Friday, November 30, 2007

Darling ...I lost my connection

999.99 is not in the vocabulary of municipal wifi yet. Depending on the elements, wifi signal is only clear on a clear day. It is not that, a strong wind can snap your data and carry it away to far-away destinations, but it is the inherent vulnerability of the air medium to stronger 'elements' (interference) that disrupts your wifi signal every now and then, that leaves constant reminders to providers, "Is municipal broadband delivery correct application of wifi technology?

As far the technology is concerned, we all know that wifi has proven it effectiveness, from the inside to the inside, and sometimes, when going out. But it is not like cell phone signal, wherein the signal is effective coming from the outside going to the inside of your home. (Of course, in both cases though, a dead spot is as dead as a dead horse.) But to fool ourselves that the technology is superior, we convince ourselves and focus our sale talk on the merits of good design. We put antennas, and more antennas to cover more areas. And we put a couple more antennas, until it approaches one-to-one ratio, i.e. one AP per customer (nah, just exaggerating, nonetheless, watch the drip, i.e. when your gadget monitor for water consumption needs wifi signal to function, under the banana tree in your garden, or under your sink cabinet.)

The point is, Wifi signal carrying broadband on free frequency, is like an LSV (low-speed-vehicle), carrying two (2) summo wrestlers driven by Vanessa Hudgens on an L.A. freeway during rush hour. Thanks to carpool lane.

So Wimax, where art thou? We thought an easy, nondescript sprint on a clear wire can make things happen, but Sprint chose to walk away instead. Too bad!

Now, it would be interesting to watch Google's rainbow of wireless hopes rest on 700mhz. Will I still lost my connection, every now and then, darling?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Life with Live GoogleWiFi in Mountain View

1. One of our first customers at CeralVoIP was a nun, working for a non-profit organization teaching less privileged kids in Mountain View. She was kind of excited with the concept of "free internet" . She knew that she needed to get one of the wifi modems in order to connect to GoogleWifi, but didn't know which one to choose. So she came to our store and asked us which one would best suit her (we sell several brands).

To be able to give a good recommendation, we normally ask our customers how far they are from a GoogleWiFi node or antenna. If they don’t have a clue where the antenna is or how the GoogleWifi antenna looks like, we ask for their address and check it against the GoogleWiFi coverage map. Then we ask if they have a line of sight to the antenna. If not, we ask if there are objects, like trees or buildings that block their line of sight to the GoogleWiFi antenna. Based on these crude information, we give a recommendation on what kind of wifi modem will work best for a customer's situation.

For Sister Frances' case, we recommended the Ruckus wireless modem. We showed her how to configure this Ruckus wireless modem in order for it to receive GoogleWifi signal. For best results, we suggested to her to put the Ruckus wireless modem near a window facing the GoogleWiFi antenna.

When we were about to process her purchase, she asked us how she can share the internet access to some of her co-teachers. So we told her that she may need to get a wireless router. She asked for the price of the wireless router. The price of the Ruckus wireless modem plus the price of the wireless router might be too much for her meager salary. Since she was working for charity and noble cause, we decided to give her the wireless router for free. Then we processed her order and handed her a printed instruction on how to configure the Ruckus wireless modem.

Within two (2) hours, Sister Frances called and said her wifi internet is not working. So I did the usual over-the-phone troubleshooting.
My first question to her was, 'Are all the lights on the Ruckus modem solid green?'
She said 'No.'
So I said 'Ok. Is the unit on?
She said 'How do I know?'
I asked, 'Is the power cord connected?'
She answered, 'What power cord? Isn't this wireless?'.

I just sighed, 'I see.'
I said, "Sister, the wireless modem is wireless from your house to GoogleWifi Antenna, but it still needs power.' "

2. This retired couple has been to our store three times, and couldn't decide which one to buy, whether PepLink or Ruckus wifi modem. Every time they were at the store, they argued. The woman liked the Ruckus because it looked well with her toaster. The husband liked the PepLink because it was black, sleek, looks sturdy and well-engineered.

Finally, on the day they were ready to buy, the husband decided to purchase the PepLink wifi modem. The wife was quiet. We processed the order. Then the wife suddenly decided to buy the Ruckus, the husband was quiet. And we processed the order. End of argument, I hope.

3. There was this woman who was so obsessed with the Ruckus wireless modem that she wanted to touch it before she buys it. She would put her fingers around it, then underneath it, and then she would put all of her fingers inside the mouth of the Ruckus modem. And finally it dawned on us, that she was imagining that the Ruckus was a nail dryer.

