If this were a live FonBar, you would log in to the hotspot through the form above.
 

Fon Announces New Beta Tester’s Program

October 10, 2008

Those who complained before about Fon’s exclusive, invite-only Beta Testing programs will be happy with the new one. Or maybe not.

Anyone in France, Germany and Spain may join the Beta Tester’s program by purchasing a La Fonera 2.0 “Liberator” in the Fon Shop for €39.95 ($53.92) plus shipping. This new router is just like the 1-WAN 1-LAN La Fonera Plus, but also has an USB port in the back, and an additional LED on the front. Fon hopes you will contribute further to this project by developing support for additional devices, which they will perhaps certify and add to future firmware releases.

It is not clear what devices are currently supported, because if you read Martin Varsavsky’s blog carefully, he is saying that the USB port “could” support devices like USB hard drives and thumb drives, printers, scanners, and webcams. In fact, he admits that support for devices could be slow in coming, and that the use of a powered USB hub is reccommended. That’ll make quite a nest of cables when I winch my La Fonera 2 up on a pole outdoors!

The Fonosferatu “community” of developers has still not been organized, but Fon is certainly still hoping that Foneros will abandon such independant community projects as FreeWLAN and FrancoFon, and come together to work under Martin’s warm, guiding hand. Would you do it for a T-shirt? Martin has provided his wish-list of applications for Foneratus to work on, including the bittorrent application he mentioned when La Fonera 2 was announced back in EARLY JUNE, 2007.

Some things I like about the USB port is the possibility of using it as part of a home security system, when the router is mounted outside with a compatible webcam attached. I have written in the past about how metro wifi projects might like to purchase such routers which can have instrument packages added. This could include traffic monitoring cameras, weather and temperature monitoring, and even gunshot location using microphones and triangulation.

With wifi meshing enabled, city utilities could be measured remotely using devices attached directly to the meters on each home and business. The bandwidth may not be optimal for gaming, but any meter could still be directly interrogated within a few seconds. Energy-saving programs could use this network to shut off unneeded devices and adjust thermostats.

One goal that I think is important to work toward is in developing an USB-over-Ethernet driver, and abandoning development of multiple onboard drivers and services for LF2′s USB port. There are numerous open-source projects like USB Server, which let a PC mount an remote USB port over Ethernet, as though it were physically attached, though that port is elsewhere in the world. This is likely the best way to provide the most compatability and flexibility, while saving LF2′s precious resources for the wifi.

I am absolutely against using technology to further build out the police state many governments are hungry for, but you can see how devices like this can also be owned and used by the citizens for good purposes. For anyone that is interested, tomorrow is an international day of protest against surveillance; “Freedom Not Fear“. Please click the link to find activities in your area.

UPDATE: Only 1000 of these developer’s edition of La Fonera 2 will be sold, but if you’re one of the dozen or so busy Foneros who create an application which Fon actually likes, you could be reimbursed the cost of your router! Have Fon with that.

UPDATE: 10/23 Fon will now accept orders for the remaining La Fonera 2s from any country except Canada.


Join the Beta Testers Team!

June 7, 2007

Apply quickly to be a member of Fon’s Beta Testers Program. Email Fon at beta@fon.com by June 10, 2007. If you are chosen, you’ll have “access” to Fon’s new products and be able to test them before they are available to the public!

  • Candidates must be 18+ years old,
  • read and write passable English,
  • have been an active, registered Fonero for 6+ months,
  • have installed and maintaned a La Fonera for at least 4 months,
  • and live in a select list of countries (including the USA).

Whisher is also seeking Beta Testers for the new Whisher 2.0 client, and they are upping the ante with prizes! They have two Linksys WRT300N Wireless-N routers with matching WUSB300 Wireless-N USB adapters. One prize will be given to a randomly-selected participant, and the another given to the most active tester. Email Whisher at beta@whisher.com. Please include a brief description of your experience and equipment to help them evaluate your application.

  • Candidates must be reasonably familiar with wifi technology and networking concepts,
  • have at least one laptop, PC or Mac that is wireless equipped,
  • have at least one wifi router and the ability to manage it, and
  • have the time to test Whisher’s new client and report dutifully in Whisher’s online bugtracker.

