Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Detecting Gunshots

Detecting Gunshots
April 19, 2007, Wi-Fi Planet.com
By Naomi Graychase

Northern California-based ShotSpotter, the world's leading developer of gunshot location technology, recently announced the release of an upgrade to its highly effective weapons-fire detection system, ShotSpotter Gunshot Location System (GLS). Release 5.0 includes a new mobile version (PSC Mobile) of ShotSpotter's Public Safety Console (PSC) that provides real-time updates on gunshot events, including "dot on the map" incident details with visual and audio alerts for officers and medical personnel in the field.

The system is used domestically by police departments (and other first responders) in large and small cities to quickly and accurately detect gunshots as they occur. By deploying sensors throughout a coverage area, ShotSpotter puts accurate information immediately into the hands of police. Rather than depending on good Samaritans or victims to phone 911 in the minutes or hours following shots fired, police can be fed accurate data about the time, exact location, and situational details -- including video -- surrounding a gunfire incident.

"Because people in areas with frequent gun violence are afraid to call in, or they are immune to the sound of shots, less than 50% nationally get reported to police," says Gregg Rowland, senior vice president at ShotSpotter. "We give police information that they didn't have before; now they get all the gunshots fired in the city. Citizens are not trained observers. They may hear the echo off a building, or they may hear it from one direction when it came from another. The call may come in five to ten minutes after the event happens and send first responders on wild goose chases; first responders can't figure out where it came from, and they get there too late to render any aid, or to get any witnesses, or to get forensic information. We present gunshot information to them within 10 to 15 seconds. Officers sometimes arrive while the shooting is still going on. They can render aid to individuals, get video, identify witnesses, and get evidence left behind by the shooter, which is better for criminal prosecution."

Every city where ShotSpotter has been deployed, including Los Angeles and Oakland, California, and Washington, D.C., reports that gunfire-related arrests have gone up significantly, in some cases by 50%; violent crime rates have dropped by a minimum of 30%; and gunfire rates have been reduced by as much as 80%.

"There is a deterrence factor," says Rowland. "Cities tell you that once they make a few arrests due to it and they announce it publicly, that deterrence factor is huge and has been a good bit of the impact in reducing violent crime in the cities where it's installed. The gang members do bravado shooting, just to make themselves known -- those, and gang-style murders, don't happen in ShotSpotter cities any more."

Wireless sensors are at the heart of the ShotSpotter system, and Release 5.0 adds mobile sensors for individuals and vehicles.

"We have highly portable sensors to be mounted on officers, soldiers, SWAT teams, etc., so it's people moving around," Rowland says. "It took the ability to use prolific wireless networks to make this happen. We need good coverage. By having all this good wireless technology out there, we can build these small, portable, compact sensors."

The portable sensors are about the size of two PDAs stacked on top of one another, and include an antenna, batteries, and support for any radio network that users might need to connect to, including 802.11a/b and new licensed bands.

"Version 5.0 is a lot more wireless-friendly," says company senior vice president Gregg Rowland. "It includes the ability to use any wireless network to connect our sensors. Our older software was designed to communicate over phone lines. Now, we can plug our sensors into any network. We're wireless-agnostic."

While the system is highly effective in open areas such as city streets, city parks and military environments, its primary limitation is detecting indoor events. In the case of a shooting incident like the one at Virginia Tech, which took place inside a building, the sensors are not guaranteed to detect gunfire or assist in speeding response.

"We're hoping that campuses won't have a lot of gunshot problems," says Rowland. "But the system only works well if the shooting is outside. If someone was shooting inside a dorm room or a classroom with no open windows, there's a good chance we might not even detect it. The advantage of our system is that if something is happening outside, we'll tell the police exactly what was happening."

For cities that adopt the ShotSpotter system, the learning curve for using the technology is not steep, but it does require comprehensive training and a new level of readiness on the part of first responders who might suddenly find themselves in the midst of a shooting instead of arriving on site long after the perpetrator has fled or been disarmed.

"We train the dispatchers," Rowland says. "We train the patrol officers. We leave trainers behind who can train detectives and prosecutors on how to get evidence out of our system. We want the PDs to be as self-sustainable as possible to do their work. It usually takes the police department about a month to really get up to speed and figure out how to use it. They have to change a lot of policies. The info comes so quickly, and they have to learn how to take the information and do something with it. We double the amount of shots fired on the first day it's turned on. They have to be equipped to deal with that and dispatch officers accordingly. Initially, they have to deal with the fact that officers may arrive in the middle of a gun battle, rather than when it's over."

The cost of deploying ShotSpotter in an urban environment depends on the topology and the options. For an average-sized city, the cost is about $1,000,000. For larger systems, such as the one in Washington, DC, the price can double.

Current ShotSpotter cities also include Phoenix; Rochester, New York; Minneapolis; Charleston; Birmingham; Chicago; East Orange, New Jersey; and, coming soon, Boston.

ShotSpotter is also used by three of the four branches of the military: Army, Air Force, and Marines.

