Archive for February, 2008

Taipei 101 shrouded in fog

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

January’s IEEE 802.11 working group meeting was held in Taipei. Towards the end of my time in Taipei, I wandered through the grounds of the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall. In a small area with a statue of Dr. Sun, there was a neat view of Taipei 101, shrouded in the heavy wet fog around the city at the time.

Taipei 101 with seated Sun Yat-sen

Graham Street Market, Hong Kong

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

One of my favorite things to do with my camera is just to go wandering. On my January trip to Hong Kong, I stumbled across the Graham Street Market, which is one of the oldest (if not the oldest) in Hong Kong. Out of everything I saw, there were two scenes that particularly struck me.

The first was at a seafood shop. As typical for the Guangdong region, much of what’s on sale is alive and kept in polystyrene water containers. If you look closely at the photo below, you can see the aeration tubes. What really struck me about the photo, though, is the smile on the face of the woman helping a customer.

Seafood store, Graham Street Market, Hong Kong

(As an aside, one of the reasons why I was shooting in black and white is because it doesn’t require me to color balance. Street market vendors use all kinds of lights, each of which has a slightly different color cast. Tungsten lamps are orange, fluorescent lamps have a sickly greenish cast, and the energy-efficient metal halide lamps that light streets the world over spread a yellowish light. Provided there is enough contrast, switching to black-and-white means that I don’t need to deal with the horrid color clash from all the lighting.)

The second scene, which I didn’t capture as well as I would have liked, illustrates the captivity of traffic to pedestrians. Only a small fraction of Hong Kong residents own cars because the government taxes automobiles very heavily and the transit system is possibly the best in the world. The street market is actually a street. As I wandered around, I noticed that trucks were making deliveries, but they sometimes had to move very slowly through single-lane streets that were choked with pedestrian traffic. At one point, I noticed a car moving slowly through the pedestrian crowd. It wasn’t just any car, either. I love the contrast of the immaculately polished white Bentley moving through a crowd of pedestrians.

Bentley at the Graham Street Market, Hong Kong

An unusually clear night in Hong Kong

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

In January, the IEEE 802.11 working group met in Taipei. The week before, I hosted a meeting for Task Group U in Hong Kong, a city that everybody should visit for its unique blend of traditional Chinese and Western culture.

I’ve been going to Hong Kong for over 15 years, though there was a gap of more than ten years between my first and second visits. In that time, one of the most notable changes is an unfortunate side effect of the rapid economic development in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and the entire Pearl River Delta region. Air pollution has become much more prevalent, to the point where it can often be hard to see across the beautiful harbor.

After the meeting one night, I took one of the Star Ferry’s Harbour Cruises with some of my fellow attendees. As we passed by the Central district, I noticed flashes of light coming from up high on Victoria Peak. At this point, I am so accustomed to the seemingly permanent haze that it took me a while to realize that the flashes were tourist cameras going off on the peak.

As the boat docked, I debated whether to head to the peak at 10 pm, since I was quite tired. My companions provided the needed encouragement, and I’m glad I went. By the time I made it up, many of the buildings had turned off their colorful night lights but it was still the best view I’ve ever had of the harbor:

Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong

I later spoke with my colleagues who live in Hong Kong, and they told me that a night so clear almost never happens. I feel very fortunate that I happened to be in the city at the time.

How to annoy your customers, T-Mobile edition

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

Yesterday morning, I was awakened at 2:08 am by the incoming text message indication sound from my phone. I am traveling in Europe and my local time is +10 hours relative to my home, so it was a perfectly reasonable time to send a message to me in California. As I stumbled across the room, I wondered which of my friends or colleagues I had forgotten to tell about my trip.

The answer was “none of them.” T-Mobile had sent me a text message with the following contents:

Free T-Mobile Msg: Use your T-Mobile HotSpot account at Starbucks for years to come with no additional charges. Learn more at hotspot.t-mobile.com.

As I have often said before, T-Mobile knows where I am. Their roaming database knows that I’m in Europe because I’m attached to the Vodafone Greece network. Therefore, the T-Mobile network is perfectly capable of knowing what time it is where I am. Sending me text messages in the early hours of the morning is just aggressively stupid customer service. At 2 am, I do not care about how long I can use the hotspots at Starbucks, and in fact, coffee is not something I remotely want to consider.

(Early morning disturbances from the phone were the driving force behind the time zone processing feature I developed for my home PBX. Read part 1 and part 2 of the Linux Journal description.)

If anything, this text message is yet another illustration of why I can’t wait to get an OpenMoko phone. The first thing I’ll do is develop a “turn off ringing and text messages within the hours of X pm to Y am” feature, so that I’m not bothered by this ever again.

Open1X Project update and roadmap

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

Earlier this week, we published our technology road map for the Open1X supplicant. They are now available for download in either PDF or Microsoft Word.

In the discussions that the project team held, our biggest goal was to get the supplicant running on as many platforms as we could. The first step is the common desktop operating systems (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux). However, there’s a long term trend at work with computers infiltrating everything. When I first started doing wireless LANs, it was something that was nice to have for laptops. In the past several years, we’ve seen 802.11 go from an esoteric data link to the most obvious way to connect a plethora of devices from laptops to game devices (the Xbox and PSP both have 802.11) to phones (I carry a Nokia E61) and PDAs.

Each time a wireless LAN interface gets put into a device, you need the entire protocol stack complete with all the security protocols. Wireless security protocols can be complex, and expertise hasn’t kept up with the wide diversity in available products. Often, a product will have a wireless LAN interface that lags behind the rest of the product in functionality.

One of the best examples of the “wireless feature lag” is our #1 feature request. Everybody who’s interested in our work has asked us to port the supplicant to the iPhone to get better interoperability with wireless LANs. Most university networks require user credentials (WPA-Enterprise) instead of pre-shared keys (WPA-Personal), but the iPhone lacks that feature. Back in October, there was an iPhone SDK announced, with details to follow in February. We’re waiting to see what features the SDK will bring, and hope to start working on an iPhone shortly. (If you’re interested in 802.1X on the iPhone, sign the on-line petition.)