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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.