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'Wireless Fidelity' Debunked

'Wireless Fidelity' Debunked
April 27, 2007, Wi-Fi Planet.com

By Naomi Graychase

Even before the Internet and the Web became as commonplace as television and telephones, urban legends and silly (or scary) myths made their way across the culture, from kid to kid, parent to parent, co-worker to co-worker. What kid in the '70s didn't wonder if little Mikey really did die from eating Pop Rocks and soda? Word of mouth can have a powerful influence on a brand. While Mikey (aka John Gilchrist) is still alive and well, rumors of his demise caused Pop Rocks sales to suffer so greatly that General Foods took it off the market in 1983.

The preponderance of e-mail and Web sites in this new millennium have made the creation and spread of misinformation possible on a scale previously unimaginable. (Neiman Marcus cookie recipe, anyone?) For the most part, e-mails with urgent calls to action, exciting opportunities to get free trips from Bill Gates, or warnings about the potential for organ theft while on vacation are exclusively the bastion of the new and the inexperienced. But in recent years one much more subtle bit of misinformation has taken hold, not just among the gullible and the naïve, but also among some of the most tech savvy people in the world. Like a modern day game of operator being played over mobile phones with poor reception, the false notion that the brand name "Wi-Fi" is short for "wireless fidelity" has spread to such an extent that even industry leader EarthLink recently included it in a press release. And EarthLink is not alone: Wikipedia, several online dictionaries (including our own Webopedia (define)), About.com, and the U.S. military all got it wrong, too. [Even this site got it wrong a few times in the early days -- the proof is out there! -- Editor.]

The truth is, Wi-Fi isn't short for anything—and it never was.

Here's what happened:

In 1999, a handful of industry leaders formed a global non-profit organization with the goal of "driving the adoption of a single worldwide-accepted standard for high-speed wireless local area networking." They called themselves the "Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA)."

Because 'IEEE 802.11' is a bit of a mouthful, one of WECA's first tasks was to develop a more memorable, user-friendly name for the wireless standard. To that end, they hired powerhouse branding company Interbrand -- the company responsible for naming Prozac, Celebrex, the Mitsubishi Eclipse, and the Nissan Xterra, just to name a few -- to come up with a list of names that could be used in place of IEEE 802.11b.

Thirteen names were presented to WECA, including Skybridge, Torchlight, and Flyover. Despite how lame these names sound in retrospect, Interbrand is actually very good at its job. Its naming strategy for IBM, for instance, saved the company more than $4,000,000 in one year. And among forgettable names such as Transpeed and Elevate, there was, obviously, a winner: Wi-Fi.

Interestingly enough, when the WECA board got together to discuss the names, the one that received the highest score was Trapeze (now the name of a Wi-Fi infrastructure company). Close behind and tied for second were Dragonfly, Hornet and Wi-Fi. Had any of the other top contenders won out, rather than using a Wi-Fi-enabled device, today you would be using your Trapeze- or Dragonfly-enabled device to check e-mail or download a video. Trapeze, of course, would not be considered "short for wireless fidelity." Neither would "Dragonfly." That's because they're not. They would stand in for IEEE 802.11—just like Wi-Fi does.

Phil Belanger, analyst with Novarum and a co-founder of WECA (which later became the Wi-Fi Alliance), remembers those meetings well.

"Some of the names were hilarious and horrible," recalls Belanger. "We almost said, 'Go back to the drawing board.' Wi-Fi won out. When we saw it with the yin-yang logo, we thought, 'Yeah, this is good.' One of the funny things was -- this may sound silly now -- but at the time, it was going from two to eleven megabits. That's really fancy wireless stuff, woo! Maybe half of the names were trying to underscore the idea of speed. You can imagine how dated that would be now if we'd selected one of those."

Nowhere in the notes from those meetings—or in Belanger's recollection—was Wi-Fi intended to be short for "wireless fidelity." Put simply, since there is no such thing as wireless fidelity, nothing could ever be short for it.

The current confusion seems to stem from a brief period early in the days of the Wi-Fi Alliance when a regrettable tag line was added that stated, "The Standard for Wireless Fidelity." This was not part of the original name and was not created by Interbrand, but it was added as an afterthought in an attempt to help users make sense of the new and somewhat nonsensical word, "Wi-Fi."

"The tagline is incorrect on so many levels," says Belanger. "To say 'the standard' broke with the charter. We weren't creating standards -- we were promoting an existing standard. One of the motivations was that we were trying to expand the use of WLANs to the home market, so this notion of 'wireless fidelity,' some people felt like if they're going to transfer audio and video around their house, then maybe that has some of the appeal. We have this name Wi-Fi. What two words have "wi" and "fi" starting them? Maybe it can help support our goal?"

By the end of 2000, the pointless tagline was dropped and the term "wireless fidelity" was supposed to disappear into the ether. But somehow, as the Wi-Fi brand gained traction, so did the mistaken notion that it was "short for wireless fidelity." Despite the fact that Wikipedia claims the Wi-Fi Alliance still uses the term "wireless fidelity" in its white papers, there are only two documents in the Wi-Fi Alliance online knowledge base that use it. They are press releases from the spring and summer of 2000, historical documents that preserve a regrettable phase, much like the photos that preserve our most unfortunate hairstyles or wardrobe choices long after we've moved on.

