About the authors
Russell Shaw Russell Shaw is a specialist in mobile computing, telephony, networking and covers these fields regularly for numerous print and online publications. Russ writes the popular IP Telephony blog on ZDNet and contributes regularly to The Industry Standard blog as well. Author of seven books, Russ' latest book is Wireless Networking Made Easy.
John Yunker John Yunker is president of Byte Level Research. He closely tracks emerging wireless technologies and their impact on consumers and carriers alike. Over the years he has written a number of major reports on technologies such as Wi-Fi, WiMAX and cellular technologies.
About this blog
Unwired studies emerging wireless technologies and how they complement and conflict with one another. Technologies covered include: Wi-Fi, WiMAX, Ultra-Wideband, Zigbee, EV-DO, UMTS, HSDPA and whatever else comes along.
In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline


July 6, 2006


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Posted by Hylton Jolliffe


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February 22, 2006

Palm Treo Litigation Update

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Posted by John Yunker

I keep getting emails from people having problems with their Treos, and -- trust me -- I feel your pain. My little 650 restarts for unknown reasons about once every couple days or so, just to keep my life interesting. I have 11 months left on my contract and then I'm done with this thing for good. I'm counting down the days.

So a few months back I added my name to a class action lawuit against Palm. I've never been part of a lawsuit before but I felt this one was worth it. The product was rushed to market and Palm has done an absolutely awful job of supporting it. If I had a dollar for every time this thing had reset itself for no apparent reason, I could have bought a dozen Treos (not that I would have).

And, judging but the emails I've received over the past year, I'm far from alone in the frustrated Treo-user department.

So, now for the update:
A few weeks ago I got a call from the law firm, I forget the name. They told me that the many pending lawsuits are being rolled into some super-lawsuit. I answered a few questions and that was all I heard.

If you want to add your name to the list, you can go to this site. I'm not sure if they're still taking names or the progress of the litigation. But when I learn more I'll share it.

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September 22, 2005

Class Action Suit Against Palm: Where Do I Sign Up?

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Posted by John Yunker

I'm not surprised to see a class action suit filed against Palm for their Treo 600 and 650 devices.

I bought a 650 earlier this year and as I documented here my initial experiences were anything but pleasant. Things did settle down since then, for the most part. Still, every few weeks the device will randomly restart on me. Call quality is generally poor. And, last week, I had to pop out the battery to restart the device because it completely died for some unknown reason.

I've already made up my mind to ditch Palm when my contract expires. By then I hope to see more devices supporting email access, which is really all I bought the Palm for anyway.

It's a real shame. I really did and still do want to love this device. It has such potential. I know Palm rushed these devices to market without testing them fully and we all have paid for their haste to make good quarterly numbers. But these sorts of things have a way of catching up with you and, even if the class action suit doesn't hurt Palm, the thousands of unhappy Palm users like me, out there spreading the word, certainly will.

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July 7, 2005

"Are you alright?" Cell calls spike in wake of London terrorist bombings

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Posted by Russell Shaw

As cellular phone rates have lowered and access has become pervasive, the reasons for making a cell phone call have expanded from event-driven planning conversations to a kind of verbal, geo-locator service.

You see this geo-locator service use as soon as your plane lands, and the cell phones come out. Or, as school lets out for the day. Or, just for the heck of it, every half hour.

Or, if you live in a city with mass transit like I do, it isn't uncommon to see high-school and college students call their friends every third stop, advising them of their whereabouts.

Today, the geo-locator functionality of cell phones took on an amplified, if tragic meaning. As you probably know by now, there were a string of fatal subway and bus bombings in London. Given that they occurred in the morning rush hour, it would not be unfair to assume that hundreds of thousands of London commuters were in transit when the violence struck.

On a terrible day such as today, six things are likely to happen:

*As news accounts of the bombings reach loved ones and friends of those in transit, their first reaction will be to try and call the cell numbers of the people they care about;

*Those who manage to escape injury will call their friends and loved ones to assure them they are OK;

*Those near the scene will use their cell to call emergency responder agencies with updates and pleas for additional help for the wounded;

*Some emergency responders will use the cell network for communications;

*Emergency responder agencies and hospitals will be flooded with mobile calls from anxious, on-the-go friends and relatives who cannot reach the people they care about;

*Cellular networks will be flooded with text messages to and from commuters, and sometimes to each other.

Add up all these stark reasons, and you'll have a day such as today, one which U.K.-based cellular carriers won't ever forget.

In fact, London's telco networks swamped,an article just posted on the technology section of the (Toronto) Globe and Mail's Web site attests to this fact.