4. This retired fellow could be our most excited GoogleWiFi customer. He comes to our store very early in the morning, everyday, to report to us his experience with the GoogleWiFi.

First, he bought a Ruckus wifi modem. He configured the modem as prescribed, then as bridge, etc., and described/lectured to us the best way to divine the GoogleWiFi signal. But realizing that he couldn't tinker much with the Ruckus modem because of its inherent architecture, i.e., no outside antenna, he decided to return it. In lieu, he bought a PepLink Surf 200BG. Not content with its 5 dBi antenna, he bought a high gain 15dBi antenna from Fry's. To further boost its power, he bought a Hawking Wireless Signal booster that was capable of boosting power output to 500mW. Next day, he reported to us, he had been working on it day and night, then confided 'There's not much difference. I must be doing something that is not right.'

Really! Of course, theoretically, to say the least, the download speed cannot exceed the max allotted by GoogleWifi, which is 1mb. The good thing is, his upload speed is higher than his Comcast.

The saga went on for a month: He returned the PepLink, bought a Ruckus again, returned the Ruckus and bought a PepLink again, one more cycle, until he felt that what he is doing was too much for our small business.

5. This guy, excited for his coming retirement in two weeks from 20 plus years of service in a major Silicon Valley tech company, decided to buy a PepLink wifi modem to connect to GoogleWifi. Looking very confident and talking very technical, I didn’t bother to ask much questions. I process his order, printed him a short instruction on how to configure a PepLink modem.

Days later, he called, and said “I can’t get a signal.’ ‘Alright’ I said, “Let me help you.’ We did the usual litany of over-the-phone troubleshooting. But still no signal. Nada!. So he decided to locate the antenna on the roof by running a 25-feet cable. Next day he called me up. He’s got signal, but very spotty. Then we did the usual troubleshooting, or should I say, counseling?

So in the course of our conversation he paused several times and I noticed he shouted, ‘Honey, can you hear me? Can you move it again?’

So I asked, ‘What was that all about?’,
He said, ‘My wife is on the roof, adjusting the antenna.’

I found out that this guy has an acrophobia.

Anyways, they did alright and now enjoy GoogleWiFi.

6. It is really amazing what people do just to get GoogleWiFi signal. These cousins from Los Altos Hills bought a PepLink wifi modem. They know that they are far from the nearest GoogleWiFi node. But they can see the antenna alright, with a telescope. They took advantage of that line of sight and equipped their PepLink wifi modem with a 10-foot antenna.

7. This six-foot-9 fellow did the same thing: he equipped his PepLink Surf 200BG with a 6-foot antenna mounted on a pole about 40 feet high. Although this guy is within the Mountain View coverage area, he’s getting a spotty signal. So bringing his knowledge and experience from his old CB-days, he installed a 6-foot antenna, mount it on a 40-foot pole, captured GoogleWiFi signal and never called us back again.

8. One day I got a call from this guy who is really interested to get onto GoogleWiFi. He asked questions about the features and differences of the wifi modems that we are selling. Because the price of the Ruckus is about $30 less than the PepLink, he decided, he will buy the Ruckus. I told him, he can order it through our website: , and we’ll deliver it to him personally, if he likes that, or we'll just mail it to him as soon as we get the online order. Fine, he said.

Finally he asked, ‘How can I register to GoogleWifi, I live in the southside of Toronto?’.


9. This Russian PhD working for nuclear research in a nearby university wanted to hook up his 4 computers to GoogleWiFi. He said the GoogleWiFi antenna is right by his 2nd-floor window. I told him, ‘Congratulations, you are one of those few lucky fellas who certainly can easily connect to the free internet.’

He then decided to buy the more expensive PepLink Surf with built-in access point. From the moment he left our store, about 11 a.m. that Saturday, he called up at least 5 times. He can’t make the wifi modem to work. So we did the usual litany of troubleshooting over the phone. No luck. Since it’s a busy day, I told him to try the routine, have patience until he succeeds.

Next Monday, he was at our store, riling and complaining about this ‘CityService’ that Google is providing. Oh well, I have no recourse but to take back his PepLink and refunded him.

10. This guy moved from Millbrae to Mountain View because of GoogleWiFi’s free internet.


In the course of three months that we are selling wifi modems for the GoogleWiFi project, we encountered different opinions about the ‘free’ things that Google is giving. Some are concerned about Google getting to be the new private ‘big brother’. We entrust our emails, personal information, financial information, etc. to Google, because it is free.

