Want. NYC to bring fast public WiFi

Finally, a use for those strange kiosks with payphones in. They’re going to be converted to be wifi stations – and not just any old slow wifi, but gigabit wifi. For gigabit read fast and for fast read when will it be done here too?

New York City today unveiled an ambitious plan to roll out a free city-wide municipal Wi-Fi network that officials say will be the fastest and most wide-reaching network of its kind in the world.

At a press conference at City Hall, the city unveiled LinkNYC, which will rely on thousands of kiosks that will be deployed at locations currently occupied by pay phones. The kiosks will be installed in as many as 10,000 locations throughout the five boroughs and will offer Wi-Fi service of one gigabit per second within a radius of 150 feet. They’ll also offer free domestic voice calls to all 50 states. The first of the kiosks is expected to begin service in late 2015.

New York City to Offer Free Gigabit Wi-Fi in 2015 – Arik Hesseldahl, Re/code (17 November 2014)

Read the full piece.

Three UK launches calls without a mobile cell signal

That quirky underground restaurant. Sitting on the train. Or your friend’s basement flat where you can only get signal if you stick your arm out the window.

On mobile networks, unfortunately there are times when you just can’t seem to get a signal. So we created Three inTouch for our customers – a free app that lets you connect through Wi-Fi even if there’s no mobile signal. Just download and activate.

No signal? No problem with Three inTouch – email, Three (16 October 2014)

All Three users in the UK – wait, that sounds like the company is really unpopular, let me try again. All the doubtlessly millions of people in the UK who use the Three mobile phone company have today been emailed about Three inTouch. This is an iOS and Android app that lets you make phone calls and send texts even when your phone has no signal. At least, when it has no mobile phone signal. It does have to have wifi.

But if you’re in a spot and moreover are in a wifi spot, you will be able to launch the app and get on with calling or texting. Or sexting. I don’t judge. That Three email says it works anywhere in the UK and that the cost of the service is effectively free: a call or text will cost you just whatever it would cost you if you were doing it over a mobile phone signal like 3G or 4G.

Also, when you phone someone this way, it looks and sounds to them like you’re ringing from your normal phone. I’ve made wifi calls before but using Skype; it’s not been the best experience but generally speaking neither is Skype.

If you’re a Three customer, you’ve got or you will soon get the email with details. If you’re not or you’re in a hurry, check out the Three company’s page about it online and go get the free iOS app or free Android app.

Don’t trust public wifi

You’ve done this: you’ve seen a public wifi and you’ve glommed onto it with barely a pause to send silent mental thanks to the shop that is providing it.


I do exactly that.

But I won’t log on to any site that way. The login details are not safe because there could well be something watching that apparently free wifi signal.

If it sounds like I’m building up to saying you should always pay for you wifi, I’m not. I’m building up to saying this: if you’re on your iPhone or Android device and you use a free public wifi, come off it to do anything sensitive.

Just tap the Wifi button off and your phone reverts to 4G and away you go.

Switch back to the free wifi to download something big or just browser faster. And if you do this a lot, consider paying for a VPN.

Weekend read: How to Weaponise Your Pets

Late last month, a Siamese cat named Coco went wandering in his suburban Washington, DC neighborhood. He spent three hours exploring nearby backyards. He killed a mouse, whose carcass he thoughtfully brought home to his octogenarian owner, Nancy. And while he was out, Coco mapped dozens of his neighbors’ Wi-Fi networks, identifying four routers that used an old, easily-broken form of encryption and another four that were left entirely unprotected.

Unbeknownst to Coco, he’d been fitted with a collar created by Nancy’s granddaughter’s husband, security researcher Gene Bransfield. And Bransfield had built into that collar a Spark Core chip loaded with his custom-coded firmware, a Wi-Fi card, a tiny GPS module and a battery—everything necessary to map all the networks in the neighborhood that would be vulnerable to any intruder or Wi-Fi mooch with, at most, some simple crypto-cracking tools.

How to Use Your Cat to Hack Your Neighbours’ Wifi – Andy Greenberg, Wired (8 August 2014)

I just prefer the title “How to Weaponise Your Pets”. That’s what Coco’s evil mastermind Bransfield has called his talk on the subject taking place this weekend at DefCon. I have no idea where DefCon is, I’ve little clue what it is, I suspect there’s a WarGames reference at play, but I just care about the cat.

