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Protestant Churches in Germany to Offer Free Wi-Fi — Come For the Internet, Stay For the Spiritual Guidance

There's a surprising lack of free wi-fi in Germany, especially considering how developed the country is. That's because of a German law that makes network providers responsible for any illegal activity. Sure, this protects intellectual property and cuts down on piracy...but it also makes lots of places afraid to have free wi-fi. You know who's not afraid to have free wi-fi? Protestant churches. And hey, if you decide you wanna stick around for a mass or something, that's totally cool.

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MIT Has Created an Incredibly Accurate Indoor Positioning System Using WiFi

What could go wrong?

Wi-Fi has more uses than just sending your tweets and reaction GIFs out to the Internet. It's also useful for position tracking systems, but most of the ones you're familiar with don't hold up so well when it comes to pinpoint accuracy. That could change with a technology from MIT that uses Wi-Fi signals to detect the exact position of the devices sending them.

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Cancel Christmas: Telecom Company Warns Holiday Lights May be Screwing With Your Internet

Heart three times larger, Wifi three times slower.

UK company Ofcom is warning customers that their home and office Internet connections could be compromised by holiday cheer.

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A Few Londoners Accidentally Signed Away Their First-Born Children for Free WiFi

Did they get the kids back if they guessed that the password was "Rumpelstiltskin"?

Digital security firm F-Secure gave a big F-you to EULAs with a WiFi hotspot publicity stunt that allowed for free WiFi access as long as users agreed to its terms and conditions, which included giving away the rights to their first-born children. A few users agreed, possibly proving they didn't read the agreement, they're not that interested in kids, or they had some really important tweets to send.

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The FCC Wants Free Nationwide WiFi, Shockingly ISPs Do Not Want That

The Federal Communications Commission is said to be considering a plan that would buy back some frequencies from television stations and use those frequencies to give the country free and ubiquitous "super-WiFi." That sounds amazing. Obviously, the companies providing non-free, non-ubiquitous "ordinary-WiFi" are pretty set against the whole thing. Thankfully, companies like Google and Microsoft want to see this happen. It's just a matter of which giant companies bully the FCC into bending to their will.

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Olympic Wi-Fi Catchers Are Out to Get You

LOCOG's ban on 3G Wi-Fi hotspots at the London Olympics may seem ridiculous to some, but the equipment used to enforce it will seem ridiculous to everyone else. Laugh as much as you want, that Wi-Fi detector will sniff out your hotspots and shut them down before you can say "United Kingdom Office of Communications."

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SWAT Team Chucks Flashbangs at House With Open Wi-Fi Network, Startles Teenager

The local police of Evansville, Indiana flipped when threats against their family were posted on a Topix forum. They flipped so hard, they sent a SWAT team with a search warrant to the location corresponding to the IP address of the offending forum-poster. Employing the "break glass and throw flashbangs first, ask questions later" strategy, the team tossed two flashbangs into the house before entering to find a startled 18-year-old girl watching the Food Network, and an unsecured Wi-Fi network.

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Racist, Anti-Semitic Wi-Fi Network Name Sparks Police Investigation

It's not surprising that ridiculous and obscenely named Wi-Fi networks exist. In college, I could pick up such delightfully named networks as "assclown" and "boners firing into space." However, it may surprise you to learn that a Wi-Fi network at the Teaneck, New Jersey Richard Rodda Community Center was so obscene that it set off a police investigation.

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Patent Troll Claims To Hold Patent For Wi-Fi, Sues People Left and Right

Alleged patent troll Innovatio IP Ventures, LLC has decided that one of its (presumably many) patent portfolios is for Wi-Fi in general. As such, it has begun to sue companies left and right as patent trolls are wont to do. So far, the suits have largely been against restaurants, coffee shops, and department stores including Caribou CoffeeCosí and Panera Bread. In an attempt to freshen up the patent trolling process, it seems that Innovatio is asking for comparatively tiny settlements of between $2000 and $5000 to make the option of going to court seem extra expensive.

