Wi-Fi Nightmares

Opinion: The biggest joke about 802.11 is that nobody uses any of the encryption schemes-except when they shouldn't.

Of all the technologies that need to settle down, 802.11 wireless in all its manifestations ("a," "b," "g," and—coming soon—"n") should be at the top of the list.

There is a mad rush to make the standards for 802.11—used mostly to share crummy 1-Mbps Internet connections—move forward at breakneck speed. At this point, do we really need 802.11n, which proposes speeds between 100 and 540 Mbps using four radios running at once?

A number of companies are already proposing to ship cards and routers dubbed 802.11 pre-n. The Wi-Fi trademark body has threatened to pull the license for any company that uses the "n" moniker before the standard is set, because of the fiasco over 802.11g products that shipped prematurely and became incompatible when the standard was finalized. Now we are seeing this ridiculous pre-n craziness.

This is particularly galling to watch, since even the vanilla 802.11b standard doesnt seem quite done yet.

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