“My intent was not to show people where to get free Wi-Fi. I put some technology on a cat and let it roam around because the idea amused me,” says Bransfield, who works for the security consultancy Tenacity. “But the result of this cat research was that there were a lot more open and WEP-encrypted hot spots out there than there should be in 2014.”

Learn more at Wired include a preposterously happy animated graphic of little Coco’s journey around the ‘hood.

Ex-WiFi engineer fixes your problems

Er, with wifi. Alf Watt, ex-Apple engineer, has been speaking specifically about wifi issues, he’s not left the company to become an agony aunt. Mind you, if you’ve ever hung out of a hotel window trying to get a signal, you’d take anything.

He spoke with The Mac Observer and really spoke: they’ve done a podcast interview that goes into a lot of detail. But the MO site also includes a breakout description of the most useful points, including screenshots for those of us who don’t spend a lot of time deep in Wifi dialog boxes.

Have a mug of tea and a read.

Remote control fertility

Naturally, it’s remote control fertility for women. There’s no word of men looking for an app to control their – anyway, it’s a combination of an implanted device and activated by the woman.

There’s a story for you right there. Wait a second, I’m getting ahead of myself. What’s been reported is this:

The hunt for a perfect contraceptive has gone on for millennia. A new candidate is now on the horizon: a wireless implant that can be turned on and off with a remote control and that is designed to last up to 16 years. If it passes safety and efficacy tests, the device would be more convenient for many women because, unlike existing contraceptive implants, it can be deactivated without a trip to the clinic and an outpatient procedure, and it would last nearly half their reproductive life.

Developed by MicroCHIPS of Lexington, Massachusetts, the device will begin pre-clinical testing next year in the U.S. The goal is to have it on the market by 2018.

The device measures 20 x 20 x 7 millimeters, and it is designed to be implanted under the skin of the buttocks, upper arm, or abdomen. It dispenses 30 micrograms a day of levonorgestrel, a hormone already used in several kinds of contraceptives. Sixteen years’ worth of the hormone fits in tiny reservoirs on a microchip 1.5 centimeters wide inside the device. MicroCHIPS invented a hermetic titanium and platinum seal on the reservoirs containing the levonorgestrel. Passing an electric current through the seal from an internal battery melts it temporarily, allowing a small dose of the hormone to diffuse out each day.

A startup has developed a contraceptive chip that could be deactivated and reactivated using a wireless remote – Gwen Kinkead, Technnology Review (4 July 2014)

This is being backed by Bill and Melinda Gates so my first thought was that at the moment of, well, um, you’d get something like this:

windows 95 was designed here

But now I can’t get the idea of that wireless code out of my head. What if you weren’t the only person to know it? What if it were in some way hackable?

Read more at Technology Review and hat tip to Time magazine for spotting it.

The world’s first wifi kettle now on sale in the UK

ikettleDon’t let me buy this.

For the past few months, I’ve mentioned this kettle in my Blank Screen workshops but have had to say that it’s only available in the States. Now it’s officially here in the UK but I’d like you first to wait until it’s actually stocked – Amazon UK says temporarily out and Firebox says coming 23 April – and second to just think about what a wifi kettle means.

Stumbled in the front door from work exhausted? Nervy half-time ad break during the World Cup final? Slaving away on a late night project and can’t waste a second? Whatever the urgent hot-drink scenario, a simple one-touch setup allows you to instantly control the iKettle from anywhere in the house with your smart-phone.

iKettle on Firebox.com

I work at home and wouldn’t know one end of a football from the other, but yeah, otherwise, that’s me. I am drawn to the idea of being able to tap a button on my iPhone and have this kettle go boil itself in my kitchen. And for it to then send a push notification back that it’s done.


The kettle is £99.99 UK, or will be, depending on whose release date you see first. That’s not a problem. Well, it’s not a convenience either, but if you were in the market for a kettle and were looking north of whatever’s on sale at Tesco, you could spend a lot more. Seriously more. Amazon lists some kettles for over £300 apiece. So the £100 iKettle with wifi isn’t a bargain but it looks like one next to these others.

That’s not the except.

The except is that I know. I know. I absolutely know that I would press that button without having thought to put water in.

So I reckon that would work out at about one hundred pounds per mug of tea.