At this point you're probably thinking "wait a minute, but I use Wi-Fi." Rest assured, Innovatio has no intentions of going after your wallet you...yet. In an interview, Matthew McAndrews, lead litigator for Innovatio lawsuits said "Innovatio has made a strategic and business judgment at this stage that it doesn’t intend to pursue [lawsuits on the basis of] residential use of WiFi." He also made a point of mentioning that "This is not a seat-of-the-pants, fly-by-night shakedown." The lawyer doth protest too much, methinks.

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Google to Add Opt-Out for Wi-Fi Location Database

Google is planning to allow users worldwide to opt-out from their Wi-Fi hotspot location database later this fall. The announcement, made on the search giant's European public policy blog, is surely a response to legal troubles the company has encountered after it was revealed that the process of mapping these hotspots also captured information about individual Wi-Fi devices like computers and smartphones. Google has also run into legal trouble when the company admitted in 2010 that it had inadvertently intercepted fragments of data being sent over the networks it was mapping. The information in this database allows Google to estimate the geographic position of a user based on the known positions of Wi-Fi hotspots. Early iterations of the iPhone determined location in the exact same manner, using a database from SkyHook. To create their own database, Google's streetview cars were equipped with Wi-Fi sniffing sensors that mapped the location of every wireless device they came across, as well as some they didn't intend.

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OS X Lion Packs a Nifty, Hidden Wi-Fi Monitoring Tool

Despite all its weird foibles (and oh man, there are foibles) of Lion, Apple's latest iteration of its operating system for computers, it packs some pretty useful little tools under the hood that you probably didn't even know were there. One such tool is Wi-Fi Diagnostics, which gives you a real-time look at your Wi-Fi signal. To get to the app, navigate through your file tree thusly: /System/Library/CoreServices. (Alternatively, in the Finder you can hit command+shift+g and just type in /System/Library/CoreServices.) Once there, scroll down through the list of files to the Wi-Fi Diagnostics app and double click it. The app lets you select from a number of services; to see what's going down on your network, just click the Monitor Preferences button and hit Continue. Easy. The information the app spits out is pretty technical, but if you're wondering whether the Internet is down or if your Wi-Fi connection is wonky, it could give you the answer.

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Google May Have Gathered Personal Location Data With Street View Cars

CNet is reporting that while attempting to make a complete list of Wi-Fi access points, Google has also recorded (and in some cases, released) a glut of personal location information with their Street View mapping cars. This comes after previous reports supporting the claim, and a hefty 100,000 euro ($143,000) fine from the French Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL) for gathering unique identifiers for Wi-Fi-enabled hardware. Google's stated goal was, in addition to mapping the roads of the world, to provide a complete list of Wi-Fi access points. This data could be used for a variety of purposes, from helping weary travelers find easy-to-use Internet connections to aiding completely lost travelers with psuedo-GPS. In an interesting twist, this was the same goal Apple purported to during their own user location data scandal. The difference is that Google seems to have recorded unique identifiers of computers, phones, and other Wi-Fi enabled devices along with Wi-Fi hotspots. Before you bust out the torches, pitchforks, wetsuits, and tridents and march off to Mountain View, CA., let's put this in perspective.

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Afghans Make DIY Wi-Fi With Trash

