Wi-Fi Product Watch 2008

By Naomi Graychase

December 23, 2008

Free Linux utility from Xirrus; free mobile hotspot software; RadioShack and AT&T offer a sub-$100 netbook; new free app lets iPhone and iPod touch users share notes over Wi-Fi; MiFi means truly portable 3G hotspot; and more.

Linux-based Wi-Fi array vendor, Xirrus, has made available a free, open source version of its Wi-Fi Monitor utility for Linux desktops.

According to Xirrus, the applications for the Wi-Fi Monitor include:

  • Searching for Wi-Fi networks
  • Verifying Wi-Fi coverage
  • Locating Wi-Fi devices
  • Displaying laptop Wi-Fi settings
  • Detecting rogue APs
  • Aiming Wi-Fi antennas
  • Education on Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi Monitor--originally only available as a Gadget utility for Windows Vista, Windows XP, and MacOS--is a widget-like applet  (Xirrus calls the Linux version a "Desklet") developed under the gDesklets framework using the Python language. Users have access to the complete source code of the application. It is intended to be useful for both IT managers and end users and includes a Glossary to help novice users get up to speed with Wi-Fi terms.

December 18, 2008

We love solutions that let us take our Wi-Fi with us--and even share the love. A new one popped up on our radar today: JoikuSpot Light. We haven't tried it, but the makers say that it is "a free limited edition of JoikuSpot that transforms your mobile phone to a 3G WLAN hotspot. You can connect your laptop or other WLAN device to the Web everywhere using your mobile phone and enjoy 3G speed."

The security features are a bit lacking--it supports WEP verus WPA2 and some users will need to lighten their firewall settings in order for it to function. A premium edition is available for about $35. More details here.

December 12, 2008

RadioShack today announced it will be selling notebook computers this month--and its first offering is under $100. Yes, that's right, we didn't leave off a zero. The Acer Aspire One is selling at RadioShack through Christmas Eve for $99.99.

The catch? A contract, of course. Customers wishing to get the device must sign up for a qualifying two-year AT&T DataConnect mobile broadband service agreement. Plans start at $60 a month.

We confess we are amazed that laptop computers have now become, in essence, glorified handsets--they even come with carrier subisidies and beastly contract commitments. But, of course, it was only a matter of time.

The Acer Aspire One at RadioShack features integrated access to AT&T's 3G wireless network, as well as built-in Wi-Fi. The offer is available in 4,400 RadioShack company-operated stores through Dec. 24. Prices may vary outside the continental U.S. More details are here.

December 11, 2008

Mark/Space, the creator of The Missing Sync synchronization software, announced today the release of Fliq Notes, a handy notes application for iPhone and iPod touch.

The note-taking application, available for free at the Apple App Store, lets users create, categorize, search, and sort notes and memos by name, date, event, and category. Fliq Notes also allows users to send, or 'beam,' and receive notes over a Wi-Fi network with other Fliq users on an iPhone, iPod touch, or Mac or Windows PC. More details are available at the Mark/Space Web site.

For more on iPhone and iPod touch, read "Apple Opens iPhone Up to Web 2.0 Applications," "Review: iPhone 2.0 Software Upgrade," and "Review: iPod touch 2nd Generation."

December 10, 2008

Apparently, you can take it with you. Novatel Wireless announced yesterday its new MiFi line of "Intelligent Mobile Hotspots."

Small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, the MiFi's built-in cellular modem promises portable 3G broadband Wi-Fi connectivity that, according to Novatel, can be easily shared between multiple users and Wi-Fi devices, such as laptops, cameras, gaming devices, and multimedia players.

"The MiFi products serve as an intelligent, open platform capable of hosting advanced software applications and flexible enough to address the continued evolution of mobile broadband," said Novtel in a press release Tuesday.

"Our carrier partners will now be able to provide new wireless solutions and bundles for consumer and enterprise users. This will contribute to the continued growth of the addressable broadband market and create a unique opportunity for carriers to generate additional revenue per user through the deployment of innovative value-add applications and services,"  said Peter Leparulo, chairman and CEO of Novatel Wireless.

The first MiFis are expected to be commercially available in the first half of next year. Stay tuned for a Wi-Fi Planet review.

December 9, 2008

Atheros announced today the Asus Eee PC series--the game-changing little notebooks that almost single-handedly created a new class of laptop (netbooks)--just got better. 

The Eee PC S101 is the first Asus Netbook to feature XSPAN 11n technology. (The first Eee PC, the 701, offered Atheros 802.11g.)

The new Asus Eee PC S101 features Atheros' popular AR9281 single-chip, single-band 1x2 MIMO-enabled PCI Express (PCIe) design. The AR9281 provides up to 150 Mbps in transmit mode and up to 300 Mbps PHY rates in receive mode.

XSPAN is designed to help extend netbook battery life with power-saving techniques, such as Atheros Dynamic MIMO Power Save (DMPS) and Unscheduled Automatic Power Save Delivery (UAPSD). The higher throughput offered by XSPAN also enables faster Wi-Fi transfers which can reduce power consumption. In combination with the Asus S101's other system power-saving features, the netbook is rated to deliver five hours of operation between charges.

December 8, 2008

Apparently, you don't need your very own Marshall Finkman to be a super spy, all you need is $300 and Walmart.com. Straight from the pages of Alias or MI-5, the Rovio from WowWee Group is a roving Wi-Fi-enabled Web cam that allows users not only to monitor activity, but to interact with the people (or animals?) one is monitoring.

