that is just an absolutely outstanding spec sheet! The Link is going to run an OS designed specifically for this device, and will have plugin support (simple add-on apps that can access the accelerometer and log movement, for example).

The BIG deal with this device is of course the ability to act as a portable wireless storage device. In that respect it can handle 20 simultaneous devices, stream to seven simultaneously, and can also do the expected functions like wireless internet pass-through. Claimed standby power is two weeks and active streaming is rated at up to 8 hours. Even more interesting is that I was told the internal storage will be Samsung 48-layer VNAND borrowed from their T3 (which explains why the Fasetto Link will not be available until late 2016). This is sure to be a hit with photographers, as WiFi compatible cameras should be able to stream photos to the Link as the photos are being taken, eliminating the need to offload cameras at the end of a shoot.

We will definitely be working with Fasetto to help shake out any bugs prior to the release of this little gem. I suspect it might just be the most groundbreaking storage product that we see come out of this CES.

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Subject: Networking
Manufacturer: Killer Networking

Introduction

The Killer 1535 Wi-Fi adapter was the first 2x2 MU-MIMO compatible adapter on the market when it launched earlier this year, and is only found in a few products right now. We had a chance to test it out with the recently reviewed MSI G72 Dominator Pro G-Sync laptop, using the new Linksys EA8500 MU-MIMO router. How did it perform, and just what is MU-MIMO? Read on to find out!

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Killer networks certainly haven’t skimped on the hardware with their new wireless adapter, as the Wireless-AC 1535 features two external 5 GHz signal amplifiers and is 802.11ac Wave 2 compliant with its support for MU-MIMO and Transmit Beamforming. And while the adapter itself certainly sounds impressive the real star here – besides the MU-MIMO support – is the Killer software. With these two technologies Killer has a unique product on the market, and if it works as advertised it would create an attractive alternative to the typical Wi-Fi solution.

MU-MIMO: What is it?

With an increasing number of devices using Wi-Fi in the average connected home the strain on a wireless network can often be felt. Just as one download can bring your internet connection to a crawl, one computer can hog nearly all available bandwidth from your router. MU-MIMO offers a solution to the network limitations of a typical multi-user home, and in fact the MU in MU-MIMO stands for Multi-User. The technology is part of the Wave 2 spec for 802.11ac, and it works differently than standard MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) technology.  What’s the difference?

With standard MIMO (also known as Single-User MIMO) compatible devices take advantage of multiple data streams that are propagated to provide faster data than would otherwise be available for a single device. Multiple antennas on both base station and the client device are used to create the multiple transmit/receive streams needed for the added bandwidth. The multiple antennas used in MIMO systems create multiple channels, allowing for those separate data streams, and the number of streams is equal to the number of antennas (1x1 supports one stream, 2x2 supports two streams, etc.).

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Continue reading our review of the Killer Wireless-AC 1535 adapter!!

A Bit Off Topic: FCC Bans Wi-Fi Blocking

Subject: General Tech, Networking | January 27, 2015 - 08:45 PM |
Tagged: wifi, FCC

Because blocking a person's mobile hotspot so you can charge them to use your Wi-Fi is a completely jerk thing to do. The FCC has just released a warning to any individuals, groups, or businesses considering these measures that blocking Wi-Fi is illegal. This follows the decision in October to fine Marriott, the hotel chain, $600,000 for blocking personal networks in a Tennessee location.

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Now who's blowing the Raspberry?

Marriott, despite paying the fine, asked the commission to consider writing an official rule on this practice. They just did. It is illegal. The blocks of spectrum belonging to wireless internet are unlicensed, and thus no particular entity is apparently allowed to claim ownership over it, even in their geographic property.

It seems like a good decision to me, one that I cannot think of any immediate side-effects for, but this is one of those cases that a problem could be hiding in plain sight. What do you think? Am I missing something? Or is this a win for everyone (except those trying to block competing services)?

Source: FCC