According to the G&M's Catherine McLean and Scott Deveau:

Wireless carrier Orange reported double the amount of daily traffic;

Wireless provider O2 experienced call volumes more than twoce that of normal weekday levels, and compensated by putting twice the traffic on the same bandwidth;

BT Mobile reported some uncompleted calls due to network congestion, and;

Vodafone UK experienced network congestion and posted a message on its website asking all of its central London customers to "avoid making unnecessary or lengthy phone calls."

Let's hope we see many more days where more cell calls are made for trivial reasons- and a day like today never happens again.

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July 5, 2005

26.4 million Live 8 Text Messages? So What?

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Posted by Russell Shaw

Today, we read that more than 26.4 million people around the world sent text messages in support of the LIVE 8 campaign to cancel the debts of poor African countries.

OK, that's nice. Now let's just say that the G-8 industrialized nations, leaders of whom are meeting this week, decide on this gesture.

What happens?


The very nations that owe the most money are, for the most part, plagued by endemic corruption and disease. Economies freed up by debt relief to appear more attractive to job-creating investment will find factories owned by those who are already in, or who have access to power. Workers will be paid less than sustinence wages. The very top people will still live in mansions and have Swiss bank accounts. And AIDS will continue to ravage the cities and countryside.

Now, if those same text-messagers, well, text-messaged or emailed the heads of the giant drug companies who refuse to mark down the cost of AIDS drugs for poor nations, and text-messaged the heads of evil tobacco companies that flood impoverished countries with their cancer sticks, then we might get somewhere.

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June 27, 2005

It, Robot: "Shuushi, touzoku!!

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Posted by Russell Shaw

According to at least one online Japanese-English dictionary, that roughly means "stop thief!!"

To catch a thief and more, Japan-based security firm Sohgo Security Services is introducing a robot called the Guardrobo D1.

Here's how this 109-cm tall ( that's three feet, seven-inches for metrically challenged folks like me) will work. Set up in banks, shopping malls and offices, Guardrobo will be equipped with camera and sensors that will detect unauthorized activity, such as intrusions or holdups. Or even fires or water leaks.

Then, if Guardromo detects the bad stuff, it will send radio alerts to "human" guards as well as route live camera footage.

Guardromo will be available in about a year. Pricing has not yet been disclosed.

Oh, before I go, Japan Today has an online forum thread devoted to this topic.

My favorite reply, presumably about the territory that Guardomo will patrol:

"That'll put them in the toilets more than the average security guard," Forum member holeypost writes.

OK, one more:

"Will these things have guns like Terminator? I need some robots to clean my house"- gunmagaijin.

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Remote medic alert was science fiction.. I said *was*

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Posted by Russell Shaw

About 25 years ago, I watched a 1956-vintage episode of "Science Fiction Theater."

In the eppy, an overweight, late 50s, soon-to-retire police officer was chasing a suspect down an alley.

The suspect climbed a fence. As the patrolman attempted continued pursuit by climbing the fence, he fell to the ground with quite a serious coronary.

He survived, and was implanted with a device that would monitor his heart movements and let a nearby hospital know if anything funky was detected.

The technology worked. The next time his heart was stressed, the radio signal was dispatched to the hospital and help came in time.

Now, I'm reading about an Ottawa, Ontario-based company called Zarlink Semiconductor. They've just rolled out a chip that could let doctor's monitor a heart patient's pacemaker in real time, from miles away.

According to Reuters wire service, the chip is inserted inside a pacemaker, which wirelessly sends data (such as an abnormal heart flutter) to a bedside base station in the home. The base station then sends the information over the Internet or phone to a doctor's office.

Once the doctor, nurse or hospital attendant gets notification of the problem, they could then use the two-way wireless link to adjust the pacemaker.

We're not quite up to the capabilities depicted in that Science Fiction Theater episode, but we are getting there.

As Reuters' reporter Susan Taylor writes:

"Potentially, the tiny chip could let a pacemaker tell a similarly equipped mobile phone to contact emergency services during a heart attack. A phone with global positioning system technology could even help locate that patient."

Including out-of-shape policemen chasing robbery suspects.

Can't agree more with my Corante colleague Dana Blankenhorn. "Always-On" is arriving, and medical monitoring is the killer app.

No, make it the prevent-killer app.

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I'll take a pass on NFL highlights to my cell

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Posted by Russell Shaw

A story that moved on Reuters last week reports that the National Football League is in talks with Sprint to offer game highlights on mobile phones.

The partnership with Sprint would broaden a relationship that already offers audio highlights of NFL games to Sprint phones. Additionally, Kansas City-area based Sprint has been a Kansas City Chiefs sponsor for a decade.

I suppose if you are traveling, and missed your favorite team's Sunday's game highlights, you might want to see exactly how that 40-yard touchdown pass went down.

To me, though, a service like this has some built-in production value challenges. The NFL playing field is long and wide. Sometimes, the plays that make the best highlights are best depicted from a wide camera angle.

