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

Does Fon Charge UK VAT to Americans?

February 9, 2013

Well, Fon’s 7th birthday was on the 6th of February (counting from their official launch date in 2006), and to my surprise, they’re still in business! Still selling 3rd rate, re-badged, proprietary hardware to fools who hoped to make some wifi money. These poor fools have *purchased* routers which they now must use to provide free service to all of Fon’s e-partners! That’s why anyone partners with Fon; free advertising for a sketchy hardware vendor, free wifi for their customers.

The POI downloads have been promised to “be right back” for two years now. Understandably, since the POI was an excellent vector to track the growing distance between reality and Fon’s official hotspot and membership stats. The original boards.fon.com was removed and replaced with the sanitized forums.fon.com. I popped in there to get up to date on the POI issue. All the names are different, but the new board is full of the same frustration and complaint as the old one. The forum’s a hole to waste people’s efforts, folks! I didn’t find out who the moderator was or who the current pro-Fon troll-who-could-not-be-banned was.

I’ve decided to dip into the old history bag and resurrect a post I’d earlier discarded. This is an email exchange between myself and Fon “customer care”. Always beware when they replace the word “service” with “care”.

It had been my observation that, like the UK region, Foneros in the USA were only getting around one third of the money from sales at their hotspots, and nowhere near 50%. Fon swears they split the profit 50/50. Now, in the UK there is the Value Added Tax to deal with. This doesn’t apply to the USA, so why weren’t we getting a larger percentage? Worse yet, Fon hotspots in the USA only charged $3, which is considerably less than €3. Fon didn’t itemize deductions, so I thought it would be a simple matter of asking them directly. Hold on to your seats, because what follows is a fast ride into a brick wall.

Click to expand: Read the rest of this entry »

For the Fon of it

April 17, 2011

Hello folks! I bet you’re surprised to see this post come up in your RSS readers. I never thought i’d write in this blog again, and this will probably really will be the final one. I had a couple hundred people following me via Google Reader back in the heyday. I was going to post a traditional “Fon Forgets it’s 5th Birthday” post back in February, but when the day came, I just said “meh”. ;)

I’ve long since unsubscribed to any Fon-related RSS feeds or Google Alerts. Four years of Fon’s vars-assinine clowning was enough for me, ending in an email exchange with Martin Varsavsky himself, and Alex Puregger. Martin seemed to feel that he was entitled to nothing but respect and praise, denying that Fon concealed poor or fraudulent statistics, and bounced me over to Alex to answer any questions I had. Alex had an off-the-cuff excuse for refusing every one of my questions, citing “confidentiality agreements”, including confirming information i’d gotten from Fon e-partner public websites. They bounced me back and forth, getting ever-more indignant and arrogant. Then Martin posted yachting photos in his Spanish blog, and wrote about how he didn’t care what anyone thought of him since he had his money and other pleasures anyway. Perhaps i’ll post the emails later.

I’ve noticed that after more than a year, there is still a steady amount of traffic coming in to read about my old projects, so I decided to fix the missing pictures and correct broken links so you have the benefit of those diagrams and illustrations i’d created.

I see boards.fon.com has been taken down, and replaced with a nice big clean white sock drawer called forums.fon.com. I still have the images I posted on the original discussion board, and I may make them available in case they don’t appear here:
boards.fon.com at Google Cache or
boards.fon.com at Archive.org

Update: Here is the index of those images. Many are thrown in one big pile, but generally, the images used in this blog are in /b and the images used in boards.fon.com are in /f: elfonblog.fondoo.net/images

It’s true that many links in the sidebar are dead, but i’m going to leave them as-is in remembrance of all of the other Foneros who had once donated resources to the “Movimento Fon”. Interestingly, links to alternate official Fon firmwares like FonBasic, FonAdvanced, and FonSpot are still available for download from Fon’s servers. It’s also still possible to download POI files for Fon’s hotspot locations directly.

Speaking of Fon hotspots, I was amused to see that Fon’s Map still shows hotspots that have been dead for many years, including mine here in Austin, TX and those “thrown” in the lake west of Alcobendas, ES where Fon headquarters is. The twist is that every hotspot icon now shows as the “Router On” color! They haven’t even edited the Map’s Legend to obscure the “live vs dead” indicators. That’s called FRAUD, you fonies! However, if you click “see only FON Spots active in the last hour”, they all disappear, everywhere, including AT FON HQ itself. It’s probably just something broken as usual.