If chosen, you’ll also have access to a private area of the Whisher Forums.


Incompatability Reports

March 26, 2007

This page is now divided into three sections: HARDWARE, for wired or wireless equipment that does not work with Fon hardware,SOFTWARE, for computer programs that do not work properly through a connection that involves Fon, and NETWORK, for sites that are not properly routed, including DNS server errors, when using a Fon hotspot.

If you have any problems like these, but don’t see your hardware, software, or web site listed here, please email information about it toincompatible@elfonblog.cjb.net, and I will maintain the list here.

HARDWARE

Most wifi adapters appear to be quite compatible with the La Fonera AP. When scanning for networks, they will find both the “FON_AP” and “MyPlace” SSID names, and be able to connect to either of them without trouble.

Some people are reporting that they have problems finding, connecting to, and remaining connected to the La Fonera AP. The symptoms are remarkably similar, and patterns are emerging that suggest certain Manufacturers and Models are especially vulnerable.

I’ve been compiling a list of hardware reported to display these symptoms. The first number is the number of reports i’ve observed. The end of each line may have several screen names of people making these reports, which I keep so that I don’t duplicate a report. If you feel I have listed you inaccurately, please let me know.

Reported Incompatible Hardware:

# of Reports =-=-= Model =-=-= Reported by

1 Acer InviLink 802.11b/g [shrikey]
1 AirPort Extreme [Lynoure]
1 ASUS WL-138G (PCI card) (Linux drivers) [lucamanu]
1 D-Link WDA-2320 [ice.skillz]
1 D-Link DWL-510
1 D-link DWL-650+
1 D-Link DWL-G520+ (PCI card) [SkyForce]
1 Intel PRO/Wireless 2100b [obsidian]
3 Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG (802.11b/g) card [gyongyosim][Lynoure][1sy8]
1 Intel PRO/Wireless 2915a/b/g [Lynoure]
5 Intel PRO 3945 ABG (in Dell Inspiron E1505) [robr][fedcas][jrribeiro]
1 Lan-Express IEEE 802.11 PCI Adapter, on HP 2175CA [dave1945]
1 Linksys WUSB11 V2.5 Instant Wireless USB Network Adapter

1 Nokia E61 (phone)
1 SIS 163U [fedcas]
1 WL-388 mini-USB device (Gemtek?)
1 TC300 aka D910, L10, T-ONE (GSM/WiFi handset) WAP style browser incompatible with Fon public hotspot login page. [siiix]
1 A-Link RR44 (adsl modem/router)

Apparently Compatible Hardware:

1 Atheros AR5005G
1 Nokia N80 Phone
1 Proxim Orinoco Gold ABG PCMCIA [austintx]
1 Sprint 6700 PDA Phone [robert]

Suspected Source of Incompatabilities:

The La Fonera AP (with Atheros chipset) is able to generate two SSIDs by using a little trick: it broadcasts one SSID/BSSID pair, signals that it is going to sleep, then “wakes up” and broadcasts the other SSID/BSSID pair…. rinse, repeat.

-> Signal Wake -> Broadcast MyPlace -> Signal Sleep -> Signal Wake -> Broadcast FON_AP -> Signal Sleep ->

What we are guessing is that *some* wifi adapters will insist on following the AP into sleep mode themselves, for an indeterminate time period; or perhaps they immediately start scanning for *new* connections and miss the original one “waking up”…. in either case, they miss enough future SSID beacons that they think the AP has shut off for good, and the association is broken.

Intel and Atheros both reportedly agree that there is a problem, but they’re blaming each other:

http://support.intel.com/support/wireless/wlan/sb/cs-006205.htm
http://www.intel.com/support/wireless/wlan/sb/cs-010623.htm

Solutions:

One solution might be to simply disable the private SSID of the La Fonera AP (it is the “virtual” one, after all). Since the La Fonera has no LAN port, the “private network” is of extremely limited use anyway. Unfortunately, this is not an option Fon allows us. UPDATE: This is now possible using FreeWLAN‘s easy to install plugin, and other hacks.

You might have better luck if you update your wifi adapter drivers, and disable all “power save” and “sleep” features to your wifi adapter. If you have visited a lot of hotspots and they show in your Windows Wifi manager history, delete all of them except the La Fonera’s SSIDs.

