Category Archives: Networking

MIT’s ‘smart surface’ could improve your WiFi signal tenfold

There's a problem with stuffing wireless connections into ever-smaller devices: they can struggle to maintain a good signal when there's so little space for antennas. MIT CSAIL researchers might have a fix, though. They've developed an RFocus "smar…

Google’s Assistant-friendly Nest WiFi router is available now

You now have your chance to try Google's latest, Assistant-fueled take on home networking. As promised, Nest WiFi is now available through Google's store and other channels. You can buy the core router by itself for $169, but the system only really…

Hacker forces Chromecasts and smart TVs to promote PewDiePie

The subscribe-to-PewDiePie hacking campaign continues unabated — although it might have a positive side benefit this time around. TheHackerGiraffe (who perpetrated the earlier printer hack) has compromised thousands of Chromecast dongles, Google Ho…

Downloading the newest Wi-Fi protocols: 802.11ax and 802.11ay explained

Wi-Fi connects the world together, but it's still quite complicated.

Enlarge / Wi-Fi connects the world together, but it’s still quite complicated. (credit: Aurich Lawson)

Look, Wi-Fi still kind of sucks. And marketing excesses aside, its worst problems all revolve around airtime distribution among multiple devices.

Unlike LTE (the protocol cellular data uses), 802.11 WI-Fi is a protocol with no central management, which leaves all nearby devices duking it out for airtime like angry, unsupervised toddlers. There’s only so much you can do to fix this problem without radically overhauling and replacing 802.11 itself—but as new 802.11 protocols emerge, they do their best.

A brief overview of the alphabet soup

If you don’t deal with this stuff for a living, it’s easy to get lost in all the different Wi-Fi protocols in the ether today. New additions have been released in sort of alphabetical order, but some are backwards-compatible and some aren’t. Some are “mainstream” and have broad consumer device support, and some are offshoot technologies rarely to be seen in anything you can buy at a big box store. It’s kind of a mess.

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The next version of HTTP won’t be using TCP

The next version of HTTP won’t be using TCP

Enlarge (credit: Andy Maguire / Flickr)

The next version of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP)—the network protocol that defines how browsers talk to Web servers—is going to make a major break from the versions in use today.

Today’s HTTP (versions 1.0, 1.1, and 2) are all layered on top of TCP (Transmission Control Protocol). TCP, defined as part of the core set of IP (Internet Protocol) layers, provides reliable, ordered, and error-checked delivery of data over an IP network. “Reliable” means that if some data goes missing during transfer (due to a hardware failure, congestion, or a timeout), the receiving end can detect this and demand that the sending end re-send the missing data; “ordered” means that data is received in the order that it was transmitted in; “error-checked” means that any corruption during transmission can be detected.

These are all desirable properties and necessary for a protocol such as HTTP, but TCP is designed as a kind of one-size-fits-all solution, suitable for any application that needs this kind of reliability. It isn’t particularly tuned for the kinds of scenarios that HTTP is used for. TCP requires a number of round trips between client and server to establish a connection, for example; using SSL over TCP requires subsequent round trips to establish the encrypted connection. A protocol purpose-built for HTTP could combine these negotiations and reduce the number of round trips, thereby improving network latency.

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Wi-Fi branding to get a lot simpler with upcoming “Wi-Fi 6”

Article intro image

Enlarge / The logos that the Wi-Fi Alliance wants software to use to show the connection speed/type. (credit: Wi-Fi Alliance)

The Wi-Fi Alliance, the trade group that develops and promotes wireless networking standards, is attempting to make Wi-Fi naming a bit simpler with the introduction of 802.11ax next year.

The plan is to brand the new specification as “Wi-Fi 6,” rebrand 802.11ac as “Wi-Fi 5,” and 802.11n as “Wi-Fi 4,” making it easy to tell at a glance which standard is newer and, hence, faster.

The current naming uses IEEE’s terminology. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers oversees development of a wide range of electrical and electronic standards. The standards are organized into groups; IEEE 802 covers all local area network standards. 802.11 specifically covers Wireless LAN.

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Hot Chips 2018: Going Deep on NVSwitch Live Blog (8:45am PT, 3:45pm UTC)

The first talk on Day 2 of Hot Chips is from NVIDIA, going into more detail about how the NVSwitch works with a lot more detail than from previous talks. Also its implementation within DGX-2 is explored.

Quantum entanglement on demand could lead to a super-secure internet

If you're going to create virtually unbreakable quantum networks, you need to create quantum entanglement so that particles, and thus pieces of data, are intertwined at long distances. There hasn't been a reliable way to make that happen, however, u…

Data-stealing router malware bypasses web encryption

A recently discovered strain of router malware appears to be much worse than thought. Cisco Talos has learned that VPNFilter can not only render devices unusable, but can bypass the SSL encryption you often see on the web. A module in the malware i…

This mesh WiFi router can track motion to protect your family

Back at CEATEC in October, I came across Origin Wireless and its clever algorithm that can turn any WiFi mesh network into a simple home security plus well-being monitoring system, and that's without using cameras nor wearables — just plug and…