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Entries in Wi-Fi (18)


iPod Touch: My New PDA: 1 Year Later

iPodTouch.jpgI've had my iPod Touch (16GB 1st generation) for a little over a year now and love it! Because I have WiFI at the house, at work and at most places I use my touch, the device works well for me.

Besides carrying my music, I really appreciate having access to the web via Safari, my email, Twitter, and RSS feeds, and many other native iPhone/iPod Touch apps available at the App Store.

Will an iPod Touch Fit Your Life?

It's important to know a few things about the iPod Touch, to see if it will work into your work/lifestyle:

WiFi Access Required — The iPod Touch depends on WiFi for network access, so you need to think about where you'll use the device. Do you have a WiFi network at home, work and most of the places you plan on using the Touch? If so, the Touch could work well for you (it does for me).

Web Surfing — One of the killer features of the iPod touch is mobile Safari, providing access to nearly any website on the net. I've even been able to do online banking securely in a pinch, using Safari. You should note that Flash is not supported in mobile Safari, though most sites I access, flash isn't even a critical consideration.

Outlook/Exchange Support — The latest 2.x version of OS on the Touch includes Microsoft Exchange support for calendars and email. If you're an Outlook user, the iPod Touch can be a nice tool for keeping track of your inbox and calendar.

RSS Reading — I'm a NetNewsWire user and love the native application for the iPod touch. It grabs my RSS feed when I launch it with WiFi access, allowing me to read my feeds wherever I am, whether I have WiFi access or not.

Twitter — If you use Twitter, the Touch is a great device for following and posting to your Twitter stream. You can do this with mobile Safari, or native applications like Twitterriffic, TwitterFon, Twinkle, Tweetsville and more in the Apple App Store.

Video On The Go — The iPod touch has a very nice wide screen for carrying videos along wherever you are. I have a young son, and it's invaluable to have a few cartoons and films on hand for him to watch on long car rides.

Google Maps — The Google Maps application for the Touch is another useful tool. Because I often don't have WiFi access on the road, I'll normally load up my map information ahead of time, so I can use the cached version of the map as I travel.

Music Streaming — I enjoy the various native apps for streaming music to the Touch, including Pandora, and AOL Radio. With a WiFi connection, I have access to a wide variety of music. Be aware that this does drain the Touch's battery more quickly.

Those are just a few of the uses I've discovered for my iPod Touch. I'm sure for each person, there are uses and applications that suit them best.

Limitations & Downsides

I need to share the few limitations and downsides that an iPod Touch has, to offer a fair and balanced view of the device for good decision-making.

No Speaker (1st Generation) — This is only an issue on the 1st generation Touch devices. While I thought it would be a bigger deal, it hasn't been for me. In the car I have a tape player adapter to get sound, at work I have an iPod music system, I've picked up a mini speaker system or carry a pair of headphones. From time to time though, I have wished for a speaker to watch a video or play a tune.

No Hard Controls (1st Generation) — This is mostly a 1st generation issue as well, as the 2nd generation Touch devices have volume control buttons. Mainly this has been an issue for me in the car, where I wish for hard controls to jump between songs. What I've found is, I've adapted to this lack of hard controls by setting up my audio ahead of my drives/walks so changing isn't so necessary.

Dependent on WiFi — Having WiFI access to the net is wonderful, but when you don't have it, you notice. Generally I'm in WiFi range, but there have been a few occasions where I wished for 3G network access. Having constant network access might be one reason to go to an iPhone if that's critical for your use pattern.

Custom Moleskine Planner & iPod touch


You can check out articles I've written on why I chose the iPod touch as my new PDA, a Two-Week Update on the iPod touch, and reviews of several iPod Touch cases from Piel Frama and OtterBox for more information.

If you're in the market for a thin, useful web/mail/music/video tool, check out the 1st generation 16GB iPod Touch.


Related Links

Apple iPod touch 8 GB (1st Generation)

Apple iPod touch 16 GB (1st Generation)

Apple iPod touch 32 GB (1st Generation)

Apple iPod touch 8 GB (2nd Generation)

Apple iPod touch 16 GB (2nd Generation)

Apple iPod touch 32 GB (2nd Generation)

Forget the iPhone — The iPod Touch is Good Enough (LifeHacker)

iPhone/iPod Touch Application List

iPod Touch Tricks

Apple iPod Touch (Official Page)


The Ubiquity of WiFi

WiFiThis past weekend in Green Bay, Wisconsin, I became certain that WiFi is moving toward ubiquity in the US. Let me share my experiences and the reasons I see this coming.

My family and I were away from home Friday night and Saturday, attending a "Day Out with Thomas the Tank Engine" in Green Bay. We'd reserved a hotel room months prior so we could get to the event early and surprise our son Nathan with a day full hangin' with of his favorite train, Thomas.

