WiFi wobbles

So Boxing Day dawns and I’ve got Office XP installed on my tablet, via the WiFi link. I was idly wondering last night if it might be something to do with the “WEP” that I on my LAN here, so I took the key out (so that the network was, effectively, insecure – I can see Simon Moores is already digging out his Pringles can!). For whatever reason, it worked fine after that (I wonder whether it’s something to do with the overhead of handling the encryption? I would have thought that’s done by the card, but maybe not). What was nice to see was that XP asked me if I really wanted to connect to the network, even though it wasn’t deemed secure. I don’t remember that happening before. That worked for a while, then it stopped again – and when it crashes, I mean that it just stops. Everything freezes. So now I’ve taken out the extra memory that I installed a day or so after I got it and I’m running it on 256MB instead of 784 or something. Maybe that will work – it’s been a long time since dodgy memory caused me a problem with a PC (I used to see ZX81 16KB – not a typo – ram upgrades and they would quite often fail the same way my tablet is today. Full circle maybe).

A while ago I was asked to look at WiFi networks for government, particularly where they might be used in, say, hospitals or prisons. Places where the cost of ripping walls, floors and ceilings apart to install cables might be prohibitive or might cause too much disruption. I spoke to a very smart guy at BT Exact who had obviously spent far longer thinking about it than I had and knew pretty much everything that would need to be done to put together a defense class, confidential environment. But something in me wonders how much of that we need. If the scenario is a nurse wandering through wards with an Ipaq making sure that patients are ok, logging changes in conditions, maybe logging dietary requirements of new entrants, how secure would that need to be? If it’s a doctor/consultant with a tablet logging case data (and so, finally, preventing it from disappearing down to the basement to be classified, lost or misinterpreted by the poor folks who have to put up with endless bits of paper down there) – would we need to worry about anything more than the basics? I know that Microsoft has deployed WiFi all over its Seattle campus, so maybe there is something in it. Or is that the wrong logic? If Microsoft have done it, it can’t be secure? There’s something here that we need to prod – WiFi has gained massive traction in the last year and yet almost noone in government is using it; or if they are, they’re not owning up to it for fear of being busted. With the right basics (and tablet PC idiosyncracies not withstanding), surely there are some great apps that could be put in the hands of untethered workers?

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