Where there's a will, there's a way. Residents of Jalalabad, Afghanistan, supported by the National Science Foundation, have managed to rig up some gigantic Wi-Fi transmitters using only what they could finding hanging around. The FabFi network, as it's called, is staggeringly efficient considering it's transmitters are constructed of boards, bottles, plastic tubs, the occasional wire and some off the shelf electronics. To put things in perspective, your average wireless router will operate at about 22Mbps real throughput for an area of a few feet on a good day. The longest connection in the FabFi network is a whopping 2.41 miles with a real throughput of 11.5 Mbps, an amazing feat considering the operative distance is several orders of magnitude larger. Surprisingly enough, these transmitter nodes are also relatively inexpensive. Fast Company says that one of these nodes, which can serve an entire community, can be made for approximately $60 dollars worth of everyday materials. Needless to say (I'll say it anyway) this technology could have a revolutionary effect on overall access to broadband internet. While this naturally has a practical application in war-torn or third world countries, for good or for evil, it could also be put to use in rural portions of the U.S. or Canada, where conventional broadband is prohibitive. Maybe someday, everyone will finally have a connection suitable for playing Team Fortress 2.

(Insteading via Shareable)

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Wi-Fi Picture Frame Steals Your Photos

Autuin from the Free Geek Vancouver blog recently decided to do a write up of a project he has apparently had sitting around for a few years. This curious device, a digital picture frame, has an interesting little feature that separates it from its contemporaries. It uses your pictures. No, not  ones you upload to it or anything, just ones it finds hanging around once it sniffs out your insecure Wi-Fi.

While this is sort of an invasion of privacy, Autuin suggests that it's more of a reminder that your privacy might not be as private as you think. Using insecure Wi-Fi is risky and this is intended to write that on the walls, so to speak. He's now looking for a daring, Wi-Fi enabled coffee shop where he can hang it up on the wall. But not before insuring it, since it probably won't last too long before attracting some negative, and maybe violent, attention. You can read about the creation process over on Autuin's blog.

(Free Geek Vancouver via How-To Geek)

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First “Super WiFi” User a Grandmother in Houston

Rice University has issued a statement saying that Leticia Aguirre, a 48-year old Houston grandmother, is the nation's first user of "Super WiFi" technology. The technology has been in the works for some time and promises to better access to users in the future. Aguirre was already receiving Internet service through a community WiFi network that covered three miles, but apparently never received adequate access since she lived on the edge fo the network. This made her the perfect candidate for Super WiFi, since the technology is meant to provide more coverage than traditional WiFi.

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Geekolinks: 12/4

Long-Range, Blazing Fast “Super WiFi” May Be a Reality, If FCC Gets Its Way

For as long as Wi-Fi has been around, its proponents have wanted to make it better, faster, and longer-range, but that process has been complicated by the physical realities of the radio standard: Current U.S. regulations limit its transmission to the 2.4 GHz band. (Gizmodo explains this further in a nifty article on why so many wireless gadgets are clustered at 2.4 GHz.) But after September 23rd, that may change: On that date, the FCC plans to vote on a set of rules allowing for a "super Wi-Fi" that's transmitted over the unused airwaves between broadcast television channels and which could potentially "travel several miles and deliver Internet speeds ranging from 15 to 20 megabits per second – as fast as a cable modem."

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New Jersey Transit Plans to Add WiFi

In a move that will draw cheers from long-suffering New Jersey commuters, New Jersey Transit spokeswoman Penny Bassett-Hackett announced its plan to add wireless broadband to all 165 train stations and 12 rail lines.

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U.S. Government to Double Available Wireless Spectrum

Over the next 10 years, the White House said it will be nearly doubling the federal and commercial wireless spectrum in order to keep up with the explosive demand for smartphone and other wireless Internet device communications. President Barack Obama is expected to sign a memorandum today committing the federal government to auction off 500MHz of federal and commercial spectrum. National Economic Council director Lawrence H. Summers, who is to give a speech outlining the policy later today at Washington think tank New America Foundation, said: "This initiative will catalyze private sector investment, contribute to economic growth and help to create hundreds of thousands of jobs."

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You Can Preorder an iPad Now, If You Want To

iPad preorders just went live at Apple's online store at 8:30am EST (5:30am PST). Both the Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi+3G models are available for preorder; we know that the release date for Wi-Fi iPads is April 3rd, but the release date for 3G iPads has not yet been confirmed beyond "late April."

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