In closing, Fon gets two big thumbs-down from The Fonz and me. What a tragic waste of time, money and enthusiasm!

And The Fonz doesnt like it either

Fon Terminates Support for Fonera Routers, Fon Community Furious

February 13, 2010

Martin’s cheerful post yesterday, about yet another router model, didn’t go over well with the Community of worldwide Foneros. Comments were open, so everyone jumped on poor Martin’s case about the previous router models which still aren’t stable, particularly the latest one, which has been abandoned for several months with major issues still pending.

Martin’s blog post is an absolute HOOT to read. The angry, cheated Fonero Community descended upon him, demanding action, and his response was to literally cry and attempt to make Foneros feel guilty that his skeleton staff is overworked. Sorry big boy, the burden of guilt is entirely upon you there!

Martin clearly regards EVERY critic as “a troll” and proposes that Fon is somehow entitled to more compliments. I think it’s clear that he has an idyllic image that he refuses to let go of, and he will not listen to reason and see Fon for what it has become to those of us who actually comprise the Fon Network. This reminds me of the attitude of Fon’s Board moderators, who actually warn people to stop complaining until some more compliments pile up to offset them. Martin lives in such a bubble! He thinks he can manage Fon’s image by simple decree. But he’s just painting posies over his own windows.

Random things we learned about Fon this time:

  • Fon seems to be abandoning the “Fonera” moniker, as the new model is just called “SIMPL. This could be at the request of the still-unnamed telco Fon E-Partner at hand.
  • Fon is still just a spunky lil ole start-up that deserves more time, another chance, please be understanding, etc.
  • The Fon Network has “over a million” “daily users”. Interesting twist of English. He also claims “over a million” “Fon hotspots” but notice he doesn’t distinguish hotspots from users from members. In fact, as usual, he blurs them together whenever possible. In truth, Fon has only a few tens of thousand active Foneros (members/volunteers/contributors), about as many native hotspots (La Foneras), even fewer Aliens (guests/paying customers), and the rest is just partner hotspots being added simultaneously to both “member” and “customer” columns. *See update below.
  • Martin claims 23k “Fonera 2″ have been sold. The way he phrases it, he avoids distinguishing between 2g and 2n models, probably to conceal how few 2n routers were sold.
  • Fon employs less than 40 people now, from a high of around 130. They’re about to double the number of native routers they’ve ever sold, but no word if Fon will hire any more employees on… even while Spain suffers particularly high unemployment.
  • Martin admits that Fon has ceased supporting every previous router model, because their new 400k girlfriend needs all of their attention. And won’t Foneros just understand that and stop bothering them?
  • Despite Fon Boards and Martin Blogs being choked with complaints, Martin exclaims that he’s simply *sure* that most people are delighted with their Foneras, and they’re so happy we simply don’t hear from them!
  • Martin feels that La Fonera 2.0g works “pretty well” and since they also briefly offered discounts to upgrade, that this is good enough “support” for previous router models.
  • Over and over, Martin scolds commenters for their “disrespect” of Fon customer service staff. Except that noone’s complaining about the other staffmembers. This is Martin’s personal blog, after all, and they’re writing DIRECTLY TO HIM. It’s his leadership most of us have problems with. That’s what he’ll never accept.

IMHO, Fon is really stepping backwards to “simpler” routers because Fon has discovered the hard way that they don’t have the brand recognition to unload more expensive gadgets like La Fonera 2.0n. People are more likely to buy a cheapo router from an unknown company (like Fon), than a fancy expensive router. Problem is, this new one is still about $20 too much. Fon has also realized that it can’t construct nor maintain complex firmware, but they’re not going to admit that either.

Fon SIMPL’s sticker model number is 2305E. I expect it’s a re-badge of some other brand, as always. Perhaps in a few months, we’ll find manufacturer’s firmware to slap on this puppy. Check out Steven’s gallery of external photos here.

Anyone going to this “Mobile World Congress” can find more information about the Con, as well as some incorrect information about Fon here. Despite what it says there, Fon didn’t start the wifi revolution, Fon didn’t start with the Fonera wifi router, and Fon didn’t sell La Fonera when it launched in 2006. La Fonera 2.0n is not the most innovative; it’s a poor, faulty copy of routers many others have been selling for a couple of years, Fon is not the largest wifi community, but it contributes slightly to larger “partners” which make a considerable aggregate network. The numbers given about “members” and “hotspots” are blatent lies. Also, Fon forgot to mention one of their partners, McAfee, by which Fon is Safe!