The GoogleWiFi project is a different story. Being the frontliners, talking to customers on a daily basis, we can say it has lot of support from all sectors. Most Mountain View-ers, are thankful and wished this service is available to all. There are some few grumblings however, because some of them can’t get stable signals, but these are understandable. This is a new endeavor. We tell these customers to let us know, let Google know, so we can do something about their situation. There are some who complained about the high cost of wifi modems. But when we compute for them their TCO or total cost of ownership, they realized that the gadget that they need to connect to GoogleWiFi will be fully paid for in about three months, and their internet connection is guaranteed free for the next 5 years.

There are challenges but this wifi project is moving and slowly winning the hearts of the community.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Dis-appreciation of an Appreciating Currency

Wednesday, January 11, 2006
(borrowed from )

An Improved Philippine Peso

Mr. Rob Ceralvo in one of the Email lists that I belong to had this very precise and easy-to-understand dissertation on what and how the present improvement of the Philippine peso vis-à-vis the US dollar would affect the citizens of the Philippines in general, and in particular, the OFW family which gets its essential funding from abroad. OFW is acronym for the Overseas Filipino Workers, representing the millions of Filipinos who have gone abroad, either temporarily or permanently, to search out for employment opportunities that otherwise are not available in the home country.

-Immediate/Obvious/Short term: It means fewer pesos for every remittance sent by an OFW to his/her family. (Para na ring binawasan yung sweldo na iniuuwi ng isang breadwinner sa kanyang pamilya). This means a decrease in the purchasing power of the OFW family. Therefore the OFW family has to immediately cease and desist from their usual spending, may be, even downgrade their standard of living, but rest assured that this is only temporary.

-After the short-term: An improved exchange rate will gradually (and hopefully not very long) translate to lower prices of utilities, commodities and many other day-to-day needs that the OFW family regularly purchases and consumes.

-An improved exchange rate will lead to lower import prices (good news for local businesses because most of them still rely heavily on imported raw materials).

As such, it will enable the oil and other utility companies to buy/import more oil, gasoline and other fuel products with fewer pesos. This will translate to lower prices at gas pump/stations ( so dapat bumaba rin yung presyo ng pamasahe sa jeep at bus), lower Meralco bills (pwede ng buksan ulit yung aircon), lower Shellane/gasul/kerosene bill, lower telephone & cable TV bills, etc.

-A lower exchange rate will also make the price of the latest Xbox cheaper. SM, Western Appliances, Abenson, etc. will also be able to cut the prices of their electronic and appliance items, specially computers, karaoke equipment, washing machines, DVD and LCD-TVs from Korea.

-A lower exchange rate, which at the onset translates to lower domestic purchasing power for OFW beneficiary families, will, in time, translate to a general increase in the real purchasing power, i.e. it will be cheaper to buy imported goods, cheaper to travel abroad, etc.

-The most significant effect of a lower exchange rate for the OFW family, as well as for the rest of the nation, is the resulting lower price of important imported medicines, especially those medicines required by the aging members of the OFW family.

So you see in the above example, the immediate effect of an improved exchange rate is the lowering of the purchasing power of an OFW family. But as pointed out, is only temporary. There are always time lags in the rise and fall of exchange rates and its effects on other economic variables like prices, import, export, GDP, BOP, and the standard of living. Even in the most sophisticated economies, an improved exchange rate doesn't immediately translate to improvements in the living conditions of its people. The economy needs time to adjust. I was surprised to read that, as one of the country's ex-economic managers, Mar Roxas hurled a cheap shot at this positive development. Wrong choice of a fight!

Now let's go further, to the macro level. I happened to browse at the NEDA website ( ) and examined the components of what our country sells and what our country buys. Do I need to mention that our country buys (import) more, a lot more, than what our country sells (produce, export)? I guess not – everybody knows that we are over-spenders, living beyond, way beyond our means, borrow here, there, and everywhere. Anyway, the NEDA statistics only confirmed what we all knew all along – that we import a lot more consumer electronic items and components, mineral fuels, oil and related materials, cars & other transport equipment, dairy products & even rice, medicine & medical items, etc. We export less and less of our products: semi-conductors & electronic items, apparel & clothing, handicrafts, etc, banana and coconut. And what effects will an improved exchange rate on these NEDA numbers, to our economy?

