Entries Tagged as 'Wireless'

How Does TSA Take to “Paperless Boarding Passes”?

Boarding pass
Image by Simon Aughton via Flickr

Interestingly enough, there’s this new fun little thing that the TSA is pushing which really shows that they’re actually with the times.   While most people still use the paper boarding passes, you can now have it sent to your phone.   What it does, is that it actually sends you an image of a QR code I believe, of which is then scanned at the TSA checkpoint.   They use one of the red bar code scanners so it doesn’t really get effected as much by the reflective screens on smart phones.

What’s neat about this technology isn’t just because it’s “green” since there’s no paper, but the fact that the government is finally getting on board the technology train WHILE it’s going.   Not like ten years behind.  Usually you don’t see things like that except in military and advanced research labs.   I find that absolutely fascinating.

While I had the opportunity to use it more recently, I was hesitant mainly because I didn’t want to hassle with it if there were airports that had screeners that were not trained to actually deal with the passes.  Even if the airlines are pushing it, it doesn’t necessarily mean there are untrained staff out there.  So I decided to observe and see for myself.

It happened that there was one lady in front of me at Newark that used this system.  It was actually very quick and easy and definitely put my mind at ease that perhaps this is the next thing I’ll adopt while I travel.  Nothing like getting rid of the abundance of boarding passes that one has to carry these days along with all of the advertisements and the weather and what not.  In all honesty, while it seemed like a pretty good idea, I usually am annoyed that they print all my boarding passes on separate pages with a bunch of junk on them.   Just print them all on one page!

I’m actually pretty happy that so far my observation of the paperless boarding pass has been a great experience.

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Android Market Comments Need Moderation

Android Market
Image via Wikipedia

Google needs to step up to the plate when it comes to moderating Android Market comments.  Overall, the ratings system is pretty typical.  If you like a product, you rate it high, if you dislike you rate it low.  There’s some trolls when it comes to ratings, but it’s actually not all that bad for the most part.  The good stuff still tends to float to the top.

But lately, there’s been a rash of really annoying 5-star comments that I mark as spam all the time and keep seeing everywhere.   Subscription services are going around and posting comments everywhere and basically saying how it’s this website has all of the apps for a monthly subscription and it’s cheaper, and all that.  Extremely annoying when you’re trying to read about whether or not an app works or not and what problems they might encounter.

Think of the commenting system as a user review board.   I mean, overall, the goal is to be like Amazon’s product reviews where people tend to use these days as a secondary source of “real people-real reviews” type of place outside of reading Consumer Reports.   Since Android Market doesn’t have a Consumer Reports, you’ll just have to settle for trial and error, and user reviews.  Unfortunately, on a mobile interface, spam type comments not only take up space, but it throws the review off.   Especially these types of subscription services.

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Blasting Zone FUD

I have to say that there’s some things that seem entirely like FUD because people watch too many movies. So there’s this sign that I saw while I was driving home and the more I thought about it, the more ridiculous it seemed.

Most people wouldn’t think twice about reading this sign and would just do as it said. But, think about it. Most of your 2-way radios are on the family band. This means that it’s a public channel. These channels are for use of all sorts of things (thus the word public). Private radio bands require licensing and is on a different spectrum. But regardless, you would imagine that anyone setting a wireless detonator on a public band is absolutely bonkers. I mean, there are signals at all times on those bands so that wouldn’t make any sense.

And the entire cell phone thing is silly too since the signal is on two levels. One is from the base station, and one is from your mobile. If you turn off your phone, that doesn’t mean the base station quits trying to provide coverage. So, if a cell phone signal would set off blasting, then wouldn’t you have to shield it from all cell phone signals? Including the base station? So if you use wireless detonators, you call the wireless companies to turn off their towers? What about emergency band vehicles? No more 911 calls?

Without more solid evidence that there is any reason to turn off a two-way radio or cell phone, this becomes very much like a movie based FUD action. Lovely.

Tips and Tricks: Hard Reset of your Motorola Droid

Unfortunately, this is something that sometimes needs to be done with a phone. Fortunately, outside of your applications, contact information can be synced from your Google account and such, so restoration isn’t as terrible as you may think.

For me, it was the official Twitter application that hosed my phone up. When you have a lot of contacts, my suggestion is that you do not sync your Twitter contact information. Since it doesn’t ask where to store the information, it stores it directly on the phone memory which will fill up and basically leave you with an always syncing phone.