It's been roughly seven years since "wireless fidelity" was officially used or propagated in any way by the Wi-Fi Alliance, and yet, somehow, it has spread among the populous to the point that even industry insiders—who ought to know better—perpetrate it in press releases and on Web sites. There's even a company that calls itself Ubiquitous Wireless Fidelity (or "uWiFi" for short).

How could this happen? How could a term that has no meaning and no definition (that, according to John Ferrari, an early member of WECA and current President and CEO of LightPort, was dreamt up over a pitcher of margaritas at a Chevy's restaurant in Mountain View, California in 1999) be turning up seven years later as a presumably bona fide term in so many places? Is this the wireless industry's Nieman Marcus Cookie Recipe?

Frank Hanzlik, the current managing director for the Wi-Fi Alliance, was not at the meetings where the Interbrand names were discussed, but he was a member of WECA and he is now entrusted with protecting and perpetuating the Wi-Fi brand. He confirms that "wireless fidelity" has no meaning, is not part of the trademark, and is not used or encouraged to be used by the Wi-Fi Alliance. However, he feels no need to aggressively correct those who use it, since what's most important to his organization is simply that "Wi-Fi" continues to be a household name.

"In the very early days of building the brand, there was a linkage to the hi-fi chronology," says Hanzlik. "It was successful in creating a positive connotation of what that could mean to a user. Over the last seven years, the term Wi-Fi has become quite ubiquitous in the developed part of the world. We just try to keep it simple and use only Wi-Fi."

"We declared victory when we made the Merriam-Webster dictionary," says Hanzlik. "Now we encourage everyone to use Wi-Fi versus 'wireless LAN,' because it resonates more with folks -- but we do enforce the Wi-Fi Certified and the Wi-Fi Alliance brands and logos."

Unlike what happened to Pop Rocks in the '70s, misinformation has had the opposite effect on Wi-Fi. The brand continues to grow by leaps and bounds.

"It's always great to think back to those early days," says Hanzlik. "Seven years in some cases seems like a long, long time. But in many industries, it's really remarkable what we've accomplished in that period of time. We sold 200 million units last year, and we're on track for 500 million in a few years. It's really remarkable growth, and exciting."

For the record, "Wi-Fi" is always hyphenated, with a capital "w" and a capital "f." It's not short for anything. And Webster's got it right.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Fab Four: January 2007

First Glimpse magazine
January 1, 2007 • Vol.4 Issue 1
Page(s) 24-25 in print issue

As winter’s grip tightens, our desire to relax and have some fun heightens. This month’s Fab Four picks are all about living it up. Among our favorites are a camera you can take on the slopesor on a tropical getawaywithout much fear it’ll be ruined, and the new nano, which brightens things up with some springtime colors and packs in more entertainment per charge than ever before. And the (PRODUCT) RED version gives us the chance to warm our hearts by doing something good.

digital camera

OlympusStylus 730


Why: If you don’t want to worry about whether your gadgets can keep up with your rough-and-tumble life, but you also don’t want to be weighed down by a bulky device, the new Olympus Stylus 730 is for you. Whether you’re into mountain biking or toddler wrangling, the Stylus 730 is built to survive splashes, falls, dust, and snowstorms alike. So whatever hits youfrom a toppled Big Gulp to dusty trailsyour camera will likely keep on clicking. The Stylus 730’s durable design doesn’t sacrifice a slim form factor. The body is 2.4 x 3.8 x 0.83 inches (HxWxD), and it features a 3-inch LCD, so even in its petite package the Stylus 730 won’t make you squint to see what you’ve framed. This 7.1MP camera packs practical features, including Digital Image Stabilization Mode, which reduces blur and increases crispness; Digital Image Stabilization Edit, which allows for in-camera retouching; and Bright Capture Technology, which helps capture great flash-free photos in low light.

Bottom line: All-weather? Alright.

mp3 player

iPod nano
$149 (2GB), $199 (4GB), $249 (8GB)

Why: The new iPod nano is thinnerif you can imaginethan its previous generation, comes in five colors (options determined by capacity), and boasts a longer battery life (24 hours) and a 40% brighter color display. It comes in three sizes, 2GB, 4GB, and 8GB, which can hold approximately 500, 1,000, and 2,000 songs, respectively. Color choices include silver (2GB, 4GB); green, blue, and pink (4GB); and black (8GB). If you choose the special edition (PRODUCT) RED ($199; 4GB), Apple will donate $10 to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS in Africa (www.theglobalfund.org). (PRODUCT) RED-branded iTunes gift cards are also available at Apple’s Web site. The nano’s new body is made out of aluminum to offer more durability. As with all iPods, the nano only supports iTunes (www.itunes.com). You can rip your own CDs and import them using iTunes, or you can buy audio files from the iTunes store. The nano can store and display image files and play podcasts and audiobooks (from iTunes), as well.

Bottom line: World’s most popular player.