UPDATE: In addition to Martin’s silly comments, see his silly new post in response to the complaints: Fonera 2.0n Quality Survey

*UPDATE2 to bullet point 3 above: According to FrancoFON’s database of the Northern Hemisphere on Feb 17 2010, there are a total of 691,000 active Fon hotspots including partners BT(364k), Neuf(82k) and Livedoor(176k) and 68,000 active La Fonera routers. They find 141,000 inactive La Foneras. A bit of quick research adds Fon partners ZON in Portugal – 100k circa 2/2010, Comstar in Russia – 2,000 circa 12/2009 and E-Plus in Germany for up to 25k circa 6/2009. That leaves 200k hotspots missing, unless we count Fon’s inactive routers, leaving us only 40k short. I know of no way to find out which partner hotspots are also inactive, but it becomes clear that Martin’s “over a million” statement is broad exaggeration. Fon’s contribution comes in at 5th (of 7) place (or 3rd if you unfairly count dead hotspots).

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Consider that Martin stated on Feb 3, 2010 that “It took Fon almost four years to sell half a million WiFi routers known as Foneras.” Since all live, plus dead Foneras only total 209k, this means that 291k Foneras were allegedly sold, but were never registered to Fon!

This picture gets far grimmer if you add “half a million sold” to an additional “15 million worth” of routers which Fon gave away. Fon sold La Fonera v1 routers for as little as $1, but in my mind, Martin would cleverly count that as “sold” and not free.** Only v1 routers were given away. Martin claimed that v1 was sold at practically cost, so at regular price of $29, that means an additional 500k routers were given away, an oddly convenient number. So if Fon has indeed *distributed* a full million routers now, only 209k were ever registered (21%, or 1-in-5) and only 68k remain live (or 3-in-10 of every router registered), which is about 7%, or 1-in-14 of all Foneras ever distributed!

(Click image for full-sized popup)

**It’s also possible that Martin is adding the same numbers into two columns again. He might count the “discounted” routers as both fully “sold”, and also a “fraction” of a free router by attributing part of that $15M to offset the amount of the discount. Warranty replacements probably also get relabeled as “given away” too; they additionally count as increments to Fon’s hotspot network (one dead router + one replacement = two purportedly available hotspots). Frankly, i’m weary of peeking down all the possible rabbit-holes. In this article i’m pretending that Martin’s statements are legitimate. If he’s outsmarted himself with statistical sleight of hand, and made Fon look bad, that’s his fault.

UPDATE3: Martin’s still at it. In his Spanish-only blog now, he whines about how English people are rude, and expresses that he thinks he’s entitled to praise for his “incredible work”, never mind the results. Again, he suggests that his poor staff’s feelings are hurt by any critical feedback (I wonder if this means Iurgi has been threatening to quit? Oh boy!), blind to the fact that the comments were clearly directed just at him. He again unambiguously admits that support for La Fonera 2.0g is terminated. That model was sold as beta for 6 months starting in Oct 2008, sold as “public ready” in April 2009, and the last firmware for it was issued Oct/Nov 2009. This suggests that Martin considers his company’s obligation finished after only about a year.

UPDATE4: A week later, Engadget finally posts their benign and obligatory article about SIMPL. Please visit there and ADD YOUR COMMENTS! Also, visit the online petition to Fon here.

In the event Martin’s blog posts get removed or censored, please check back here for my snapshots.

Administering La Fonera 1.0 Without Wifi

April 4, 2007

=-=-= 2ND DRAFT =-=-=

Q: I have a La Fonera 1.0, and I am unable to connect to the private “MyPlace” network. I need to access the onboard administration because the setting I need to change is not in Fon’s remote administration “User Zone”! Can I connect to La Fonera another way?

A: Yes, you can also reach the onboard administration pages through a direct cable connection. Many people need to access their La Fonera this way due to incompatability with the default encryption, or an encryption setting they have changed it to, or they do not have wifi gear but ordered a wifi AP anyway. Usually, the onboard admin pages are reached by connecting with the “MyPlace” SSID, and then browsing to

Note: You will still need a WiFi device to register your hotspot. You will need to borrow a wifi laptop for this, if you do not own one yourself.

1) Connect  an Ethernet cable, like the one included with the La Fonera, between the Ethernet jack of a PC and the Internet (WAN) jack in back of the La Fonera.

2) Configure the PC for static IP and subnet (netmask) You may need to disable wifi and reboot your PC.