In an effort to travel light, I opted to leave the Powerbook at home and instead took along the Dana Wireless, a Palm OS device with a built-in full size keyboard and a WiFi (802.11b) transceiver card. I wasn't sure what kind of WiFi reception I might find, but that was part of the adventure (at least for me).

dana_w.jpgWe arrived and checked into the Excel Inn at "hotel row" near the Green Bay airport. This hotel surprised me. Why was I surprised? Well, because our circa 1978 hotel room, complete with late 70s decor, a non-functioning toilet, and uncomfortable bed — had free WiFi!

I was able to surf the web, check email and log into an IRC channel with the Dana, which was odd while sitting in such an unassuming, average room. Our toilet didn't work (though I managed to fix it later) but I had free WiFi. There was something odd, shocking and wonderful about that realization.

So we slept the night, woke, dressed and packed the van, then walked over to the Denny's restaurant just a few yards from our hotel. While enjoying our breakfast, I overheard a middle-aged man and his wife in the booth ahead of us, casually mentioning WiFi in their conversation. I'd have never paid any attention to their chatter, except for the frequent mentions of "WiFi" floating to my ears from their booth.

It was then I felt sure that WiFi would eventually become ubiquitous in the US.

Just the weekend before I signed up for T-Mobile WiFi service at a Starbucks in Madison, and used free WiFi at the Dunn Bros Coffee shop up the street from Starbucks — both of which were not out of place for a hip town like Madison. You'd expect WiFi all over in a college town, right?

But to receive free WiFi at a low-end hotel in Green Bay (where the toilet didn't work), and to hear a middle-aged couple casually discussing WiFi at breakfast — that seemed a little more unusual and encouraging. When something starts to pop up in average places, that to me is a huge signal it's moving toward the mainstream.

I'm not sure where the trend will lead; already many establishments are enabling WiFi as a value-added service. I can find WiFi at Panera Bread, Caribou Coffee, Starbucks, Stone Creek Coffee and also at McDonalds, Excel Inn and the local public library. It seems the pressure will continue to make WiFi more common and expected. Eventually I suspect it'll become so common as to be a free, rather than paid service.

As I continue to experience WiFi appearing in regular daily life, I'll note it and provide a follow-up report here on the blog. If you have unusual experiences with WiFi in regular, everyday circumstances or places, I'd love to read about them in the comments.

By the way, Nathan loved hangin' with Thomas. :-)


JiWire for WiFi Info

Came across this handy website for WiFi users two weeks ago: JiWire. You can research all of the registered WiFi hotspots in your area or an area you might be going to. Enter the location in the search tool and you'll get a list — each listing has details on cost and a map of the location. There's even an AvantGo channel and WAP channel.

Hopefully this site will come in handy for WiFi travelers out there. :-)


Monday WiFi Tidbits

Pere Marquette parkFriday at lunch, I decided to meet my good friend (and unix admin) Jon for lunch, to see if we could access the City of Milwaukee's WiFi network in Pere Marquette park (mentioned in earlier posts: Milwaukee: Brats, Beer, Harleys and Wi-Fi Hotspots and Weekend Wi-Fi Tidbits) with a Palm Tungsten C.

Using NetChaser (a utility that scans for WiFi networks), we were successful finding the network itself. The network called 'MILWIFI' had a strong signal, accessible on the bridge just East of the park. We found a picnic table and enjoyed our lunches while trying to log into the WiFi access point. Using Handspring's Blazer, I had no success; I kept getting blank pages. When I switched back to the Tungsten C's built-in Web application the login page for the network came right up. Apparently this welcome page relied on JavaScript, which Blazer doesn't do.

However, after repeated attempts to click the 'accept' button, I kept getting a bad password error on the page. Not quite sure what the deal was, but I suspect the Tungsten C's web browser must have just not supported the right specs for the page. I'd guess the login page was designed with laptops, not handhelds in mind. At least not the Tungsten C. So, while we were successful in proving that the network was active, we couldn't make any use of it. Bummer!

My second tidbit comes from Lorenz Szabo, who forwarded a link to the eye-opening article Dispelling the Myth of Wireless Security by Rob Flickenger (author of the soon to be released Wireless Hacks). Seems that Rob was able to hack into an AirPort Extreme base station within 1.5 hours using a few WiFi utilities -- yes, that includes faking MAC addressing and cracking WEP encryption. Kinda wakes you up to how insecure stock WiFi equipment is. The upshot: don't rely on built in security, but rather, rely on application level security (PGP Mail encryption, Secure FTP, etc.) to protect sensitive information transfers.

Lastly, I should comment on all of the open WiFi networks I've encountered while driving or walking around with the Tungsten C and NetChaser. Craig Froehle has already commented on this at GearBits, listing some of the more interesting access point network names. The most common WiFi network name I've seen is 'linksys' followed closely by 'default'.

While the Rob Flickenger tidbit (above) clearly shows WiFi networks can be hacked relatively easily by high-level users, using MAC address filtering or WEP encryption will at least keep out casual the casual passer-by with a WiFi equipped device. That is unless you don't mind sharing your cable or DSL connection with the world. :-)


Tungsten C Blogging Test

Inspired by Matt, who posted a blog entry Friday from his spankin' new Tungsten C, I've decided to give it a try.