Motorola MOTOKRZR K1m

Why: As sleek as its popular predecessors in the RAZR line, the new MOTOKRZR K1m from Motorola is 0.7 inches thick and 1.7 inches wide. Its dark pearl-gray glass gives it an urban sophisticate look. This multimedia-focused phone features a 1.9-inch color screen, Bluetooth, an MP3 player, and a 1.3MP camera, which provides video capture and playback. The specific array of multimedia services available depends on your carrier. At press time, U.S. carriers were Alltel (www.alltell.com), Sprint (www.sprint.com), and Verizon Wireless (www.verizonwireless.com). Verizon subscribers can use KRZRs to download any of the 1.4 million songs available from Verizon’s V CAST Music service. Alltel users can access Alltel’s Axcess Broadband network, which includes broadcasts of live television. Sprint customers can subscribe to Sprint’s Power Vision for more than 50 channels of live TV and on-demand video, as well as NFL Mobile, which delivers video highlights, real-time stats, and injury reports.

Bottom line: Elegant multimedia performer.

wild card

Sony HDR-UX1 AVCHD DVD Handycam Camcorder

Why: If you’ve been looking to upgrade your camcorder, Sony’s HDR-UX1 Handycam may be just the thing. It features a 10X optical zoom and a 4MP still image capture, and it lets you record directly to DVD. You can record to a DVD in SD (standard definition) in MPEG2 or HD in AVCHD (Advanced Video Codec HD). Using DVD+R Dual Layer discs, you can record one hour of HD (1080i) content. Depending on the recording format, you can play back your DVDs in most DVD players, computers, Blu-ray Disc players, and Sony PlayStation 3 video game consoles. It supports Sony’s MemoryStick Duo, so you can transfer still images to your PC for printing or emailing. The high-quality Carl Zeiss lenses are treated with layers of special coating designed to increase contrast and color saturation and decrease glare and flare. The built-in microphone records in 5.1-channel Dolby Digital surround-sound, and the Super NightShot Infrared System lets you shoot video in low light. The HDR-UX1 isn’t Mac-compatible.

Bottom line: Worth splurging on.

by Naomi Graychase

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Nationwide Wi-Fi a Success in Macedonia

by Naomi Graychase
December 22, 2006
Wi-Fi Planet.com

What began as an attempt to get more computers (and Internet access) into schools in Macedonia [perhaps technically known as the Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia (FYROM), as per the United Nations, until the country and Greece work out their differences; the U.S. Government, however, recognizes the country as the Republic of Macedonia - edited 1/9/07], has become, through the unlikely pairing of American dollars and Chinese computers, a successful deployment of a nationwide broadband wireless network. The network is revolutionary, not simply because it is considered the largest hotspot in the world, but because of its impact on the economy and culture of the country it connects.

Read the whole story.

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Is Wi-Fi Bad for Humans?

January 12, 2007

Wi-Fi Planet

There has been some concern lately, mostly in the UK, that the radio frequency radiation (RFR) emitted by Wi-Fi devices poses a health risk to people. Individuals suffering from a variety of innocuous but unpleasant symptoms including nausea and "brain fog" have attributed their ailments to Wi-Fi signals. The complaints have resulted in the banning of Wi-Fi in some areas, particularly those frequented by children. However, according to the most recent scientific studies, the fears are much ado about nothing.

Read the rest of the article.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

MP3 Players For The Holidays: Hot Portable Player Options

It’s no surprise that MP3 players are among the most sought-after CE gifts this holiday season. Even the most tech averse among us are becoming tempted by the ubiquitous (and ever more affordable) portable music devices. Carin Clevidence, a 38-year-old Massachusetts-based mother of two--whose only foray into the world of technology is the laptop she’s writing her novel on--has put one on her Christmas list.

First Glimpse, December 2006
Read the whole story.

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Fab Four: December 2006

Tis the season for joyful giving and receiving; a time for gathering with friends and family to capture memories and enjoy the company of the people you love. Our Fab Four this month are all gifts that keep on giving. A camera that the whole family can use; an MP3 player that does it all; a super-cool mobile phone; and a high-quality home-theater projector that’s perfect for showing “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” and all the other holiday favorites.

First Glimpse, December 2006
Read the whole story.

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Budget-Friendly MP3 Players: Quality Players that Won't Break the Bank

Whether you like to listen in your car, on the treadmill, or as you’re walking across town, digital music is definitely the way to go. Strapping on your old portable CD player or--gasp!--cassette player looks and feels a lot like toting around a circa-1986, brick-sized mobile phone. But with so many features, forms, prices, and sizes, how do you know which player is right for you (and your budget)?

First Glimpse, October 2006
Read the whole story.

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You Oughtta Be In Pictures: The Year's Best Digicams

It’s been an especially good year for the digital-imaging crowd. Whether you are a casual shooter who trots out her camera only for birthdays and weddings, a bold adventurer who dreams of capturing big moments from atop mountains and beneath waves, or a serious amateur photographer who shoots everything from portraits to sporting events, we’re willing to bet your world got a little brighter (not to mention a whole lot more fun) if you bought one of this year’s new digicams.

First Glimpse, November 2006
Read the whole story.

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Fab Four: October 2006

Just in time for Halloween, our October Fab Four includes an old-fashioned favorite masquerading in new clothes, a sweet little MP3 player full of lots of tricks and treats, a smartphone wearing many (many) hats, and a camera that is dressed to impress. This month we’ve gathered the best and newest devices from the affordable and practical (FlashDiscs for only $5 each) to the powerful and professional (Palm Treo 700p) so that you can usher in the fall season with something just right.

