Very interesting conversation podcast about mesh networking, the obstacles and the ways to circumvent them. Mentions the Open Garden project, a mesh networking utility for Android smartphones and for Windows and Mac laptops (support for iOS is coming). It’s a free app that turns your device into a mobile hot spot. No matter how you’re connected to the Net (Wi-Fi or cellular), it makes that connection shareable (over Bluetooth) to other Open Garden users. Likewise, if you’re running the product but don’t have a connection to the Net, and you’re near a user who does, this service seamlessly gets you online. The conversation describes the military’s application of mesh networking. I think we need the decentralization of connectivity that mesh networking offers. As during the “Arab spring”, governments can shut down the internet in its territory. Mesh networking will get round that. The sophistication of smartphones and other gadgets and the RF power available to consumers nowadays means that a decentralized network that can route around censorship will soon be a reality.
Okay okay, I admit the title of this post is a touch… kooky. But now I have your attention, here’s the real news about e-cigarettes. The British Office of National Statistics (ONS) have revealed that vaping is not a gateway to tobacco use. The vast majority of e-cig users are smokers or ex-smokers.
A recent study by Columbia University claimed that e-cigs could act as a “gateway” not only to tobacco smoking but also to the use of illegal drugs! Nonsense, of course. The recent ONS report reveals that only 0.14% of non-smokers use e-cigarettes compared to 11.8% of smokers and 4.8% of ex-smokers in Great Britain. It says “e-cigarettes are used almost exclusively by smokers and ex-smokers.”
This follows the change in UK TV advertising rules that now allows ads to show people actually vaping. Anti-smoking bodies have claimed that e-cig use will “normalise” smoking. What a stupid argument. If anything “normalises” smoking, it is actual cigarette smoking, which by the way is not illegal no matter how loudly the anti-smokers howl. The only thing that vaping “normalises” is vaping. Which is not harmful, as the ONS report indicates. Just like the YouGov survey commissioned by the anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) which found that “electronic cigarette use amongst never smokers
remains negligible. Less than 1 per cent of never smokers have ever tried electronic cigarettes
and virtually none continue to use them. Among former smokers, 11.8 per cent have tried
electronic cigarettes but only 4.7 per cent use them on a regular basis.”
It seems that e-cigs are not harmful, medically or socially. If a hitherto unknown danger is discovered, of course some kind of action will be taken by our legislation-happy government. But as things stand, everyone needs to lay off the vapers. All this crap about “normalisation of smoking” really pisses me off: when I asked Sainsburys why they have banned vaping in their stores, they said it was this “normalisation” business. Shoppers vaping on an e-cig pose no danger to other shoppers, vaping does not create an odour nor spread carcinogens. Shops and offices ban vaping simply because they don’t like the way it looks. This is the kind of prejudice we should be stamping out. Discrimination based on superficialities has no place in a civilised society.
The internet is a fun and useful tool. But the infrastructure that makes the network possible is mostly owned by the big telecoms companies. At the end of the day, those companies can censor information, slow down traffic thgat they don’t like (notably peer-to-peer file-sharing) and it generally ass-hattery.
So what’s the best solution to this overly-centralized, over-business-oriented situation? MESH NETWORKING!
Instead of relying on third-party phone lines and the censorship/traffic shaping that can occur normally, mesh networking operates seeing every “node” (networked computer) via wi-fi technology. Next to no reason to use the multi-national corporations that try to brain-wash us. The nodes (computers) need to have wifi, and of course nodes have to be within spitting distance from each other. It seems a little weak now, relying on peers to keep the net working. But peer-to-peer does work, just ask anyone who’s involved in torrents. And the “infrastructure owners” can go screw themselves – cos we don’t need ‘em!
I’m going to write a basic guide to mesh networking (not too in depth I’m afraid, I’m not geeky enough to get my head round it). But here we go anyway…
You can see from the image above that we don’t all need to use our pcs as nodes. Motorola is developing a node that can be attached to a street light, resulting in internet connectivity even when you’re out and about… and I hope to the heavens that it is free (or at least very very cheap.
According to HowStuffWorks.com:
The biggest advantage of wireless mesh networks — as opposed to wired or fixed wireless networks — is that they are truly wireless. Most traditional “wireless” access points still need to be wired to the Internet to broadcast their signal. For large wireless networks, Ethernet cables need to be buried in ceilings and walls and throughout public areas.
In a wireless mesh network, only one node needs to be physically wired to a network connection like a DSL Internet modem. That one wired node then shares its Internet connection wirelessly with all other nodes in its vicinity. Those nodes then share the connection wirelessly with the nodes closest to them. The more nodes, the further the connection spreads, creating a wireless “cloud of connectivity” that can serve a small office or a city of millions.
Wireless mesh networks advantages include:
Using fewer wires means it costs less to set up a network, particularly for large areas of coverage.
The more nodes you install, the bigger and faster your wireless network becomes.
They rely on the same WiFi standards (802.11a, b and g) already in place for most wireless networks.
They are convenient where Ethernet wall connections are lacking — for instance, in outdoor concert venues, warehouses or transportation settings.
They are useful for Non-Line-of-Sight (NLoS) network configurations where wireless signals are intermittently blocked. For example, in an amusement park a Ferris wheel occasionally blocks the signal from a wireless access point. If there are dozens or hundreds of other nodes around, the mesh network will adjust to find a clear signal.
Mesh networks are “self configuring;” the network automatically incorporates a new node into the existing structure without needing any adjustments by a network administrator.
Mesh networks are “self healing,” since the network automatically finds the fastest and most reliable paths to send data, even if nodes are blocked or lose their signal.
Wireless mesh configurations allow local networks to run faster, because local packets don’t have to travel back to a central server.
