September 2005: From the Editor - Wireless on Your Own Terms

Your wireless network might need a security overhaul, but that beats the alternative.

I booted up my new Cingular wireless phone, and the default item on the main menu is “Media Mall”. How nice—they want to sell me $1.99 “ring tones” enough to make that the number one item on the menu. And even though the phone is a much better computer than my first Linux box was, the selection of apps I can install, and networks I can connect to, is locked in by Cingular.

On the other hand, when I booted up my Linux box, I got LILILILILILILILI...oh wait, let me fix that. Much better. A standard Web browser, able to connect to anybody. Able to do business with anyone's store and connect through any ISP. No, I didn't get the computer “free” with my Internet connection, but free as in cell phones is no bargain when it means being locked out of fun stuff.

Phil Salkie has a great example of why on page 48. Can't listen to your favorite Internet radio show at the time it's on? Or want to capture it to listen somewhere you don't have Net access? Time-shift it! What Phil did to make things run extra smoothly is to turn Net radio shows into RSS feeds that work as podcasts. You can use any one of a growing assortment of clients to play them on your own schedule. Before the next road trip I have to take, I'm definitely setting up a podcast client on a laptop for the car, and I'll use Phil's script to snarf some radio shows to listen to.

Speaking of devices that let you listen on the road, Dovid Kopel tried out the Archos PMA400. If you're looking for a combined PDA and music player, check out this Linux-based unit on page 74. And save yourself some bandwidth and time snarfing all those podcasts with the thorough compression tools overview from Kingsley G. Morse Jr. on page 62.

Security-wise, today's wireless networks are where the Internet was in the 1980s, before the 1988 Morris Worm helped create the network security scene as we know it. We all know that people can do bad things with all those open access points, but the bad things aren't happening. Many of you could “borrow” a departing Starbucks customer's identity to get a free Net connection, but you're not. Thank you.

But it's only a matter of time before all our nice little access points start getting clobbered by spammers, phishers and new categories of naughty people we don't even have cool words for yet. So please read our two articles on wireless security technology—John L. MacMichael's on page 56 and Matthew Gast's on page 68. Combined with Mick Bauer's series from earlier this year, this issue will get you up to speed on how to make your wireless network run smoothly.

Finally, is “identity” just a directory server that has its own fancy conference? Instead of letting big companies decide among themselves what to do with your personal information, Doc Searls ventured into the lairs of some mighty scary beasts and came back with the beginning of a plan, from a strange source. See page 40 if you dare.

Don Marti is editor in chief of Linux Journal.

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