October, 2006
Read the whole story.

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FON Aims for Ubiquity

October 27, 2006

Wi-Fi Planet

Earlier this month, FON (rhymes with "dawn," not "phone") announced the worldwide release of its new "La Fonera" wireless router. What makes the router unique is its price tag -- $5 -- and its ability to incorporate two SSIDs, one private and one public. It also has the important bonus of being much, much easier to use than the routers FON supported until now, which the company hopes will encourage users to sign up in droves.

La Fonera, which measures just 3" x 3.7" and is less than an inch thick, features Atheros' single-chip 802.11b/g AR5006AP-G chipset, which is also found in routers from Netgear, D-Link and Belkin. The true cost of the router has not been released, but Mike Stauffer, director of business development at Atheros, says, "We are providing a low-cost solution because it’s a single chip."

FON considers its subsidy of the unit for its users (called "Foneros") to be part of the cost of acquiring new customers, just as mobile phone carriers subsidize the cost of new phones to attract new customers.

Joanna Rees, chairman of FON's efforts in the United States, says, "We have been able to develop a router that we can [sell] at a reasonable cost for FON. Where other companies would say, 'I’m going to spend $25–$30 to acquire a customer,' our [cost] is through the router subsidy. We don’t want the router to be the sticking point to someone to share their Wi-Fi. We want to get the network in place."

FON, which launched worldwide in February, claims 97,000 registered users so far, and has been backed by big name investors including Skype (eBay) and Google.

"They are investment partners," says Rees. "They believe in what we’re building."

What FON is building -- or trying to build -- is a global network of freely available Wi-Fi. Home users or small businesses purchase a La Fonera router -- or in some cases, get them for free -- and then agree to share their network 24 hours a day, seven days a week with other Foneros. FON customers who offer up free access to their own hotspots can then use any FON access point anywhere in the world for free. For those looking to charge for access, there is a revenue-sharing model they can subscribe to. Foneros who offer free access are called "Linuses," after Linus Torvalds, inventor of Linux. Those who charge for access are called "Bills," after Bill Gates. Non-Foneros, called Aliens, can also use the hotspots, but they always pay for the privilege.

"For consumers, the benefit is that if you share your Wi-Fi at home, you can do so securely, and you can roam the world for free," says Rees.

Of course, if FON is encouraging users to give away unlimited Wi-Fi access for free, there is the question of how the company will generate enough revenue to stay afloat.

"Our business model comes in when a café or restaurant says, 'I’ll share my Wi-Fi, but I don’t want to roam the world because I'm a café; I’d like to have a lower charge than another Wi-Fi hotspot,'" Rees says. "So we charge $2-$3 a day, and FON shares in the revenue. We share at a price lower than a T-Mobile connection, and the café gets a portion of that and we get a portion of that."

FON is also focusing on forging relationships with other companies, including ISPs, who Rees says stand to benefit from FON's network.

"There are a lot of content companies and product companies where ubiquitous Wi-Fi is important to their model," says Rees. "And we have those relationships as part of our business model."

"We are also working in cooperation with ISPs," says Rees. "We will have several announcements coming out. There are two benefits. One is that the majority of people who sign up for cable get a router [and] don’t lock it down, so people leech off of other people’s Wi-Fi, which keeps others from getting their own broadband. If they plug in a FON router, they can’t leech, they have to be part of the program, so an ISP can monetize. It also encourages people -- it's a value proposition. If I have Wi-Fi at home, I can roam the world for free, so I’m going to get a broadband connection at home and become part of the benefit. We're working on specific agreements."

Rees emphasizes that FON is still early in its rollout.

"We’re early -- we’re just starting our ramp," says Rees. "The U.S. has been our largest market. We’ll start to see tremendous growth in our network in the next three months' time. We are literally just kicking off."

As part of its U.S. campaign, FON is targeting specific markets known for early adopters, including New York and San Francisco. It will conduct grassroots campaigns to recruit new Foneros. The first big event will be a "Freedom Friday" router giveaway at San Francisco's Union Square today, October 27th. Other cities that will likely see FON events come to town include LA, Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta and Dallas.

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Best Digital Cameras For Women

Best Digital Cameras For Women
We Want Form & Function

by: Naomi Graychase
CE Lifestyles, August 2005

Choosing the right digital camera can feel a lot like choosing the right car--part beauty pageant, part serious quest for the right set of features to fit your budget. Fortunately, when you set out to buy the perfect camera, you don’t have to deal with pushy sales managers or get approved for financing. You do, however, have to wade through a market that’s become flooded with a variety of cameras offering a dizzying array of features and styles. So, what’s a girl to do?

First, you’ll want to decide two important things: How much you can spend, and what you’ll use your camera for. Once you have a general idea of your budget, and a sense of whether you’ll be taking snapshots or looking to adjust your own aperture settings, ask yourself a few lifestyle questions. Do you want to be able to hand your camera to someone on vacation without also handing her the manual? Can your kids, co-workers, or technologically impaired spouse take photos with it? Will your camera feel like a brick or a cell phone in your purse? What if you want to shoot your daughter in action at her soccer game? Are you frequently holding a baby, an umbrella, or other things, which make it important that you be able to navigate menus and shoot photos using only one hand? Are you likely to drop your camera in the pool or shoot lots of photos in the rain? (See the “Underwater Action” sidebar.)