The WowWee Rovio Wi-Fi Enabled Robotic WebCam is available for $297 (plus 97 cents shipping) from Walmart.com. It's also available through Sears, Radio Shack, Target, Barnes & Noble, and other major chain retailers.

According to the Rovio Web site, users can employ it to:

  • Interact with your family, wherever they are
  • Check up on your office and speak with colleagues
  • Roam around your home to check on pets, etc.
  • Visit elderly relatives

"Hi, Grandma--bad dog!"

View a demo and learn more at www.meetrovio.com.

November 24, 2008

BelAir Networks today announced a new ultra-compact dual-radio, dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi indoor access point, the BelAir20. 

The BelAir20 AP, configurable with wired or wireless backhaul, or as a bridge from outside in also:

  • Leverages the same BelAirOS operating system and BelView network management used in BelAir Networks outdoor nodes
  • Enables hosted software-based control that BelAir says lowers network CapEx by 30%
  • Integrates with the service provider’s back office to facilitate service provisioning and bundling, ease deployment and operation, and reduce network commissioning and upgrade costs
  • Expands the operator’s service reach in mobile indoor/outdoor opportunities
  • Provides wireless backhaul between APs cutting installed costs by 40%

More details are available at the BelAir Web site.

November 6, 2008

The BlackBerry Bold arrived yesterday. The new and much ballyhooed Wi-Fi-enabled BlackBerry with what is said to be a truly gorgeous half VGA 480 x 320 pixels, 65k color TFT display from carrier AT&T is being called the "fastest, most powerful BlackBerry ever." RIM is basing those claims on the processor speed and AT&T's 3G network. View full specs (or buy one) here.

October 31, 2008

SanDisk has reached yet another milestone in the battle to squeeze more and more storage in a finite amount of space. Earlier this fall, it became the first to announce microSDHC and Memory Stick Micro (also referred to as M2) memory cards with 16GB storage capacities.

SanDisk's 16GB microSDHC card ($99.99) is available now at Best Buy. The 16GB Memory Stick Micro ($129.99) should be available soon. Both are expected to be available at Verizon Wireless locations in November, as well. SanDisk is offering a five-year limited warranty on these new cards.

Tiny fingernail-sized microSDHC cards are also available in 4GB and 8GB from SanDisk. It is a very popular format in cell phones and smartphones, but can also be found in many other devices, including video cameras, GPS receivers and MP3 players.

Memory Stick Micro cards, which are about the same size as microSDs, are designed for Sony Ericsson's latest mobile phone and smartphone models. They also come in 2GB, 4GB, and 8GB capacities.

"Flash memory cards have increased in storage capacity, but even an 8GB card may be too small for anyone with GPS map data, a few movies, a game or two, a presentation file and other applications. There is an acute need for more mobile storage capacity," according to analyst Avi Greengart of Current Analysis. "16GB gives consumers the ability to carry their digital content with them and still have room to do more with their mobile phones."

SanDisk is the same company that fended off a buyout offer from Samsung recently. It also, somewhat boldly, introduced a new music-media format.

Called slotMusic, the music distribution format pre-loads an album onto a microSD card. The point of slotMusic, for which all the major labels are onboard, is to allow users to buy and use music without being dependent on a PC or internet connection. They simply insert the card into their microSD-enabled device to hear it.

The music is DRM-free, of high quality (320 kbps), and can be used instantly with any MP3 player, cell phone, etc. with a microSD slot. The cards will be packaged with a tiny USB sleeve, so they'll be easy to use and compatible with PCs (Windows, Linux, and Mac), as well. 

SanDisk says the cards will be sold in rick-and-mortar and online stores throughout the U.S., including Best Buy and Wal-Mart, with Europe to follow. They should go for between $7 and $10.

[Article adapted from PDAStreet.com.]


Epson America has put a new brand at the top of its inkjet printer line. The Artisan 700 and 800 are elegantly styled home and home-office printer/copier/scanners that emphasize creative applications, printing 4-by-6-inch photos in as little as ten seconds along with text documents at 38 pages per minute (ppm).

Bbeneath their piano black finishes, the Artisans feature six-color Ultra Hi-Definition Claria ink with five droplet sizes for what Epsons says are "vivid, true-to-life photos with up to four times the fade resistance of photo lab prints."

Automatic photo correction and red-eye removal functions can be previewed on the model 700's 2.5-inch and model 800's 3.5-inch color LCD. Productivity features include standard duplex printing and built-in Wi-Fi, as well as Ethernet networking.

Standing just 5.9 inches tall, the Artisan 700 ($200) offers 2,400-dpi, 48-bit color scanning to a PC, memory card, or USB flash drive; card slots for printing images without a PC; and one-touch color and black and white copying with fit-to-page printing and background removal for clean copies of text documents. Each can create photo layouts with various size photos on a single sheet of paper, or even turn plain paper into college-ruled or graph paper for school.

The Artisan 800 ($300) adds faxing with a 30-page automatic document feeder, as well as 4,800-dpi scanning and a 7.8-inch touch panel that lights up only the buttons necessary for easy selecting, copying, enlarging, rotating, cropping, and printing of photos. [Adapted from Earthweb Hardware.]

Naomi Graychase is Managing Editor at Wi-Fi Planet.

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