To hard rest your Motorola Droid:

  1. Turn the Droid off.
  2. Open the keyboard.
  3. Hold the X key and hit the power button. Keep holding the X button down until a yellow triangle appears on the screen.
  4. Press the camera and volume up buttons at the same time to get to the menu.
  5. Use the directional pad to the right of the keyboard to select the Format option.

Once you format the phone, it’ll basically set it up like it was at the store. Fortunately, you don’t have to go through the entire process of letting the system know what your ESN is and what not, since that should already be in the system. The rest is just setting the phone back up to however you had it before.

Tips and Tricks: Booting Your Droid to Safe Mode

First off, I hope that you never have to read this, since if you are, that means that something crazy has happened to your Droid and I feel for you already.

Sometimes, there are applications out there that don’t have checks and balances that really should be done when looking at the Droid. Fortunately, there is a way to boot the device into safe mode:

  1. Turn off phone.
  2. Open the keyboard.
  3. Hold down the Menu and hit the power button. Continue to hold the menu button until splash screen.

If you do these steps, you should see it boot with “Safe Mode” in the lower left hand corner. Good luck!

Thoughts on Skype Mobile for Android

Image representing Skype as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

This is funny as hell. I mean seriously. Does this guy even understand how power works? Less trips to the charger? WOW. Okay… a little lesson on how telecom radios work folks. It’s a really easy concept actually. A base station is usually located somewhere between one to two miles away. Ideally. Sometimes farther, sometimes closer. But the amount of power it takes to generate a signal that far is a lot more power on the forward channel than any WiFi signal. Ever.

So buying into the whole … Verizon is the best 3G network so we’re making use of their network thing is total marketing mumbo jumbo. I would know, considering I’ve worked on the infrastructure. What’s funny is that someone at Verizon made this call on banning WiFi which I have no clue about because from a telecom business perspective it makes absolutely no sense. Probably a sales guy that didn’t do his bean counting correctly.

So if you have a Verizon smart phone, you have to pay for a line and a data package. You don’t have a choice in this matter. And more than likely you use it for way more things than Skype. Believe me, the last thing I consider use for my data package for is voip. So why would you ban voip? Because some brilliant guy somewhere thought that it would decrease sales in lines, without actually thinking through who actually uses Android phones.

Here’s food for thought. The point of Skype is voip, but RF spectrum is actually expensive to run. Why not allow people to do their voip on WiFi but still pay for their data packages? You’re basically allowing more spectrum available for both actual data and voice use (depending on how the channels are configured). It’s the most optimal use of your current network from a business perspective and network perspective. Again, something else I’d know since I spent over ten years optimizing network traffic and analyzing KPIs.

It seems that Skype couldn’t break their full client in to Verizon and they didn’t know the telecom lingo to actually sell it. What’s amusing is that it makes them look bad in throwing the Skype Lite out since it really doesn’t help with those of us that run SkypeIn numbers or allow us to conduct business the way Google Voice does. Oh right, Verizon isn’t afraid of Google Voice which makes connections over the voice lines? That’s more traffic taken up for no reason when it doesn’t have to be routed as such.

All in all, both of Skype and Verizon Wireless need to revisit how their technologies work and why one thing is superseded by another when they’re two different things. I get the whole Verizon wants to make money and are afraid that they would lose subs. But come on… are you serious? Releasing a product that half par is worse than not releasing one at all. It just makes both ends look terrible from a public relations perspective and becomes a marketing nightmare. In the end, you’d spend more money trying to fight the non-existent problem instead of just letting the thing through.

Right now? I can say that as a telecom veteran, I have to say that this application might as well have been left in beta. In fact, the beta was better since it didn’t disable the wifi. That’s a little sad. There’s nothing great about the final Android version and continues to win subpar remarks because of bad decision made on both ends.

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CauseWorld Helps Nonprofits Through Social Networking

Ran across a nice little mobile app called CauseWorld. Very cool, since the idea is that large corporations have to donate money towards causes help with philanthropic needs (and write it off on their corporate taxes) and this allows people to shift the money towards causes that they believe in.

It’s somewhat like Foursquare, which is why it’s fun since you basically have to go into stores along the way whenever you have your phone with you, and check in at the store. You only get 10 karma per store, and one check-in per day per store. The beauty of it is that for every 10 karma you collect, you can basically use that to donate towards certain types of good things in the world. Perhaps it’s providing books for learning, or clean water, or even planting a tree, but you get to decide where your karma goes.

Best of all? It costs nothing. Basically just a little fun while you’re out. And it helps allocate the corporate funds towards something you care about. It’s almost like you getting to say what you want to say as a shareholder of a company. And we all know that unless you’re a large stakes player in the stock, most shareholders don’t get to do anything with their little piece of the pie.