If, like most women, you primarily want to take snapshots, and you want to spend $200 or less, you’ll sacrifice some quality and some features and you may have to make some concessions when it comes to size. Your $150 camera is more likely to remind you of a minivan than a Maserati, but it will still be useful. If you’re willing to spend a little more, Canon, Kodak, Kyocera, and Sony all make excellent cameras that hover in the $250 to $300 range. Among our favorites are the 5MP (megapixel) Canon PowerShot A95 ($299; consumer.usa.canon.com) and the 4MP Kodak EasyShare CX7430 ($279.95; www.kodak.com). (For more on budget cameras, see the “Best Buys” sidebar.)

When it comes to making decisions about resolution, we recommend 3MP or higher. If you want to enlarge your photos--for example, make prints that are 8 inches x 10 inches or larger or blow up details--look for digicams with 4MP resolution or higher. The higher the resolution, the better the quality of your images. (For more on selecting the perfect camera, see the “Fab Four Female-Friendly Features” sidebar.)

If having a slim, highly portable camera is your main objective, we recommend an ultracompact device. Our favorites are the Casio Exilim EX S100 ($299; www.casio.exilim.com) and the Canon PowerShot SD20 ($349). The 3.2MP EX S100 is about the size of a credit card and the thickness of a pack of gum, but still offers a 2-inch LCD. The SD20 is slightly smaller than a pack of cigarettes, comes in flashy colors, such as “garnet,” “Zen gray,” and “midnight blue,” but offers only a 1.5-inch LCD. If you find you rarely have two free hands, you can operate both of these cameras one-handed (although that’ll be more of a challenge for lefties).

Also leading the pack in the ultracompact category are the Panasonic Lumix FX7 ($399; www.panasonic.com/consumer_electronics) and the Canon PowerShot SD300 ($349). The 5MP Lumix FX7 prevents blurry photos by detecting jitter and automatically moving the lens to correct it and it features a 2.5-inch display, the largest LCD in this class. The 4MP PowerShot SD300 features a 2-inch LCD and an impressive 3X optical zoom.

The Miss Congeniality award goes to the 4MP Kodak EasyShare LS743 ($299). This is the camera anyone can use--children, spouses, co-workers, strangers who take your photo on vacation. It’s an excellent starter camera for someone nervous about going digital, and unlike some of the other EasyShare models, it’s also relatively pretty and petite.

If shooting high-quality action images is what you’re after, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 ($399; www.sonystyle.com) is a home run. It has it all: looks, features, and convenient size. It comes in two colors (red and silver), serves up 7.2MP resolution, and 3X optical zoom, and you can capture high-resolution shots at up to at 1.1fps (frames per second), perfect for preserving every motion of that winning goal. It also shoots high-grade MPEG (Moving Picture Experts Group) movies with audio and provides a 2-inch LCD. But like so many superstars, it’s also a little high-maintenance. This camera takes some getting used to, and it’s tough for beginners to fully take advantage of all its perks.

For a more user-friendly, but high-end, digicam experience, Nikon offers the Coolpix 7900 ($399; www.nikonusa.com), which was specifically designed with women in mind. New to the market, the Coolpix 7900 caters to the woman who is willing to spend a little more in order capture beautiful photographs with a sharp-looking, ultra-portable digital camera. While it isn’t the prettiest camera in the bunch--we’d give that honor to the PowerShot SD20--at 7.1MP, it’s a cut above many of its competitors. Lightweight and full-featured, the Coolpix provides cutting-edge technology, such as its built-in “D-Lighting” software, a one-button fix for overly dark photos, and software-based automatic red-eye removal. Its 2-inch LCD is the perfect size, and while it offers an exceptional level of control, you won’t have to wade three menus deep--or take a photography class--to access the best ones.

Last, but not least, for the serious photographer who wants to change lenses, zoom up to 12X, and enjoys the feel of a traditionally sized 35mm camera in her hands, we recommend three options: Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-FZ5 ($499.95), Konica Minolta’s DiMage Z5 ($649.99; konicaminolta.us), and DiMage Z20 ($399).

Fab Four Female-Friendly Features

Unless you’re looking for professional-level control, the perfect camera should be as easy to slip into a purse or pocket as your cell phone. Just like buying shoes that are too small means you’ll never wear them, buying a camera that’s a little cheaper and a lot more bulky means you’ll wind up leaving it home gathering dust when you could be out capturing keepsake moments.

Who has time to sift through three menus to find the red-eye-reduction or self-timer? The Kodak EasyShare line won the ease-of-use category hands down. First timers or those who don’t want to waste any precious time getting to know their camera will do well with these picks.

While looks aren’t everything, you should indulge your sense of style. Sleek looks, slim designs, and enticing colors all enhance the joy of going digital. Liz Lange and Nikon even offer a co-branded camera (Coolpix 3200; $399.95; www.coolpix101.com/main.html?section=real_lifeography&topic=capture_glow) designed by Liz herself. (All proceeds benefit a national children’s charity.)