Let's enumerate:
When the peso is strong, it is cheaper to import all the things that we are buying (remember, we are a buyer economy) , consumer goods and capital equipments like computers, electronics, machineries & equipment, raw materials, and other inputs to production. Indeed good news for businesses that rely on imported input or raw materials. This is also good for those who are investing on call centers, telecoms and BPOs who are buying and bringing in new technology from other countries.

Cheaper prices of imported foodstuff, i. e., apples, grapes, oranges, even rice, are also good news for consumers. Cheaper price of gasoline means cheaper price of kuryente(Meralco), pamasahe sa jeepney & bus , and operationally, for LRT & MRT, and even travel and shopping in Hongkong. These all translate to lower rate of consumer price inflation, which means improvement in the living standards index. Sory hindi applicable ang living standard index sa Payatas but good enough for the average OFW family.

The sectors of our economy which will suffer more from a strong currency are our export industries, particularly the SMBs (not San Miguel beer, but the small-medium businesses). Right now our handicrafts, woodcrafts, toys, gifts & collectibles, home furnishings, Christmas décor, apparel and garments industries, etc. are gasping their last breath, trying to survive from stiff competition from China, Vietnam, Indonesia, new republics from eastern Europe and Africa.

A strong currency certainly is not good news for this sector. It will make our exports more expensive, and a fall in exports has negative effect on our economic growth. I don't know if you are aware that the SMBs are the largest employers in the country. A shutdown of this sector will slow down considerably our economic growth and can have more grim consequences than we can imagine.

Of course these SMBs can choose to produce new product lines where both domestic and overseas demand is less sensitive to fluctuations in exchange rates, less price elastic, i.e. where non-price factors are more important for the buyers, and where there is higher income elasticity of demand.

For a fragile, strange economy like ours, there are certainly losers and winners in the fluctuation of the exchange rates, both short-term and long-term. The good news is, on the average the OFW family has more leverage and hedging abilities than the rest of the population, to offset the negative effects of a strong currency, and likewise, fully enjoy the positive effects of a deteriorating peso exchange rate. A great economic paradox indeed!
Happy New Year!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Dissecting WiFi Signal

Not all wifi signal are created equal. Not every wifi subscriber has equal access to bandwidth as his next door neighbor. Knowing your exact geographical location in reference to the wifi antenna helps to secure and assert your right to equal access to what amount of bandwidth your provider guarantees.

Usually the access points or access antennas in wifi enabled cities are made by Tropos. Tropos antennas are those twin antennas you will most likely see perching on the lighting arm or support of a lampost. They are strategically installed there to complete a cell of six sides, as part of a mesh design to cover a so-called wifi coverage area. Theoretically, a wifi cell guarantees that every foot of real estate inside it will be able to receive wifi signal. Each cell is adjacent to each other to cover the wifi city with wifi signal.

However, in the real world, there are much more variables known and yet-to-be known factors and influences that affects the wifi signal. Just following the manufacturing specs is not a sure way of receiving wifi signals. Going back to WiFi 101, finding and connecting to wifi signal is becomming more of an art - an art that requires technical skills. As in music, even if you know the fundamentals, know the chords, keys, tempo, etc., all of these knowledge will not guarantee that you will be able to write or compose a hit song. But certainly it helps, and it helps you get ahead. Same thing with finding the best and reliable wifi connection: Know where the access points are, know the characteristics of the antenna that your access points are using, know what kind of bandwidth is available, know your topography, know the type of materials your house or building is made of, i.e. metal, concrete, or walls with mesh stell inside, etc, and know the capabilities/characteristics of your CPE or wifi modem. And I should add, know the phone number of the support person, both of your wifi provider and your CPE vendor.

to be continued...

So how or where do you really find a good wifi signal? Right off, I'll tell you, it is not under that lampost where the access antenna perches.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Divining WiFi Signal

Being a distributor of WiFi CPEs (Customer Premise Equipment) for Google WiFi project, I am becoming an expert of where to find the best Wifi signal. No, I don't use divining rods. I use the CPEs that we sell: PepLink, Ruckus, Buffalo and Wi-Fire. These CPEs are of different breed, not in the league of Linksys, dLink or Netgear. They are far more powerful and reliable.

Finding wifi signal is, yes, an art that requires imagination and a steady hand. You move the CPE quarter of an inch, you lose the signal. The green lights start to dance in Ruckus, while in PepLink, the green status light turns to amber. That means you lose connection.