In my opinion, this has probably been one of the more fascinating apps that I’ve been able to get a hold of on my Droid. It comes on both Android and iPhone and I’m sure more mobile apps to come. Hopefully there will be a lot more badges, charities, and corporate sponsors in the future since this is just one of those experiments that allow everyone to help change the world a little bit at a time.

Tips and Tricks: Fixing Your Bank of America SafePass

If you do a lot of online banking and you happen to use Bank of America, you probably have SafePass activated.

Unfortunately for you, there isn’t a very published method on how to fix your SafePass and gain entry back into your online banking if you have recently switched cellular carriers but have kept the same number. If you’ve changed numbers completely, you’ll have to call customer service to deactivate your old number and sign up your new one. But with an existing number that has been ported from another carrier? Seems like you’re up a creek since the SafePass won’t send to the phone.

What you do is, you take the mobile, and text to: 73981. In the body of the text, just text “help” without the quotes and hit send.

Then you wait about 24 hours because their systems don’t update but once a day I suppose. In any case, if you come back and try your SafePass again, it seems to actually work. Now, there apparently has been this issue on and off with iPhones and the like, but with my Droid, that seemed to do the trick in changing out the carriers.

Let Me in Your iPhone

The GSM logo is used to identify compatible ha...
Image via Wikipedia

If you didn’t know already, the encryption for GSM’s antiquated algorithm has been cracked. All 64-bits of it. And guess what…. apparently most carriers haven’t upgraded to the 128-bit algorithm because… well, I’m not exactly sure. I suppose security by obscurity is probably the key reasoning behind this, but A5/1 which has been around since 1988 was replaced by the GSM Association in 2007 with A5/3 but most carriers haven’t bothered to upgrade.

It’s not anything spectacular since the 64bit keys were cracked through brute force, and with the computing power these days along with parallel computing, you can pretty much crack the smaller length algorithms through brute force easily. And this doesn’t allow you to listen in on the calls just yet, it just opens the doors to any of the communication that runs on those bands if the carriers haven’t changed the codes on you not to mention the legality of breaking those codes outside of academic research.

There are a couple ways around this problem. One is to upgrade to a larger key such as 128 bit (which is pretty standard considering many banks run SSL certs on 128 bit encryptions). Not the super-safe, but it does create a lot more combinations to guess through brute force. The other way is through the methodology similar to RADIUS with WPA for Wifi. Wifi keys are easily broken, but if you have a service that continuously rotates those keys and makes it a dynamic password, then any hacker is left with a time limit to break in. From a security standpoint, this becomes a more daunting task.

And as far as iPhones are concerned… oh… if you own one and didn’t know already…(as do most of the world’s mobile devices), they run on GSM carriers. But then again, so will Google’s Nexus One.

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Wazing My Way Around

If you have a smartphone, I urge you to check out Waze.

The Android client is a bit new and they’re still working on it, but this is one thing that can totally get you to learn the area you live. Or at least drive it. Waze is basically a social geolocation game where you collect points on the streets you drive, and help map the environment by “road munching” new roads. Basically, you think of it as a real-life Pac Man meets Wikipedia mapping. The more users there are, the better it is and what’s interesting is that you can report hazards, speed traps, police, and all sorts of other things.

While based on the economy, I’m not inclined to drive all over jeebus to road munch, but I have to admit that there are a lot of people that are out there that are doing it.

What’s even more interesting is that you can see the business model and where this could really be fruitful. Garmin or Tomtom anyone? This not only makes cartography a lot easier as far as mistakes go, but it also allows you to not have to wait for a company to come out with the next version of whatever software to actually get the right road name (nudge at Garmin for spelling Raleigh – “Raliegh” on the I-40 Eastbound). It’s like Wikipedia but for maps and the more people that use it, the more fun it is.

Not having touched the iPhone app, I’m curious as far as if it’s better and more user friendly than the one for Android. Overall, the map editor on the web, and Android clients are a little clunky, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed easily. It’s the thought process behind this that counts. And if Waze just happens to give out free things for random driving events like their Christmas event? Then you can entirely count on a lot more users playing this game. I mean, everyone loves free stuff.

Oh. And it does integrate with Foursquare, so you can check-in at your local coffee shop easily from the app itself without having to exit. Or Tweet your location, or what not. Facebook anyone? There’s just so much that can be done with this, that I’m excited just thinking about it. Now if only they could make the client a little less laggy…