Until 3G phones come- I forsee pixely highlights with narrow angles. I love football, but not enough to settle for inferior video.

Get me to the hotel, and to ESPN. For now.

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Crying Baby? Whip out the wireless!

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Posted by Russell Shaw

Research firm IDC is out with a new study entitled "Bert and Ernie Go Wireless: The Emergence of the Cell Phone as a Wireless Babysitter."

The study explores the role that Verizon Wireless' VCAST video service has in enabling growing numbers of children to watch shows such as "Sesame Street" on their cell phones.

Quoted on information technology website, IDC Wireless and Mobile Communications program director (fancy term for major analyst) Scott Ellison says that in his observations, young children he has offered his Sesame Street-containing cell phone to in airports liked the technology a lot. So much so, Ellison reports "a near 100 percent success rate at tears and tantrum avoidance.

Yes, this new wireless generation is hooked- from the zygote stage.

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Wi-Fi in the campground

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Posted by Russell Shaw

I am a Pacific Northwest resident who loves the outdoors. And, as you might guess, one who also loves technology.

Wearing both hats, I read with interest a piece in Saturday's Chicago Tribune entitled Good news for campers: more parks wired.

That finding came out of a just-published Intel unwired cities poll.

"One finding this year is that more and more campsites and parks are equipped with Wi-Fi so that people can keep connected even as they commune with nature," Tribune reporter reporter Jon Van writes.

"It is kind of surprising, but people like to have acess to their email and the ability to download photos when they go camping, " Intel consumer education manager Ralph Bond ("Bond. Ralph Bond" is quoted as saying.

I wanted to see how true this is. I went to the website of JWire, which offers a browsable and searchable list of more than 67,000 Wi-Fi hotspots all over the United States, and the world.

There's more than 27,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in the U.S. alone.

One of the more interesting campgound hotspot listings I found was for the Devil's Tower KOA in Devil's Tower, Wyoming. Honest.

Is Wi-Fi access important to you campers out there? Let us know!

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June 19, 2005

One Giant Leap

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Posted by Russell Shaw

I'm driving home today from a latte at that coffee superchain - the one that offers T-Mobile Hotspot access in most of its locations.

Then, a 1962-vintage instrumental came on the radio. The song was named after one of the transcendant telecommunications infrastucture leaps we have made as a species.

I am talking about the satellite Telstar, and the song that honored the device.

Upon Telstar the satellite's launch on July 10, 1962, the free Internet-base encyclopedia Wikipedia notes, "Telstar (became) the first active communications satellite, the first satellite designed to transmit telephone and high-speed data communications, as well as the first privately owned satellite."

Despite all of Telstar's deserved acclaim, I thought that well, it must have done its job for a few years, and then either was decommissioned or fell to earth as newer birds got launched.

No. There have been nearly 20 Telstars, including at least a dozen in current use for a variety of telecommunications and satellite television applications.

Now here's an irony. As livery, Telstars promise to outlast its original developer, AT&T- set to be merged into SBC Communications in months.

Oh, and the whirring "sound" of Telstar, as rendered in the recording of the same name by the Tornados?

I always thought it was a spiffy sound effect, but "Telstar" the record was released a year before the Moog Synthesizer was invented. Composer Joe Meek generated the sound by -get this- running a pen around the rim of an ashtray, and then playing the tape of it in reverse

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Analysts:Music over cell won't replace portable music players

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Posted by Russell Shaw

Several weeks ago, I posted an article here called Music Goes Mobile.

In part, the article explored mobile device, mobile programming and mobile music executives if they could visualize a time in the near future when music-enabled mobile phones will be a competing music platform with portable music players.

While all three sources I spoke with agreed that the sound quality of mobile phones is dramatically improving, none would daresay that mobile phones would supplant portable music players.

Two analysts quoted in a newly posted Wired News article tend to agree. They envision that for the forseeable future, music players will predominantly be for music, and cell phones for talking- with some music capability as an extra for those users who really want it.

Michael Gartenberg, research director for Jupiter Research (gee, Mike, that title is kind of repetitive, don't you think), tells Wired News' Katie Dean that he and his colleagues "don't see (music over cell) as a displacement any more than digital cameraswere displaced by camera phones."

A key issue for Gartenberg is price. "As long as music phones command a significant premium over regular phones then it's going to be difficult to see how the consumer will embrace them."

Even those mobile users who want to enjoy music won't throw away their iPods. "We think there's going to be a very large middle area where people will use both types of devices," IDC analyst Susan Kevorkian (who I am sure by now is much more than tired of that "are you related to.." question) told Dean.

I see the saliency in both viewpoints, but speaking purely as a focus group of one here, gimme an iPod (or similar device) that also makes and takes phone calls.

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