Squinting isn’t a good look in photos, and it isn’t a good look for the one behind the camera either. Some stylishly small cameras entice you with their pixie-sized good looks, but the trade-off is a screen the size of a postage stamp. Buyer beware, especially if you’re far-sighted.

Underwater Action

The submersible Pentax Optio WP ($400; www.pentaximaging.com) features a rust-resistant metal exterior, rubber sealants, and lens protection that lets you shoot in the rain, in the snow--or even in up to five feet of water. With 5MP, a 3X optical zoom lens and a 2-inch low-reflection monitor, you don’t have to sacrifice quality for durability, which makes it perfect for the adventurous, aquatic, or just plain clumsy shutterbug and her family.

Top Five Cameras For Women

These are not your mother’s cameras. They can shoot video, record audio, go underwater, and “de-light” (which we found delightful). We tested 13 cameras from market leaders Canon, Sony, and Kodak, as well as strong contenders Casio, Nikon, Panasonic, and Konica Minolta. It was tough to choose, but these are our five pic picks for women.

Nikon Coolpix 7900
$399; www.nikon.com
High-tech, high-resolution, ultra-portable, and handsome to boot. This 7.1MP camera will please point-and-shooters and more finicky photographers, too.

Casio Exilim EX S100
$299; www.casio.com
So slim it could almost fit in your wallet, and it won’t break the bank to buy one. The 2-inch LCD is the jewel in this pretty camera’s crown.

Canon PowerShot A95
$299; www.canon.com
An affordable, easy-to-use 5MP camera. Its only downside is its super-size.

Kodak EasyShare LS743
$299; www.kodak.com
For nervous beginners, or those with no time to waste learning the ropes, this 5MP beauty is the best camera you can buy for under $300.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX7
$399; www.panasonic.com
Easy on the eyes in more ways than one, this gorgeous ultracompact boasts the largest LCD in its class (2.5 inch), 5MP resolution, and a rapid-fire shutter speed.


A picture may be worth a thousand words, but how much are you willing to pay for the camera that takes it? If finding a high-quality camera for less than $300 is your goal, we recommend these five cameras: Canon PowerShot A95 ($299), Casio Exilim EX S100 ($299.99), Kodak EasyShare LS743 ($299), Kodak EasyShare CX7530 ($299), and Kodak EasyShare CX7430 ($279.95). Of these five, the Casio Exilim is the sleekest and slimmest; the Canon PowerShot A95 is the chunkiest, but the most fully featured; and the PowerShot A95 and Kodak EasyShare CX7530 are the only cameras we tested that offer 5MP with a price tag of $300 or less.

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Monday, September 04, 2006

Syracuse City Schools Get Expansive WLAN

by Naomi Graychase
April 11, 2005
Wi-Fi Planet

The city of Syracuse, N.Y. is in the second of a three-phase plan to roll out a wired and wireless broadband network serving all 41 of the public school buildings within its city limits. The $80 million project, which will include 18,000 network drops and up to 300 Cisco Access Points, will bring high-speed Internet access to approximately 23,000 students and 2,000 faculty members.

Syracuse, which is home to roughly 700,000 residents, has contracted with Bluesocket to handle security, including access control, authentication, encryption and bandwidth management, and with IBM Global Services and Cisco to create the infrastructure.

"We were able to wholeheartedly embrace wireless because of the authentication abilities with Bluesocket," says Don Spaulding, director of Information Services and Technology for the City of Syracuse school system. "We tried to create a defense layer on the outside of the network. We have those measures in place as well."

The involvement of IBM and Bluesocket is the result of a new alliance between the two companies, which announced today that they will be working together to introduce an approach to large-scale, heterogeneous, wireless LAN environments which integrate multiple equipment providers and where centralized configuration, radio-frequency management and intrusion detection are vital.

Bluesocket also provides secure Internet access at two other school districts, the San Juan Unified School District in Carmichael, Calif., and the Coppell School District of Coppell, Texas.

The Syracuse network is currently active in 20 instructional buildings, with another six expected to be online by May 1. It will serve both administrative and instructional purposes. Grading systems, purchasing, payroll, and even the cafeterias have been connected. Enough bandwidth has been incorporated to allow for videoconferencing and video streaming, as well as other educational applications. Wi-Fi-enabled laptops have been deployed in classrooms to give students hands-on access to the broadband wireless network, including access to digital video programs offered direct-to-the-classroom by a local public TV station. Voice over IP (VoIP) is also being deployed.

Syracuse is not the first municipality to unveil a large, public Wi-Fi system in schools or otherwise, but Spaulding says planners there did not look to any one specific city for guidance as they mapped out their plan.

"I think in a lot of ways we've taken from instances where we felt things worked well," says Spaulding. "We knew what we wanted to do in our classrooms and what we wanted our kids and teachers to be doing. There are many ideas that we do borrow, but also many things we went and did on our own. We didn't want to meet where people were at, we wanted to look ahead and get out there a little further."

The project required a lot of new construction. Because of the outdated electrical and structural aspects of the buildings involved, much of the $80 million budget was spent on building modifications. Everything from creating space for the servers and other equipment to providing adequate air conditioning and ventilation had to be done.

