Tag Archives: wi-fi

Fine, so still no wifi still on the train…

In May I wrote a blog post about internet access on the train. I talked about how in the past I had used various devices to connect to the internet while travelling on the train. A few weeks after writing the article I upgraded my Nexus One to Froyo 2.2 and now that is my main method of connecting my laptop or iPad to the internet while travelling with First Great Western. In the first article I did say:

One thing I have noticed though is that though my 3G connection from Bristol to London is pretty good, travelling on the Voyager trains from Bristol to Birmingham, the signal is really poor.

I initially thought this was just down to the route, but I have heard that the main issue is the construction of the train and the metallised windows. This basically blocks the 3G signal! So even with a Mifi, nexus one or a dongle it’s difficult to use 3G. One suggestion that I heard from John Popham was to keep the Mifi near the door area and that may mean a better signal.

I did wonder why CrossCountry Trains didn’t put in wifi as you find on the East Coast Main Line services and Virgin Trains Pendolino. Well it appears that providing wifi was part of their Franchise agreement with the Department of Transport. CrossCountry Trains was suppose to have wifi in place by November 11th 2009. They failed to meet this deadline and the revised deadline of the end of January, according to The Telegraph that was published in a recent article.

The service was supposed to be in place by November 11 last year. The company was given until the end of January to install the service, but this date was missed as well.

The response from CrossCountry was

CrossCountry suggested that the growing use of dongles, devices which link computers to the mobile phone network, meant that WiFi was no longer necessary.

Which when you consider the problems of metallised windows is a laughable excuse, more so when CrossCountry also say in that article,

A CrossCountry spokesman said the delay was due to technical difficulties especially on the Voyager trains where the signal needed for WiFi is weakened by the high metallic content in the windows.

Yes it does do that.

However the reason wifi works on other trains is that they put the wifi on the inside of the train and the internet connection on the outside of the train.

CrossCountry said they would provide wifi and so they should provide wifi.

They have now been fined twice and if by September 30th they still haven’t installed wifi then they will be fined again.

My question though is much more, why isn’t there wifi on First Great Western services from the West Country to London and why wasn’t it in their franchise agreement? I travel with First Great Western much more than I do CrossCountry and would really like it if they had wifi.

Wifi – Venetian Style

venicewifi

BBC reports on Venice’s new wifi network.

The Italian city of Venice has launched what is believed to be the most extensive, wireless internet system anywhere in Europe.

Ten thousand kilometres of cables have been laid, establishing wi-fi hotspots just about everywhere in the city.

So now when in Venice you will be able to use your laptop, UMPC, micro-laptop, wifi phone,  iPhone, even an iPod touch to connect to the internet over wifi.

Here in the UK we have Norwich however not much else seems to be happening with city wide wireless networks. Gloucester doesn’t have one, neither does Bristol; my two big local towns. Even finding free wifi is problematic with most wifi hotspots are charging, sometimes silly amounts of money.

If we are serious about personalisation of learning, mobile learning and enhancing e-learning, we need to allow our learners to be able to communicate, collaborate and reflect anywhere, anytime and at a pace to suit the learner. This more often then not, means that the learner needs to be connected. If they are using the VLE, Web 2.0 tools such as Twitter, blogs, e-portfolios, or whatever; all these tools generally need an internet connection.

3G which isn’t available on all devices: is too expensive for most, not reliable enough for all, patchy for some and leads to digital exclusion.

City wide wireless networks like in Venice and Norwich would allow learners to access learning when and where they wanted to.

Photo source.

Wireless security

When it comes to wireless security there are lots of myths out there.

Wireless security

Ars Technica has published a nice article on wireless security which covers many of the key issues and importantly debunks some of the myths out there as well.

The SSID (Service Set Identifier) is an identification code (typically a simple name) broadcast by a wireless router. If a wireless device detects multiple SSIDs from multiple access points (APs), it will typically ask the end-user which one it should connect to. Telling a router not to broadcast its SSID may prevent basic wireless access software from displaying the network in question as a connection option, but it does nothing to actually secure the network. Any time a user connects to a router, the SSID is broadcast in plaintext, regardless of whether or not encryption is enabled. SSID information can also be picked up by anyone listening to the network in passive mode.

Read more.

Photo source.

Nokia N810 – it's not a phone!

A week or so back I managed to get my hands on a Nokia N810 as part of our MoLeNET project, one of many mobile devices we have got to support the project. These devices are for two main reasons, firstly from a learner support perspective, if they have them, how do they work and how does our mobile content play on them? Secondly to evaluate them from a college perspective so that if and when we get more mobile devices for our learners we can go with a device we have used, checked and know works. We can also use that information to advise and recommend devices to learners.

So what do I think of the Nokia n810?

Nokia N810 - it's not a phone!

So far I have been quite impressed with the Nokia N810, it is a neat smart device, which works as you expect it to work.

Browsing is good, as are other internet applications. It either uses wi-fi or you use a Bluetooth connection to your phone and use your phone’s 3G data connection. Thing to remember is that it is not a phone!

I found the keyboard though small, much easier and better than any mobile phone keypad for typing in text and the predictive text entry means you can go quite fast.

Haven’t yet tried video on the device as in an actual video file, tried it with an online video, BBC’s iPlayer, and the Flash video playback was very poor, jerky and unwatchable. I am guessing that is a similar reason why Apple have not implemented Flash on the iPhone and the iPod touch – though I have also heard it was more down to PDF reading and implementation!

Battery life is good and much better than a lot of UMPCs out there, so it has that going for it.

The Register has a really detailed and good review of the Nokia n810 on their website.

Nokia’s approach for the N810 is pretty simple: phone screens are too small for decent web browsing, so surely a separate portable device that has a bigger screen and Wi-Fi connectivity is needed for serious portable web access.

Their verdict?

Taken at face value, Nokia’s N810 not a bad box of tricks. For surfing the web, email and as an internet communication device it is a handy little gadget, while the operating system is easy to use, feature rich and robust. The relative abundance of software is another plus. But that lack of a SIM slot does niggle just a bit.

I believe that the Nokia n810 is a great portable internet device for learning and I really like it.

I don’t believe it is suitable as a device to give to learners, for two main reasons, number one it is expensive for what it does, two, it is too “delicate” and “stylish” and I don’t think it is robust enough to be given out to students in the way that a PSP or even an iPod touch could be given out.