Why are there 100 wireless networks around yet I can’t use any of them? Why are all these Wi-Fi networks using some strange authentication, which basically doesn’t let me to tell them, “Hey, I’m the guy with the laptop sipping coffee. All I want to do is sort my to-do list and read 3 blog articles. Could you PLEASE let me use your Wi-Fi?”
And the answer for now is, “NO! Go away!”
If you happen to sit in the coffee house and ask the waiter for the password, the waiter will give it to you with no questions asked. It might be painted with a bold font on store’s door or printed on the bill. So it’s obviously not there for security.
It all really boils down to getting some form of authentication token to make sure that, when I do something inappropriate online, I can be identified.
But also it makes no sense to have the air filled with all these interfering waves and our kids’ brains heating up.
All these Wi-Fi signals should talk to each other and say: “I’m bringing 10Mbit/s to the mix. My guys with the highest priority are John, Jane, and Mike. If they’re around and start watching YouTube videos, I’ll prioritize them. Otherwise, feel free to use it.
There are examples of this greedy policy in technology when things basically work. If you’ve worked with networking devices, you’ll probably know they try to make things work (and fast) by using all available resources. Solutions such as the Mac OSX Time Machine are similar. Unless you tell it otherwise, Time Machine will start using all available disk storage so that you can roll back in time to be able to see what the structure of your disk looked like 6 months ago. Great, isn’t it? Why aren’t connections to the Internet like that too? Wi-Fi policies should be the same - unless you tell it otherwise, your computer should identify you in a universal way, notify all wireless devices around you, and you’re fine, and they should let you use their bandwidth.
Don’t get me wrong - it’s a hard problem to solve from an engineering perspective, and by no means in this post am I going to address all possible problems and possible solutions. But even though this article is written by an engineer, it’s written from the user’s point of view.
From the user’s point of view, I wish more things were like Time Machine.
The innovations are coming from companies like Comcast. Xfinity network is almost like that, with the difference being that it tries to let Comcast customers, regardless of where they are, use Comcast Wi-Fi networks provided by other people, as long as it’s a Comcast customer who’s connecting. It’s a good step but solved in the wrong way. On my wireless router I have blocked Xfinity network, since I don’t really have a way to tell who’s using my Wi-Fi and where. Was it a trusted neighbor or a hacker trying to steal Pentagon secrets and make it look like I’m the guilty one?