Monday, March 30, 2009

Who's Stealing my Signal?

Wi-Fi technology has made it possible for a growing number of people to gain access to the internet for free as long as a laptop with an 802.11b or Wi-Fi network card is installed and positioned within 300 feet of the broadcast location.

Many hotspots scattered all over the major cities in the US have made it possible for people to access the internet from places like airports, conference rooms, lounges and cafes.

Hotspots have also found their place in suburban areas where many residents are unable to afford the main NSP's (Network Service Providers) charges. Free WLAN’s can be established as long as a computer is set up to transmit the signal to nearby wireless units.

The broadcaster pays for the high speed or DSL signal from a NSP’s and then retransmit it with the help of specific software. This kind of behavior has raised some concern among the main NSP's who do not agree with that approach and refer to such free services as “parasitic networks”. However, the broadcasters claim they do it purely to help people within their communities who can not afford the high service charges.

NYC Wireless, one of the groups who broadcast the internet signal, rebuffs the allegation made by some NSP’s and bristles at the term “parasitic networking”. They point out that the high access rate charges applied by the service providers are the true parasites. NSP’s such as Verizon, AT&T, Time Warner and others feel they have been taken advantage of and sustain that those networking groups are violating service agreements and they have become more forthcoming in cracking down on those networking groups by seeking legal action against them in an effort to try to stop their work.

Besides New York City, there are 20 free internet access points in Seattle and many others scattered all over the country. Coffee retailer Starbucks is one of the groups that has increased its rollout of Wi-Fi hot spots as this appears to be a commodity which helps to attract more customers to the business.

Most free network groups do not see benefits in the work they are providing at the present moment; however there is a potential they will do better in the future as they seek for nonprofit organization status with the government. As a nonprofit organization they can legally establish fundraising programs in order to cover the operation expenses.

According to John Patrick, former IBM vice-president of internet technology, “The advent of Wi-Fi is about to change all of our lives in a major and positive way. I will go further. Wi-Fi is one of those grassroots phenomena that will soon become as ubiquitous as the PC itself. The latest laptops have Wi-Fi antennas built into the lids, while the wireless access points, which send and receive the Wi-Fi signals, now cost less than $100. The issues, which are many including security and privacy, business models the scalability of the infrastructure. Looking back at how the internet evolved from the early years there are many similarities with what is going on at this early Wi-Fi stage. The emergence of the Wi-Fi is a grassroots trend that is irreversible”.

While WLAN’s offers the commodity for people to use the internet for free at specific locations, it also requires that the user takes extra security measures as a result of going wireless. There is always a concern that hackers may be using the signal to gain access to one’s computer and steal confidential information.

It seems that free WLAN’s movement is picking up fast as more people are becoming adept to the idea despite all the controversy with the big network companies. While operators are now working under the radar of most consumers and wireless providers, the trend poses questions for those seeking to charge for a service that these volunteer organizations see as essential as water.


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Saturday, March 7, 2009

Software Piracy and its Consequences


As the software industry has become more diverse and sophisticated over the years, it has played a significant part in adding value to companies and individuals alike. The use of software applications has revolutionized our world in many ways as they have been used as critical tools to accomplish the most simple tasks to the most complex operations in daily life. The use of software has also helped individuals and companies manage their time more efficiently.

Thus, as software industry grows every individual who makes use of their applications, whether for business or for pleasure, benefits from it. While most people respect and abide contract agreements for the applications they use, there are those who just ignore its clauses of copyright protection and violate the laws therefore committing the act of piracy, despite the benefits available to them.
According to SIIA, an anti-Piracy organization, industry loses about $11 or $12 billion each year due to piracy. About $2 billion of that comes from North America. Piracy rates have reached 25% of sold applications in the US. That means that for every four copies of software, one is acquired illegally. SIIA fights fiercely against acts of piracy based on agreements it has with US and foreign country governments. According to SIIA, Asia hosts the greatest number of individuals who engage in piracy acts.

Despite efforts on the part of interested parties and tough government legislation, the problem of piracy is far from being eliminated. There is an alarming number of people out there who do not hesitate engaging themselves in such acts regardless of the consequences it may incur. More still needs to be done by law makers, software industry and developers in order to discourage the cycle of breaking copyright protection laws.

People have different motivations for taking the risk and engaging in piracy acts. Those who copy software from a friend for his own use are as guilty as those who copy it with the intention of illegally reselling and profiting from it. Software piracy is just one aspect of copyright infringement. There is a wide range of products which are indiscriminately reproduced and sold in the market as if they were the original brand.

Using, reproducing or profiting from an intellectual property without an abiding agreement is considered illegal. According to SIIA.net, “Anyone who uses, copies, distributes, or displays (in whole or in part) someone else’s copyrighted content without authorization may be violating the owner’s copyright rights. Such violations can result in a lawsuit and money damages, and in some cases, criminal prosecution with jail time”.

Software piracy is considered theft and those caught in the act of piracy should be held accountable. In order to prevent that kind of crime, software companies should be more proactive and take some responsibility as well. By releasing a more affordable version of their products people may be discouraged from making copies and selling them for profit. The way things are the software piracy problem is far from being controlled. It not only harms the developing companies which may fall short from its projected revenues but also consumers who rely on such products to execute their projects. As those companies become limited in their resources, they may be forced to cut their research efforts and compromise the quality of their products.

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