So what's the secret of knowing where to position your CPE or your wifi modem to get the optimum signal and connect to the wireless access node? You begin with the basic knowledge, the stuff that you learned from the books, or by reading the manual from the CPE manufacturers, i.e. know where the signal is coming from - a line of sight. How about for non-line of sight? Just the same, just imagine you have a line of sight and see the antenna. Point the CPE to that direction. After you have positioned the CPE to where the AP or antenna is, then that's the time that a steady hand is needed. Start moving the CPE, gently, sensually for Ruckus and with authority for PepLink. From doing this everyday in different places and different scenarios for different types of people, you develop a sense of something that you can only sense and tell. Whether it is a hunch, a guess, a feel, or even gut-feel, you become better than the engineers who designed these equipment, of where and how to deploy their creations.

A most interesting situation is the sensitivity of these CPEs to irregular obstuctions: leaves, the type, shape and thickness of leaves may degradate or even kill the signal.

Anyways, this is Divining WiFi Signal 101. More to come. Good day

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Destructive Ways

It is not far-fetched but it will take time, long time, before human beings will inflict similar damage to the digital environment the way the damages have been done to our physical environment.

Today, we enjoy almost everything that we can take out of mother earth. We consume, pay, then gasp at the pump at the ever increasing price of gas. Who among us have thought, that a gallon of oil will reach $200 very soon? But we do love driving gas-guzzlers and drive around town as if driving doesn't do any harm at all. Humans have the intelligence and the means to have our cars run on anything else other than oil, but the profit motivation is first, all the rests, second. We travel, we take comfort, we consume all the oil, all the minerals that can be dugged and siphoned out of earth. All we do is reproduce: create more people like us who will compete to dig, mine, siphone, and use the earth's finite resources. We take out goods, we return with garbage. We take the good air, we give back the bad air.

Perhaps, the earth's only consolation is, when our bodies die and are sent back to fertilize the poisoned lands, instead of being sent to a cyrogenic freezer.

The digital world, which is a useful tool to enjoy and fulfill our fantasies, has been gradually infiltrated. It is hard to fathom, why such destructive ways of humans such as virus, scams, lies, propagandas, etc. found their ways in this purest invention of man. Pray tell that animals like dogs and cats, horses and cows will never ever learn to communicate via the internet. Yes, if they will, they will surely recognize these destructive ways of humans in the digital environment. It will affirm of what they think of us: the really lowly creatures of the universe! Animals take care of their own. Humans destroy their own!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Developing Disruptive IP Products for Cable Companies

VoIP has been prescribed for the mainstream residential market by early adopters like market leaders Vonage, Packet8, etc. What has been amiss in this model is, the mainstream marketplace has no immediate need for VoIP because their current PSTN phone is already part of their lives. It would be a hard sell to replace an old reliable POTS. The only marked advantage for shifting to VoIP for this huge market is, no more long-distance bills.

However economical, buyers of VoIP need to have a broadband connection. VoIP should then be more of a product offering from broadband providers instead of the likes of Vonage, etc. In reality, the cable industry has the built-in advantage for market penetration: they offer cable-TV and broadband. To complete the triple-play, they only have to add VoIP to their customers and send one bill for three services. This is a sure winning formula for most busy people.

Expect then to profit from cable TV stocks, which will surely rise. This will be a good long-term investment. The caveat though is, those cable companies should have the likes of Steve Jobs to provide imagination. Even though you own the tollway, you still have to be creative to make use of its unlimited potential.

So where, when , how and what should cable industry do to be major-major player in the delivery of digital services? First off, you hear often of AT&T, Verizon, AOL, Microsoft, etc. But seldom do you get excited with news from Comcast, CableVision, etc. Is there anyone there who will believe that within the next five years, one of these cable companies will be ranked numero uno in Fortune 100? Fat chance, you say. I say bring in Stevie. And the cable industry will transform in one day from just a cable TV provider to a residential services solution provider.

Residential service solution provider is not in the lingo yet of tech services sellers. This will be a new breed of vacuum-cleaner salespeople and Avon ladies of the old days. The products they will be selling will run from toys powered by cable industries very broad broadband, to entertainment, and to medical gadgetry, everything found in the homes, even probably, an internet connected vacuum cleaner. The army of Kirby will be resurrected because they have the best equipped marketeers for home products.

It is very exciting indeed for the cable industry what the digital era brings. They have just to repackage themselves with a lot of homegrown imagination.