Monthly Archives: May 2011

Types of Wireless Connections

What was I thinking? I’ve covered a big bunch of basic computer subjects in the last couple of years and I left this one out. Well, not anymore.

Wireless Connections

There are several different types of wireless connectivity:

1. Wi-Fi (stands for Wireless Fidelity): Either installed internally in a computer or plugged through a USB port, devices that use Wi-Fi allow you to connect your computer, through radio frequency (wirelessly) and a relatively short range, to a device that in turn connects to the Internet. Typical scenario could be at home, where you have a device that connects to a phone line or TV cable connection (from which it achieves Internet connectivity), and then it broadcasts the signal to all rooms at home, wirelessly. Or maybe an Internet Cafe, where customers bring their laptops and connect to the local wireless network. Bottom line, for your Wi-Fi-equipped computer to be able to have Internet access, a relatively close-by device needs to be in the vicinity, transmitting a wireless signal and connected itself to the Internet through a wire.

2. Bluetooth: A proprietary radio frequency technology similar to Wi-Fi, it allows you to connect (“pair”) two devices — such as your computer and a mouse, or your cell phone and a headset — so they can interact. Typically, the range is shorter than with Wi-Fi, i.e., roughly within a room.

3. Mobile broadband: Generally speaking, these are devices that can achieve Internet access using your cell phone network, so they are not dependent on a nearby device transmitting a signal they can receive. We’re now talking about cell towers that provide connectivity in the same way that they allow you to make a phone call from your cell phone. These can be subdivided into two types:

a) Mobile broadband cards: These are devices that attach to your computer, whether internally or through a USB port, and provide such mobile broadband connectivity to one computer. Like your cell phone, they require a subscription to a service that will allow such connectivity.

b) Mobile hotspots: These are devices that use mobile broadband technology to receive an Internet connection signal from a long distance, and then use Wi-Fi technology to broadcast it to several computers simultaneously. Again, a subscription to a service plan is required to use it.

Note: Nowadays, some cell phones can serve as 3a), 3b), or both 3a) and 3b) above, and even have, at the same time, Wi-Fi receiving capabilities as in 1 above.

Cloud Computing – a Bittersweet Virtual Reality

Two of my favorites inadvertent oxymora, they sum up and define where computing seems to be headed for. What is cloud computing? And what, if anything, does it have to do with the average Joe as a computer user? Read on.

The Cloud, as covered before, is of course referring to the Internet. Therefore, cloud computing refers to the model in which data is kept and software is run outside the physical location where the user and his computer are. Facilitated by the inter-connectivity provided by the Internet, this model is possible today and in fact, to some degree many users are already, well, using it. Examples of it are: Web-based email where the user logs on to a website to read and write emails, cloud-based malware detection like the Panda Security model where large servers are processing and classifying malware samples and supplying that information to the user’s computer, online backup services, just to name a few.

It seems like migration to cloud computing is going to continue at an increasingly faster rate. Google’s whole model for businesses is heavily dependent on it. Windows cloud based services (Azure), although a little late compared to Google,  is being developed, etc. The question is, is this beneficial or detrimental?

Covering in detail all the relevant data needed to make an adjudication would escape the scope of this brief article. However, 3 main elements are the main concern of those that tend to oppose the model: Privacy, security, availability (control).

Privacy and security concerns become obvious at a glance, when one considers the current day news on computer breaches such as hotmail servers being hacked and passwords stolen, the recent Epsilon security breach disaster, on and on.

When it comes to availability and control, the fundamental problem is, of course, that the individual or even a single company is not in control of the Internet, while factors like a cyber-security bill would give a president the power to flip an internet kill switch that would render cloud computing systems useless. Plus the remote computers the cloud computing system is based on are not necessarily under the normal user’s control either.

In summary, while the concept of the model is not detrimental per se, the above factors, if not handled, will probably corrupt the model and make it more a liability than an asset. In an utopic world, with no security or availability/control concerns, implementation of the model would probably be considered evolutionary.