Wireless mesh nodes are easy to install and uninstall, making the network extremely adaptable and expandable as more or less coverage is needed.
Cheaper, wider-reaching, automatic adjustment to find the best clearest signal, faster, easy to install and uninstall, making networking very flexible. Also, less chance of being spied on by NSA/GCHQ, who have made it very clear they can, and do, spy on just about every electronic net link made. If we’re not in the NSA/GCHQ loop, how can they surveil us? Well, they can still spy on us. But it is more difficult, especially if those security-minded bods around us employ encryption too.
COMING SOON: A more indepth look at mesh networking. This blog post is just an appetizer, or palate cleanser. Look out for the techy stuff, soon to come, which will hopefully answer any questions you may have. Watch this space!!!
Ukip are getting more and more powerful. An Opinium/Observer poll published today (26 Oct) shows 31% would vote for Ukip if they thought Ukip could win in their constituency! That is some result. We could all get kippered, if that 31% actually come to believe that Ukip are a credible outfit.
I’m not going to rehash a Ukip discussion. All I’ll say on the subject is that Ukip are dangerous regardless of Farage’s friendly smile and “common sense” image. Don’t vote for them. FFS!
Mobile phones outnumber land-lines massively. In the UK, there are 82.7m mobile subscriptions in the UK; compare that to 24.4m home landlines and a total of 33.1m fixed landlines (including landlines used for broadband connections). In the UK, 15% of people live in mobile-only households. And that’s the UK, a developed world nation where substantial land-line infrastructure already exists. Think about developing world countries where low rural population concentration and large distances make mobile networks a necessity. An awful lot of business is being carried out on these mobile networks: both private and commercial, on phones or online. You’d think all this communication would be protected by law, right? Duh! wrong answer. According to The Guardian:
Three of the UK’s four big mobile phone networks have made customers’ call records available at the click of a mouse to police forces through automated systems, a Guardian investigation has revealed.
EE, Vodafone and Three operate automated systems that hand over customer data “like a cash machine”,as one phone company employee described it.
Of the 4 big mobile networks, only O2 manually reviews Ripa requests (Ripa is the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, which governs who can access systems like the phone networks). EE (the UK’s largest network, consisting of Orange and T-Mobile), Vodafone, and 3, all use systems that largely bypass any need for human intervention, basically meaning that access to these sensitive records is automated. With no manual oversight, mistakes or loopholes in the automated systems will not be detected, and can be misused deliberately.
Privacy advocates are also concerned that the staff within phone companies who deal with Ripa and other requests are often in effect paid by the Home Office – a fact confirmed by several networks – and so may, in turn, be less willing to challenge use of surveillance powers.
According to the Guardian article:
Several mobile phone networks confirmed the bulk of their queries were handled without human intervention. “We do have an automated system,” said a spokesman for EE, the UK’s largest network, which also operates Orange and T-Mobile. “[T]he vast majority of Ripa requests are handled through the automated system.” The spokesman added the system was subject to oversight, with monthly reports being sent to the law enforcement agency requesting the data, and annual reports going to the interception commissioner and the Home Office.
A spokesman for Vodafone said the company processed requests in a similar way. “The overwhelming majority of the Ripa notices we receive are processed automatically in accordance with the strict framework set out by Ripa and underpinned by the code of practice,” he said. “Even with a manual process, we cannot look behind the demand to determine whether it is properly authorised.”
A spokesman for Three, which is also understood to use a largely automated system, said the company was simply complying with legal requirements. “We take both our legal obligations and customer privacy seriously,” he said. “Three works with the government and does no more or less than is required or allowed under the established legal framework.
Only O2 said it manually reviews all of its Ripa requests. “We have a request management system with which the law enforcement agencies can make their requests to us,” said the O2 spokeswoman. “All O2 responses are validated by the disclosure team to ensure that each request is lawful and the data provided is commensurate with the request.”
Mike Harris, director of the Don’t Spy On Us campaign, said the automated systems posed a serious threat to UK freedom of expression. “How do we know that the police through new Home Office systems aren’t making automated requests that reveal journalist’s sources or even the private contacts of politicians?” he said.
“Edward Snowden showed that both the NSA and GCHQ had backdoor access to our private information stored on servers. Now potentially the police have access too, when will Parliament stand up and protect our fundamental civil liberties?”
So much information goes over mobile networks nowadays. Not just phone calls and text messages – there’s also the high volume of data transfer over mobile broadband systems. All this information is available to “investigators” who can interrogate the computer systems directly, with no need to go through a middle-man.
If you use a trustworthy VPN service, and encryption, you may be able to keep the data traffic somewhat more private. But the very action of encrypting your traffic attracts investigators’ attention. And voice and text message data does not even have that limited protection.
A solution, so far as computer and smart phone data is concerned, is available, at least in theory. If we all opted for mobile mesh networking, we could cut out the mobile networks entirely. And it wouldn’t be hard to include traditional speech (and sms) in such a system. And the software is already out there – for example Open Garden. These enmeshed systems are probably the future of mobile connectivity. The only question is: when will mobile users take to it by default? Most people don’t think the government snooping into our communications is a major problem (The “if you’ve done nothing wrong you have nothing to worry about” min-set). Will this apathy win out? I hope not. When I use a 3G modem or tethered smartphone I generally use a VPN. But I haven’t fully checked out the various solutions available – or their pitfalls. And I’m more aware of these issues than average. There’s a good chance we’re trying to tackle a problem that’s already out of control. Do yourself – andf everyone else – a favour. Do a web search for “mesh networks” and the other subjects I’ve mentioned here. Did you know that when you send an email, the message is only as secure as what you might write on a postcard? And things can only get worse.