Funding for the project comes from an assortment of state and federal grants, including No Child Left Behind (NCLB) grants, reading and curricular-related grants, and a $3.6 million grant which will be spent on teacher training and development to help faculty and staff get the most out of their new equipment.

"We competitively secured money," says Spaulding. "For teacher access, for equipment, for everything. We are terming it here as 'a convergence of events.' A lot of different things have gone on that we've been able to coordinate and facilitate in a way that makes sense."

The city is also working closely with local collegiate powerhouse Syracuse University and with other local partners including hospitals, PBS stations and other entities that can be beneficial to the educational mission of the network.

The project leaders see it as expansive in its scope and thorough in its execution. The result will be a major change for students and educators in the Syracuse school district.

"I don't think anyone expected it would get off the ground," admits Spaulding. "A lot of people are surprised. We were a district that didn't really have anything, now all of a sudden you can get to a WAN with a significant amount of bandwidth. And we've implemented a lot of applications with this project: portable distance learning carts, a new e-mail system, active directory, all types of remote maintenance devices, many different types of VLANS to support the applications. We went from a limited network with limited connectivity to a state-of-the-art sophisticated network."

The entire project is expected to be completed sometime in January of 2007.

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Watching Video at Hotspots

May 10, 2005, Wi-Fi Planet.com
by Naomi Graychase

OnAir Entertainment, a new provider of proprietary media services to Wi-Fi hotspots, hotel IP networks and MDUs, has teamed up with Norfolk, Va.-based TotalVid to offer TotalVid's entire 1,000-title library of special-interest movies to customers at OnAir's hotspots.

OnAir, which is based in Sunnyvale, Calif., has developed a proprietary network appliance (the DVS0-100) that caches downloadable movies, music and games locally at hotels, restaurants and airports, speeding up download times significantly. The service has already been deployed at the Austin-Bergstrom Airport in Austin, Texas and at Jerry's Deli in Los Angeles.

Company CEO Rand Bleimeister says, "The benefit is that movie downloads are slow—up to two hours to download a movie over typical DSL. By caching movies locally, the download time is reduced to less than 15 minutes for a full-length feature film."

TotalVid's library appeals to certain types of entertainment enthusiasts whose needs and interests are not being met by more mainstream outlets.

"We launched with action sports and travel," says Karl Quist, general manager of TotalVid, whose passion for windsurfing inspired him to launch the company.

"I had a strong belief that for any content business to be successful, it had to have unique, compelling content not available elsewhere," Quist says. "I had two windsurfing videos at my house and, much to my wife's chagrin, I watched these same videos over and over. I had my TiVo programmed to record anything that had windsurfing in the description, and it never found anything. Even with 100-some-odd channels, there was nothing dedicated to those sports. So I understood that there were all of these other categories where the need was unmet. The customers who try us, try us because we give them a way to watch things they can't find anywhere else."

TotalVid says it is currently the leading video download store for action sports, travel-related content, and anime. Its library includes roughly 1,000 films in 22 categories, including Travel, Extreme Life, and Motorsports. The newest categories are Home Improvement, Music Instructional, Martial Arts, and Anime.

"Anime is an enormous, $4 billion market in the U.S.," says Quist of the Japanese cartoons. "You can't go to Blockbuster and get a deep selection of anime, yet there are fans out there who will stand in line for hours to get into a convention to purchase new anime. These people are also typically very early adopters of technology, which makes them a perfect fit for us."

Each video can be downloaded for a few dollars, and viewed an unlimited number of times for up to a week. If a user decides to purchase the video after viewing, the cost of the rental is automatically deducted from the purchase price.

TotalVid acquires its content by working directly with producers.

"We find producers who are selling on DVD, and we license it from them," says Quist. "We work with about 200 producers that provide content for our site."

To prevent piracy or theft, TotalVid protects filmmakers' rights by using the same software that Hollywood studios are using.

"We leverage the best technology out there," says Quist. "We use Microsoft's Windows Rights Management and infrastructure to do that. When someone gets a video from us, it's encrypted. We give them a key, and Windows uses it to determine if they have the rights. They can play it for an unlimited number of times over a particular period of time, but they can't burn it and can't screen capture it. It's very reliable; it hasn't been broken."

The company chose to partner with OnAir in order to extend the distribution of its content.

"OnAir is bringing us an audience that fits very well with our content," says Quist. "People who are connected consume a great deal of online content. OnAir reaches people in an environment where our content and videos make a lot of sense to them. With OnAir, users can dramatically reduce the download time, which hopefully increases the amount they purchase."

OnAir, which also offers a server that enables travelers to watch live television on their laptops using a local Wi-Fi network in airports or on commuter trains, is pleased with the partnership.

"Karl Quist is a visionary," says Bleimeister. "TotalVid's content is perfect for our target demographic."

When looking to the future, Quist says, "We're definitely very early in the consumer adoption of paid full-length video downloads. These are not people who are downloading content from other services. We are the first place they've paid for video content on the Web. Consumers are waiting for a really compelling video application before they'll open up their wallets and pay for it."

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