SOFTWARE

This section will be expanded in the future, but there have been reports that certain VPN and PPTP applications do not work over the public SSID of a Fon hotspot.

Problem: Whenever Fon Wifi Connection Manager is launched, it closes by itself a couple of seconds later without perfoming login.
Discussion: Fon Wifi Connection Manager installs ok, and “FON WiFi” icon appears in application menu. The application is not observed running in the background. Powercycling the phone does not resolve issue. Reistalling the application does not resolve issue. Installing the app in phone memory or on SD card fails identially. Phone is Nokia E61, running Symbian operating system OS 9.1, Series 60, 3rd edition 3.0633.09.04. with 40MB free in phone memory and 1GB free on SD card.
Solution: Unresolved as of Apr 25, 2007

NETWORK

When connected to the public or private SSIDs of a Fon hotspot, any wired resources of the upstream LAN (PCs, networked printers) are unavailble. Fon has not designed their firewall so that a Fonero may use his new Fon router as a proper Access Point (AP) and thereby network with his preexisting computers and devices.

Public Network SSID “FON_AP” or “FON_FREE_INTERNET”:
Computers connected to the public network will only see an Internet connection, and not each other. These computers cannot network together. Computers at external Internet addresses should be available, but Fon imposes their own private DNS server upon the public network, and it has been demonstrated that it sometimes has the wrong IP for a number of popular domains (more on this below).

Private Network SSID “MyPlace” or custom:
Computers connected to the private network can see each other and network together. If your network printer is wireless and is compatible with the encryption and cipher of the private network, then you may be able to use it. If you have an existing LAN with other computers that are connected by cables, they will not be available. Essentially, a Fon hotspot is neither a proper AP nor router, since it’s internal routing capability is artificially limited, and it offers little more than an Internet-only AP to the outside world. Future models in the La Fonera line, which are simply rebranded Accton mini-routers, may have LAN and USB ports added on for specific purposes. Let us hope this solves the problem in the future.

Chained Routers:
Many people, who have existing LANs and routers, choose to chain the Fon AP through their existing wired router, or older class of wireless router. The Fon router/AP usually can obtain an Internet connection this way, but occasionally does not. It may be necessary to set the Fon AP on a fixed IP. Also, when chained through some routers, this may actually allow inadvertent access to the wired LAN by wireless clients on either or both the public and private networks. This is obviously a security problem, though there are rarely complaints from those who are happy to be able to use Microsoft Networking with their wired PCs and printers again. We suggest you test your network thougherally, from both public and private networks.

DNS Issues

Wireless clients using the public network (FON_AP SSID) are assigned Fon’s own private DNS servers via DHCP, instead of the DNS servers provided by the ISP supplying that Internet connection. This is a problem, because Fon’s own DNS servers are slower, are sometimes unavailable (resulting in Page Not Found errors), and do not always supply the correct IP address for a valid domain (blah.com) or subdomain (mail.blah.com). It is thought that Fon imposes their own DNS servers because they wish to collect marketing data, build their own “walled garden” where Fon-only services are available only from a Fon hotspot, or otherwise provide URL substitution for their own benefeit.

For instance, they could interfere with access to their competitor’s websites. They could reroute requests for “google.com” or “my.google.com” and send them to “fon.google.com” to rack up scores with Google and increase their importance. It is likely that they will also use their DNS servers to make “login.fon.com” a different destination when requested by an Alien’s browser while connected to a Fon hotspot, than it would be from any non-Fon Internet connection. It would route to an error message from outside a Fon hotspot. This latter possibility is an effort at improving security, but easily circumvented by pasting the valid “login.fon.com” IP along with the domain name right in a PC’s “hosts” file. Fon is deaf to complaints about poor performance from their servers, and it seems we may have to cope with this in other ways unless they relent.

I should have begun composing this list earlier, but will make an effort to catch up here now. The following is a list of Internet addresses, domains and/or subdomains, which do not work when using Fon’s DNS servers:

Web_Address___________Date_Reported

http://www.orkut.com

       April 24, 2007

 

    pop.gmail.com April 24, 2007