3) Open your browser and you should be redirected to the onboard admin page. If it does not appear, type into the address bar of your browser and then press Enter or click Go.

4) When you first see the onboard admin page, you will not be required to log in. Selecting further pages will require that you do so. The username will be “admin”. If you have changed your La Fonera’s password, use that password now, otherwise, the password will also be “admin”.

You will have some controls that are duplicated in the remote administration “User Zone”, some which appear only here, and others will not be present except in the UZ. You do not need to log out when you are done. Simply reassemble the cables as they were before, and change your PC back to “Aquire an IP automatically”.

If you need to adjust your private network encryption, we reccommend changing “WPA/WPA2″ to “WPA” and change “AES” to “TKIP”. Remember to click the “Submit” button to save your changes. WEP is also available, but remember that this can now be cracked in a minute. Avoid using it if you have other choices.

Mexico City Needs WiFi!

April 3, 2007

The Associated Press reports today that Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard has signed a deal with a noted, 3-letter Spanish speaking WiFi company to create a network connecting schools and government offices and shared with citywide surveillance cameras.

Which company is this? Read the rest of this entry »

Sprint Announces WiMax Rollout Cities

March 27, 2007

And Verizon announces a speed upgrade to their FiOS broadband service.

It is with great joy that I learn Austin, TX will be one of the first cities served by Sprint 4G WiMax service! Costing $55/mo, this will provide 2-4Mbps speeds, and could become the broadband of choice wherever cablemodem is not available, or only inferior DSL can be provided. Service will be available in Chicago, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, Providence, Washington DC, Austin, Dallas, Denver, Fort Worth, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, and Seattle by April, 2008.


While Verizon still won’t be bringing FiOS to Austin, TX any time soon, they’ve announced a speed upgrade of 2.4Gbps downstream and 1.2Gbps upstream, (to be shared among groups of 32-64 users)! No word on any price hike, but the upgrade will occur first in nearby Lewisville, Texas early in the second quarter of this year, followed by Kirklyn, Pennsylvania next summer. This may not mean the end of cablemodem service, but it just might encourage them to give current customers yet another “free upgrade” to stay competative!



Whisher updates Linux Client

March 23, 2007

As an intrim solution to the problem where Linux will expose wireless encryption keys to the root account, Whisher has released a replacement version of the Linux client. Folks who use Linux on their computers, and who wish to use a Whisher hotspot, will need to be a buddy of, or private owner of the hotspot. In other words, if you use Linux, you will not be able to use just any Whisher hotspot you stumble across, you’ll need to have elevated privledges with the person who hosts that wifi AP. Mac and Windows clients will continue to use open Whisher hotspots.



Macintosh Whishers should download the new Mac Client, released March 5th:


WiF Podcast #1

February 24, 2007

Mike – Dan – Austin

Dan Berte of WirelessIsFun blog and guest AustinTX of El Fon Blog discuss WiF, Fon, Whisher, Hamachi and chitchat about the current world of shared wifi.

Run time 28:03, 25.7MB MP3

I’m afraid I sound totally retarded, but it was great fun. Definitely good for a laugh. ;) Dan will be interviewing prominent online figures about once a week, and may have a very special surprise for us in episode #2.

The Human Side of Fon

February 9, 2007

Here’s a very unusual video made by some Fon staffers in Madrid to celebrate Fon’s first birthday. It is in Spanish, with very, very tiny English subtitles.


Update: the video’s gone now, but to summarize, it basically showed some fon staff acting hysterical, leaping about and doing things that defy explanation. And they pushed a shopping cart full of Linksys routers down a staircase.

Fon is One Year Old!

February 6, 2007

It’s been a year so far. Much has happened, and there have been breathtaking highs and lows. Fon is still hanging in there, and by Martin V’s accounts, growing rapidly. No stats available on that, but we’ll take his word for it.

The year started out with Fon welcoming everyone to join in and express themselves. The “Revolutionary” Movement image has faded dramatically, and Fon has been following a bewildering course and not answering their emails. Fon still holds my interest for the time being. As unpredictable as they are, anything can happen.

A number of other wifi-sharing and related companies have started up during the same year, and it gives much pause for thought. My first thought is usually about how something can benefeit Fon by solving existing problems. Fon seems to feel like developing their own measures, when existing ones can be bought off the shelf.

I believe there will be a point we reach, after which someone will take the best that several semi-hopefuls have to offer. This could build something truely impressive, which will seem obvious by hindsight.